Forever trying to push the boundaries of craft beer styles, active craft brewers have been attempting to brew the biggest and most extreme beers in recent years.
Whether it’s a more adjunct, boozier stout, a more heavy-in-fruit sour beer, or more hopped-up IPAs, the trend shows no sign of slowing down.
Double IPAs, also known as Imperial IPAs, have become the norm for many craft breweries over the last couple of decades or so.
In fact, the first Imperial IPA of the US craft beer scene can actually be traced back to the mid-90s and the now-defunct Blind Pig Brewery. Their Double IPA was later to become the infamous Pliny the Elder, still Russian River Brewery’s top-selling beer to this day.
Even the occasional Triple IPA has crept onto the scene, but what about Quadruple IPAs? Do they exist? (I hope so, otherwise, this is going to be a very short article..!)
The average American craft beer consumer seems to be somewhat of a hophead, ravenous for IPAs that constantly up the poundage of hops per barrel and have stronger ABVs too.
Recent data from NielsenIQ, analyzed by Bump Williams Consulting (BWC), shows that hazy imperial/double/triple IPA dollar sales more than doubled by 128.7% to $33.3 million in recent years.
So, let’s take a look at Quadruple IPA and whether it really exists as a style or is just a marketing gimmick.
What’s next, Quintuple IPAs? I hope not, I’ve only just got my head around the idea of a four times hoppier, four times more bitter, four times stronger IPA.
Even the Belgians, renowned for their Dubbel and Tripel amazing beer styles, rarely go up to a Quad.
Does a Quadruple IPA Exist?
Yes, they do, but it is very rare you will see one in the wild.
If you really want to challenge your beer tastebuds and sensibilities they are out there but may take a fair bit of tracking down.
Most Quadruple IPAs are only brewed as special limited releases, or many craft brewers may brew one as a special Anniversary beer.
Not recognized as a style by the BJCP or on the beer card at any of the bigger beer competitions like the Great American Beer Festival, a Quadruple IPA can be notoriously difficult to brew, although many would argue the extra effort is 100% worth the results.
At certain levels, the human tastebuds can’t really detect any difference in bitterness, most people would suggest over 100 IBU, and adding too much malt to a beer can make the beer seem thick, syrupy, or cloying – it’s a fine balancing act!
Four times everything, especially the hops, can also be prohibitively expensive for many consumers and even brewers.
With more hops, the final yield of a batch of beer will also be much lower than usual, again adding to the cost.
And finally, for those who have never come across a Quad IPA and still doubt its existence, a QIPA can be extremely challenging to drink.
With four times the hops, four times the grain, and four times the alcohol, even some of the Russian courtesans for whom the first Imperial beers were brewed due to their love of hedonistic excess would balk at the idea of a Quadruple beer.
What is a Quadruple IPA?
Quadruple IPA, also known as Imperial IPA or Quad IPA, is a strong and intense variation of the popular India Pale Ale (IPA) beer style.
This amazing beer style is characterized by its high alcohol content, typically above 9% ABV, and bold hop flavors and aromas.
The origins of Quadruple IPA can be traced back to the 18th century when British brewers began exporting beer to India. To withstand the long voyage, they added extra hops and increased the alcohol content of their beers.
The Imperial part of a Quad IPA is found to have originated in the days of Peter the Great of Russia with his desire for a stronger version of the Porters and Stouts he grew fond of during his tenure in London.
Not only did the stronger alcohol content help the beers survive the long sea journey to Russia, but the beers were more suited to the extremely harsh winter conditions of Russia.
Nowadays the term Imperial seems to be applied to any beer which is stronger in strength, may have more hops, or just contains more intense flavors.
Quadruple implies four times everything – four times the strength, four times the hops, four times the malt, four times the flavor, and unfortunately, in some cases, four times the price.
Although with no official judging guidelines for this style of beer, it can be difficult to exactly pinpoint what makes an IPA a Quadruple IPA.
Every brewer has their own guidelines which they follow, however, we loosely determine whether a beer falls into the double, triple, or Quadruple IPA by the ABV of the beer.
Doubles will normally fall between 7.5% – 8.5% ABV, and a Triple IPA will range from 8.5% – 10% ABV with anything North of 10% being recognized as a Quadruple IPA.
There are obviously exceptions to this rule, with many brewers making Double IPAs (DIPA) that reach about 9% ABV and some Triple IPAs (TIPA) that overshoot the 10% mark.
