Unlike the rest of the craft beer drinking universe, IPA is not my thing. I don't dislike them, but they certainly are not my go-to.

But there's something about spring that makes me crave hops. The rest of the year I gravitate to beers that emphasize malt or fermentation. As the days get longer and the temperatures begin to warm, I find myself more often reaching for those sharply bitter and highly aromatic hop-forward brews.

Let's face it, though. March in Minnesota isn't necessarily warm, and heavy snowfalls are always a looming threat. What's needed is a beer with hoppy zing but that still has some heft and alcohol warming to ease us through the tumultuous season. A double, or imperial, IPA is just the thing.

The double IPA is a beer style born of the American love of excess. If some hops are good, more hops are better. Higher alcohol and more aggressive bitterness — well, that's just gravy on the taters.

While the popularity of the style has waned somewhat in recent years, there are still several examples available to satisfy even the strongest hop craving.

There are many old tried-and-trues that are worth another look. Perhaps the grandest of them is Hopslam, the 10% alcohol, limited winter release from Bell's Brewery in Kalamazoo, Mich. One of the original double IPAs, Hopslam is a hop lover's dream. It's a huge beer with huge hop flavor. Deep honeyed malt starts off the experience but quickly gives way to an intense burst of hop bitterness and resinous piney hop flavor. Pine is joined by bright grapefruit along with peaches and almost minty floral notes. One last sharp bite of bitterness at the finish gives way to lingering hops and honey. Hopslam's run ended in February, but if you look there is still some out there to be found.

Another of the old-school classics is Avery Brewing Company's Maharaja. Massive citrus and dank resinous aromatics waft from the glass before the first sip. On the palate, Maharaja is clean, crisp and sharply bitter. Intense resin and grapefruit hop flavors mingle with subtler notes of tropical fruits. Moderate, toffee-like sweetness arrives midway, but is more than balanced by the long lingering bitterness. Brewed in Boulder, Colo., Maharaja is everything a double IPA should be.

Myrcenary, by Odell Brewing Co. in Fort Collins, Colo., is named after one of the major aromatic oils in hops — myrcene. It's brewed with a blend of hops that are all high in this element. The result is a burst of tropical fruit aromas and flavors, including mango and passion fruit, backed up by light citrus. Bitterness is high and lingers well into the dry finish. Malt provides some balancing sweetness, but maintains a neutral, grainy character that really lets the hops shine.

Though the beer itself has only been around for a short while, Big Little Thing from Sierra Nevada Brewing is made by the California brewery that basically invented the American pale ale style. Every element of this multilayered beer is clearly articulated and distinctly differentiated from the others. At 45 IBU (international bittering units), the measured bitterness is low. But a high degree of attenuation leaves scant sweetness, creating more bitter impression. While not sweet, it is malty. A solid base of lightly toasted and caramel malt provides a good contrast to the more than ample mango and tangerine hop flavors. Big Little Thing is remarkably light-bodied for its 9% alcohol heft.

California's Stone Brewing is known for aggressively hoppy beers. Its Fear Movie Lions Hazy Double IPA lends a hazy twist to the style. Appropriate for the hazy style, bitterness is moderate. But the well-attenuated dryness enhances the perception of bitterness, preventing it from being overly sweet or syrupy. The focus here is hop flavor and aroma. Berry is the main player, coming off something like the smell of raspberry canes when cut. Candied peaches are also prominent, supported by hints of tropical fruit and tangerine. It has an off-dry finish with long-lasting hoppy fruitiness.

Moving to the local front, Lupulin Brewing in Big Lake, Minn., comes through with its own rendition of the hazy New England-style double IPA, Blissful Ignorance. This one is all about tropical fruit. Mango, passion fruit, tangerine and even a touch of coconut lead the way with very little bitterness to get in the way. The low bitterness does little to balance the malt sweetness, leaving it a bit syrupy for my taste. But the low bitterness also makes for a rich, smooth, full-bodied and satisfying mouthfeel.

Docksider Double India Pale Ale from Island City Brewing Co. in Winona has the hazy appearance of a New England IPA, but a decidedly West Coast profile. Its flavors are clear and crisp, with an assertive bitterness that lingers. The hop character is all citrus, with grapefruit, tangerine and orange coming together in a bright and pithy mélange with light floral notes to round it out.

Giant for a Day is a brand new March/April release from Indeed Brewing Co. in Minneapolis. Firmly in the West Coast style, it features a blend of old school and newly released hop varieties. Hops dominate the aroma with bold grapefruit, pine resin and candied fruit. That fruity/resinous profile is mirrored in the flavor with hops once again being the main event. While Indeed's press material touts a simple malt bill to let the hops shine, there is a nice biscuity malt flavor that comes in late, showing that the brewers didn't ignore any part of this delicious beer.

Michael Agnew is a certified cicerone (beer-world version of sommelier) and owner of A Perfect Pint. He conducts private and corporate beer tasting events in the Twin Cities, and can be reached at michael@aperfectpint.net.