Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Former Champion Double IPAs — Firestone Walker vs. Widmer

Firestone Walker
Double Jack

ABV 9.5%

Deep orange.
Sharp pine resin, beeswax and rich sweet malts.
Full bodied with sharp, astringent piny hops and a touch of citrus.
Hops vs. Malts
(Hoppy, Malty or Balanced):
Finish: Long lasting pine resin and citrus rind bitterness.
Overall (Fantastic, Good, Mediocre or Bad):

Widmer Deadlift
Imperial IPA

ABV 8.6%

Light orange.
Aroma: Intense floral and citrus hops. Grapefruit candy.
Flavor: Full bodied and sweet with bright citrus hop punch late.
Hops vs. Malts (Hoppy, Malty or Balanced): Hoppy
Finish: Mellow grapefruit bitterness.
Overall (Fantastic, Good, Mediocre or Bad): Fantastic

Blow by Blow
Tonight we staged an epic battle. Two former double IPA Bottle Battle champions squared off to see who would remain undefeated. In one glass we had Firestone Walker's amazing Double Jack. In the other glass we had the equally amazing Widmer Deadlift.

As you might expect, both came out swinging. Both had big hops in the aroma, with the Deadlift offering floral and citrus hop aromas and the Double Jack countering with sharp pine resin and some citrus as well. They both smelled absolutely awesome, but we gave the edge to the Deadlift as we prefer the floral to the pine.

The flavors continued to impress. Both were full bodied with a rich malty backbone that was able to balance the intense hop flavors. The Double Jack was a bit more aggressively hoppy throughout while the Deadlift started sweet and brought the hops late. Again, both great.

The big difference came in the finish. Deadlift had an amazingly balanced finish with just the right amount of hop bitterness and sweet citrus flavors. The Double Jack had a much more bitter finish, leaving us with long lasting bitter pine sap and citrus rind flavors.

Despite these both being fantastic beers the decision was easy for us. We both chose the Widmer Deadlift because it's like drinking some kind of magical hoppy, grapefruit flower nectar. This is a good thing for our bank account since the Double Jack is far more expensive.

Bottle Battles are all about matchups. If you look at our tasting notes for the Double Jack from earlier this month you'll see that we detected more citrus than pine. There is definitely a little of both, but when compared against the Alaskan Double IPA the citrus stood out, while the battle with the Deadlift brought out more of the pine notes. Just more proof that tasting is always influenced by a multitude of factors that range from your environment to your mood to what beer you're comparing it against.

Winner by unanimous decision: Widmer


  1. Love the idea of matching up two previous winners for a new battle. Interesting to see what flavors stand out the second time around, against a different beer. Good work.

  2. Uh... wow. I'm amazed. I just had four people blind taste Double Jack, Hop Henge, and Ace of Spades, and all 4 choose Double Jack as their favorite. Not that Deadlift is bad, but I don't remember it being Double Jack good. I'll have to give it a try.

    By the way, you might want to note that Deadlift is now called Nelson IIPA after the recent Widmer rebranding. It's not yet reflected on their website, but I've seen it on the shelves in Portland.

  3. We tasted blind as well. The Widmer just happened to fit our palate more on that night. We tend to prefer IIPAs that have a maltier finish and the Widmer just nailed it.

    I'll have to look for the Nelson. I hope they're not changing the recipe at all.

  4. Just got an email from Widmer confirming that the recipe is the same, just a new name.