Generally, though, you can say a Quad IPA will be an extremely hoppy beer with what some may call unimaginable amounts of hops added (anywhere from 7 to 10 pounds per barrel) and is going to hit a very high ABV.
These beers are typically brewed with high amounts of hops, often featuring American hop varieties such as Cascade, Chinook, and Centennial. These hops provide a strong, bitter flavor and aroma that is balanced by the maltiness of the beer.
Balance is the name of the game with copious amounts of hops in the brew, and additional dry hopping often blowing your brains to the bitter moon.
When it comes to appearance, Quadruple IPA is typically a deep golden color with a fluffy white head.
The aroma is intense and hoppy with notes of pine, citrus, and tropical fruits. The flavor is also intense and hoppy, with a strong bitterness that is balanced by the maltiness of the beer.
The finish is typically dry and bitter.
The Top Quadruple IPAs Available in the US (Sometimes!)
We have listed some of the better-known and favorite Quad IPAs we have seen over recent years. We had to add the caveat “available sometimes” as many are only produced in those extremely limited runs or as a special anniversary beer.
It’s very rare you will find a Quad IPA on regular rotation at your local craft beer bar, but if you’re local to any of the breweries we have listed here you may find the odd bottle in the beer fridges of the tap room, or even on draft in certain cases.
This is the hardest part of finding a Quadruple IPA – they do exist but it’s an ever-changing market. With QIPAs being limited releases or special anniversary beers, what’s available one month might not be seen again for several months, if ever again!
Many of our favorite QIPAs have come from smaller independent breweries in far-off countries like Belgium, or even Wales in the UK.
Ask your local beer reseller or importer if they have any Quad IPAs currently on the books or if they can get hold of any.
The other option if you are a more advanced brewery is to try brewing your own QIPA, just be warned – getting that balance of insane amounts of hops with the correct levels of grain can be difficult.
Some of the best Quad IPAs on the market include:
Dogfish Head 120 Minute IPA, Dogfish Head Craft Brewery, Delaware
- ABV 15 – 20%. IBUs 120
Perhaps the only recognized Quadruple IPA which is consistently available is this offering from Dogfish Head which takes their now infamous 60 Minute IPA and increases the boil time to 120 minutes.
However, don’t expect to find this beer all year round as they only brew the 120 Minute IPA a few times a year, and when it’s released it goes fast.
Fortunately, it ages very well due to the higher ABV and copious amounts of hops. If you should be lucky enough to spot a batch of 120 Minute IPA, grab a few bottles – some to enjoy, and a few to age.
The 120 Minute IPA is continuously hopped throughout the two hours of boil and whirlpool with high-alpha American hops, then dry hopped with a shed load more hops.
Excessively hopped and unfiltered, Dogfish Head call this beer the “Holy Grail” for hopheads, and I tend to agree.
The beer pours with a copper/deep orange hue and a slight haze from that insane number of hops added. The hops impart sweet citrusy, piney, and floral aromas, almost like candy.
The flavor as you would expect is extremely hoppy with some hop resin character and a mouthfeel that lightly coats the mouth while offering a lingering bitterness.
Keep an eye on the Dogfish head website to see when this beer is next brewed.
Although their beers are distributed to over 40 of the mainland states, it might be worth planning a road trip to Delaware if you really want to get your hand on this amazing beer – it will sell out fast, maybe even before it gets the chance to be loaded on to a truck!
Pliny the Younger, Russian River Brewing Co., California
- ABV 10.25 % IBUs 90
We can’t write a list of the best Imperial Quad IPAs without a nod to the Russian River Brewing Co and their Pliny series of beers.
Generally accepted to have created the first commercial Imperial or Double IPA in the US, head brewer Vinnie Cilurzo now produces a sibling beer to Pliny the Elder which, despite being classed as “younger”, ups the ABV and pushes the level of hops to crazy levels.
Some may argue Pliny the Younger is a Triple IPA (it’s occasionally listed as such on many beer websites) – remember there’s no official classification for either Triple IPAs or Quadruple IPAs as a beer style.
At over 10% ABV and with an IBU edging towards 100, it just about fits into the lower end of what many consider a Quad IPA.
The popularity of this beer alone deems it worthy of inclusion in any list of intensely hoppy beers known as Imperial IPAs.
It basically takes the recipe of Pliny the Elder and doubles the hop content, so, in my eyes, double a Double IPA makes a Quadruple IPA – simple math, yes?
Originally only available in the brewpub on draft and certain select local restaurants, the beer is released every February and is now available in bottles to take home, but in restricted quantities (only 2 per customer).
