IPA's really showcase the hops. English IPA's are not as hoppy as American IPA's. I remember trying Greene King IPA when in England last summer and my initial impression of it was that it was fairly light and the hops were minimal. American IPA's also are medium bodied and have a nice malt backbone which holds the flavors together beautifully. They often have a bitter finish, which is really what puts new IPA drinkers off. Definitely an acquired taste, but once you get to the point where you appreciate an IPA, it is very likely to become your go-to style of beer. This might be why the IPA is one of the most popular styles of beer in the craft beer world.
So what are some of my recommended IPA's....let's take a look:
1. Bells Two Hearted Ale: A classic in the style and consistently one of the best rated IPA's in the world. This is the beer that got me into IPA's and is always a good go-to beer.
2. Founders Centennial IPA: Featuring the Centennial Hop in the very best ways.
3. Triton Railsplitter IPA: Local from Indianapolis, this one packs an awesome hop punch with fantastic bitterness. One of my favorites.
4. Ballast Point Sculpin IPA: Another one that is consistently rated one of the best in the world. But you won't find it in Indiana. Definitely worth trading for or ordering online if you can find it.
5. Sun King Grapefruit Jungle IPA: One of my favorite local Sun King brews. Comes out twice a year and actually there is a tapping party for it on 8/30. Amazing grapefruit flavor. Crisp and refreshing. Well crafted beer.
6. Surly Furious: Possibly the best IPA I've had. Can only get it in Minnesota. Again, very much worth trading for if you haven't had it.
7. Stone IPA: A classic west coast IPA and one of the most popular out there.
8. Odell IPA: Bold and complex. Nicely bitter. Not available in Indiana, but it's out there.
9. New Belgium Ranger IPA: A great starter IPA. This beer renewed my faith in New Belgium as a brewery.
Three Floyds BrooDoo: Only available in October, this fresh hopped IPA is one of my favorites from Three Floyds. Be on the lookout for this one, don't miss it.
11. Fat Heads Head Hunter IPA: Recently won an award for best in style beating out Sculpin IPA. Massively hopped. Can't get it in Indiana, but Ohio has it....and who doesn't love a road trip?
12. Dark Horse Crooked Tree: Definitely lives up to its description, crisp and dry. Featuring the hops with a solid bitterness. Great brew from Dark Horse out of Michigan.
Need some variation in your IPA life? Well, there are some creative spins out there on IPA's. Black IPA's, Rye IPA's, Red IPA's, and White IPA's have all really taken off in popularity. Black IPA's are dark in color with roasted malts. Rye IPA's are made with copious amounts of Rye malt. Red IPA's are simply hopped up Red Ales. White IPA's usually have a bit of funk to them. It's interesting to see brewers using creativity to create some of these spins on a traditional IPA. Examples of these styles include:
1. Stone Sublimely Self-Righteous Ale: Probably one of the best Black IPA's I have had.
2. Firestone Walker Wookey Jack: Not available in Indiana, but worth trying if you make it to Illinois or California. Incredible Black IPA.
3. Sierra Nevada Ruthless Rye IPA: Don't sleep on this Rye IPA from Sierra Nevada. It's really tasty.
4. Troegs Nugget Nectar: Is it an amber or an ipa? Always a debate. For me I consider it a red IPA. Seasonal from Troegs in Pennsylvania. Just a quick trip to Ohio when it comes out and this could be yours.
5. Grand Teton Pursuit of Hoppiness: Strong ale or IPA? In my opinion it's an IPA. My second favorite to Nugget Nectar. This hoppy red delivers all the goods.
6. Anchorage Brewing Galaxy White IPA: Massive funk and complexity....if that's your thing.
Of the variants, I would say that I enjoy them all, except White IPA's. Generally they have been too funky for me. My favorite IPA is Surly Furious and my favorite IPA variant is the Wookey Jack from Firestone Walker.
One more thing about IPA's. One of the most important thing to consider when buying one of these hoptacular beers is freshness. Check those bottle dates. If it's old (3-4 months) or has dust on the bottle on the shelf, please pass it by. Hop flavors fade over time and nothing is more disappointing that an IPA that has lost its hop punch. So get those IPA's fresh if you can. Look for a future post dedicated to the Double IPA. What are your favorite IPA's?