Reviews, Commentary and Opinions on Midwest Craft Beer and Microbreweries


Beer Reviews

Double Bubble

Rush River Brewing Co.
River Falls, WI

Style: Imperial/Double IPA
ABV: 9.0%

Nigel’s Rating:
one beerone beerone beerone beerone beer   (Drinkable, but flawed)

Pair With:
Back in the day, Old School Nigel wrote a review for an IPA he discovered browsing the shelves of Milwaukee’s finest craft beer retailer. Rush River Brewing Co. in River Falls, Wisconsin was in its infancy, and I had to do some research via the Google to uncover their story. After said research, I was intrigued by the experience of the brewers, their business plan, and their location. However … I found Bubblejack IPA, which at the time came in a hideous lime green bottle, to be a poor example of my favorite style.

Not long after that review in the summer of ’08, Rush River brews vanished from the Milwaukee market. Left with that sole impression, I thought little of the brewery until recent visits to the Twin Cities turned up Rush River in droves. They may be based in Wisconsin, but like many of the small cities in the northwest part of the state, River Falls is far closer to the Twin Cities than it is to Madison, Milwaukee, or the Fox Valley. Rush River does still distribute in the Madison market, which is where I picked up my sixer of Double Bubble, hoping to give them a second chance.

Based on the reader votes for my Bubblejack review, it appears that most did not agree with my assessment. I’ll be honest, I’m not entirely sure why that is. I recently re-visited Bubblejack, this time on tap in Red Wing, Minnesota, and while I found it to be slightly better than I remembered, it was still lacking in many areas that are key to a fine American IPA. As stated in the review, it’s not terrible … it’s decidedly average, but I expect more from an IPA, which is why I settled on two mugs after flirting with a three mug rating. Undeterred by his lingering unpopularity, Nigel once again soldiers on.

Double Bubble appears to be more than just Bubblejack with extra hops and alcohol. One intriguing aspect is that Rush River brews Double Bubble with honey in the mash, a unique twist on a powerful style that is becoming all-too common in the craft beer world. Honey being a known commodity in Wisconsin, Rush River is far from the first brewer to incorporate the ingredient into a brew, but if utilized properly, it could be a very nice addition. Also, though it has nothing to do with the quality of the beer, I do appreciate Rush River re-designing their packaging. Marketing isn’t everything, but it’s still important and making sure you’re product doesn’t look like it was designed by a circus clown is certainly a bonus.

Double Bubble pours with vigorous carbonation which leaves a frothy head just over an inch thick that slowly dissipates into pillowy lace and clings to the side of the glass throughout. A crisp golden brown color, there is a ton of sediment floating about, making it cloudy but still appealing at first glance.

The aroma is not what one would expect from an imperial IPA, as hops are virtually undetectable. Double Bubble has a unique scent of honey and grainy malt, but I really don’t sense much in the way of hops at all, save for the occasional faint note of generic citrus. Hard to believe I’m describing an American imperial IPA as “sweet and earthy,” but that’s exactly what it is. Odd, but not entirely unpleasant.

While I can accept an aroma in an imperial IPA that isn’t hop-driven, there are certain characteristics and profiles that still need to be maintained in the flavor. Unfortunately, Double Bubble is lacking. Somehow, somewhere there are enough hops to supposedly reach the 100 IBU level. I can’t find them. Rush River proclaims that they’ve loaded Double Bubble not only with hops, but also with grain and the aforementioned honey. That’s fine, but for me the sweet, tongue-coating honey and the continued presence of bready, earthy grains eliminates any of the floral, piney effervescence one expects from a hopped-up IPA. It’s just not there. Perhaps this is best considered the perfect imperial IPA for the non-Hophead. By no means does an imperial IPA need to numb the tongue with hops; on the contrary, balance is always welcome. But, in my opinion, when the key ingredient is so hidden it’s barely detectable, the beer is flawed. Overall, the taste is that of sweet honey notes, followed by subtle grains, and faint, generic citrus notes. There’s a bready staleness to it that I find unpleasant. Overall, the only positives I can pull from the flavor are that the 9 percent ABV is well hidden, and the use of honey in the mash does in fact come through, though perhaps a bit too much.

Once again, I’m disappointed with Rush River. As was the case with Bubblejack, it’s not that the beer as a whole is undrinkable. I’ve had far worse. However, as a representative of the style, I find it to be significantly lacking, with dominant profiles that are not what one would expect or want in an imperial IPA. Perhaps I’m too selective in my IPAs, but clearly I don’t agree with the interpretations of both the standard and imperial versions that Rush River has brewed. With the plethora of other options available, I’m looking elsewhere.


Reviewed by Nigel Tanner on January 15, 2013.
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