Bell’s Two Hearted three-peated earlier this year as the American Homebrewer Association’s Best Beer in America. While that may be a stretch—and one that depends quite a bit on distribution—I’m pretty comfortable naming it the best widely available IPA in the land, at the very least. It’s a beer that still feels innovative, leaning heavily on unfiltered haziness and fruit-forward hoppiness years before turbid juice bombs made it mainstream.
Count me as a big fan of the Michigan-based craft giant’s flagship brew, and among the hoard of Two Hearted drinkers long clamoring for an imperial version. Well, as of August, the wait was over as Bell’s unleashed Double Two Hearted on the world. The double IPA iteration of the classic boasts two and a half times the Centennial hops and a whopping 11.0% ABV. I couldn’t contain my excitement, and—despite the hefty price tag—I bought up nearly every sixer in town.
Not much distinguishes Double Two Hearted from the single version when it comes to appearance, and that’s a good thing. The beautiful, lighty hazy, amber-orange hue makes this one of the few IPAs I think I could recognize solely on looks. The imperial version may be a touch hazier and darker, but that could also be my memory playing tricks on me.
If the appearance doesn’t give away a Two Hearted Ale, the aroma certainly will. Bell’s gets everything there is out of a single hop bill with a mouthwatering combination of sweet citrus fruits and dank pine. Double Two Hearted turns that recipe up a few notches with a wall of those same aromas advancing from the glass.
This is a case where doubling down on a classic turns out exactly right.”
If you’re going to riff on a classic, you better get it right, and Bell’s pretty much nails it here. Double Two Hearted elevates the pine and grapefruit combination of regular Two Hearted to ridiculous levels. A host of additional citrus flavors and even some mango join the flavor frenzy. While other double IPAs rely on a hammer of bitterness as a carrying trait, Double Two Hearted feels just as in balance as its renowned predecessor, with plenty of pithy and resinous bitterness to complement the increased sweetness of the additional malt. The punch of booziness in each sip catches me off-guard, as I’m used to this combination of flavor going down a little more smoothly.
Double Two Hearted is pretty much a slightly stronger version of the original, with more booze, more of the same aromas and more of the same flavors. The fact it isn’t wildly different from the classic makes it all the more appealing considering the standard’s well-earned reputation. This is a case where doubling down on a classic turns out exactly right. Whether it is better than the original depends on the setting, but based on the quality of both, that’s a taste test I’d sign up for anytime.