The bottles are generally available for the two-week release period and are on a first-come first-served basis. So, be prepared to queue, and only so many bottles are allocated to each pub to ensure they last the whole 14 days, so don’t be too surprised if they sell out on certain days.
It might be time to book a fortnight’s holiday to the picturesque Sonoma County if you really want to get your hands on one of these beers (in 2023 the release period is March 24th – April 6th – check the Russian River’s website for the latest release schedules).
Higher in alcohol and with tons of hops, the Pliny the Younger is remarkably dry for the amounts of malt used in the recipe.
The beer is loaded with hop flavors and aromas and is a well-balanced beer with malt and a lingering dry and bitter finish. The beer has always been double-dry hopped and some years even quadruple dry-hopped.
Although bottles are not released online or even available in the brewery gift shops, kegs of Pliny the Younger are made available to many of their valued wholesalers and draft accounts in California with some kegs even heading to select accounts in Oregon, Colorado, Philadelphia, and Reno.
Westvleteren 12, Westvleteren Brouwerij, Belgium
- ABV 10.2% IBUs Undisclosed
This Belgian Quad IPA is considered by many to be one of the best beers in the world. It has a complex flavor profile with notes of dark fruit, chocolate, and caramel.
Although again, many may debate whether this is truly a Quadruple IPA, the IPA part being the contentious issue here, the ABV certainly fits as does the op content.
Anyhow, it’s consistently rated as the best beer in the world by many beer geeks and publications alike, so why not?
One of the sweeter QIPAs you will find, the specialized Belgian yeasts used in this Trappist brew, along with a complex malt bill, give a smooth taste of caramel and chocolate that balances with sweet raisins and nutty notes in the hop aroma.
Available by purchase from the monastery itself, occasionally bottles of this Quad beer make it onto the grey market and even some beer importers/wholesalers have been known to ship the beer.
Interestingly enough, like the other two beers Westvleteren brew, this one has no label on the bottle with all the information printed on the bottle top.
Just look out for the Westvleteren beer with a yellow cap.
Death by Lightning IPA – Quadruple IPA by Third Moon Brewing Company, Ontario, Canada
This New England-Style Quadruple IPA is brewed with oats and then hopped at ridiculous levels with Citra T90, Nelson Sauvin, and Strata hops.
A collaboration with the Slama brewing Company from Finland, the Canadians learned much about the cryo-hops Citra the Fins, used due to their climate being inhospitable to the cultivation of the normal Citra spectrum of hops.
With a very low yield on the beer due to the excessive dry hopping, there is a limit of 4 cans per customer, and, again, it sells out very quickly.
An intense and hoppy beer using one of my favorite hops, the Nelson Sauvin, I was recently lucky enough to get my hands on a can of this fine IPA.
If you should ever get the chance this is one QIPA you must try, with flavors of dark stone fruits and peach with hints of passion fruit. The pineapple bouquet only hints at what is to come as you sip this hoppy beer.
Other recent Quad IPAs which have been seen on the market but we have too little information to review (and nobody sent me any…DOH!!) include:
Cheeky Beer by Cloudwater Brew Co, Manchester England ABV 12.5%
A full-flavored but deceptively drinkable QIPA brewed with Citra and Strata hops.
Nuclear Option IPA – Quadruple IPA by District 96 Beer Factory, New York. ABV 14%
A North East QIPA bursting with Citra, Citra, and even more Citra. Flavors and aromas explode with white peach, pineapple, snake fruit, and cotton candy.
Shadow of the Moon IPA – Quadruple by Pure Project Brewing, California ABV 15%
For their 5th Anniversary ale, the guys at Pure Project Brewing wanted to push the boundaries of their brewing skills with the strongest beer they have ever produced.
Using Freestyle Farms Nelson Sauvin & Motueka hops from New Zealand, and American hops such as Mosaic, Citra, and Cashmere, Shadow of the Moon is a celebration of hops with over 8 pounds per barrel.
Although we have yet to encounter this Quad, we are assured it is subtly warming and stunningly smooth, bursting with flavors of ripe pineapple, honeydew, and a whole load of dank resinous notes.
To Go Quad or Not? The Final Call
Overall, Quadruple IPA is a unique and intense variation of the popular India Pale Ale style.
Its high alcohol content and bold hop flavors and aromas make it a beer that is meant to be savored and appreciated.
If you’re a fan of IPAs and looking for a new challenge, give Quadruple IPA a try.