7 American IPA Superstars
Even though craft beers are still red hot and brewers continue to look for the next big thing, consumers will forever return to certain classic styles: lagers and stouts, for sure, but also India pale ales (IPAs).
A subset of consumers drives the IPA craze, affectionately dubbed “hopheads.” We all know the type: folks who just can’t get enough hop aroma and flavor in their beer. The feverish need for high levels of hops and increased IBUs (international bittering units) consumed so many people for so many years, it almost seemed to be the motto of the American craft beer scene: The hoppier, the better.
While this might still be true, bigger does not always mean better, and it seems that many brewers have heard the message. American beers, especially IPAs, are still quite hoppy, but many beer lovers have gotten over the initial hop-shock and are now searching for more refined, balanced options.
The American hop varieties commonly used in these brews still take the spotlight, but harmony with the beer’s other elements—a malt backbone to support the hop characteristics, balanced alcohol and an acceptable level of astringency—is becoming more important.
Another factor that influences the IPA market is the release of new hop varieties. According to the Brewers Association, there are currently about 200 varieties of hops commercially available. A few decades ago, brewers across the globe only had access to about a quarter of that.
What does that mean for you? New, exciting hop profiles—aromas and flavors—can be experienced in brewers’ attempts to showcase these innovative varieties. This year, especially when searching for Thanksgiving beer pairings, look for selections boasting the latest lupulin-laced releases, including Mosaic, Azacca and Equinox.
Thanks to an abundance of dry hopping, this is an assertive IPA that really emphasizes what the style is all about—intense hop aroma and flavor in overall balance. Earthy hop aromas are coupled with dense, sweet citrus and resiny pine on the nose, and they continue to shine through on the medium-weight, creamy palate. They’re happily supported by a caramel malt backbone, grounding what could otherwise be overpowering flavors of resin and astringency. Medium carbonation keeps the palate lifted and refreshed, while the peppery, bitter and slightly sticky hop-fueled finish lingers long.
abv: 7.2% Price: $10/12 oz 6 pack
Part of Strauss’ Coastal Reserve Series, which has served as a hoppy playground for the company’s brewers to experiment with new hop varietals, hopping techniques and pushing style boundaries, this is a clean, pristine, well-balanced single hop IPA. Highlighting the intensely aromatic Mosaic hop variety, this boasts intense citrus and tropical fruit aromas and flavors—think orange supreme, grapefruit slice, pineapple, guava and mango. It’s dry hopped to preserve the intense hop aromatics without pushing the body or alcohol too high, although the palate still offers ample weight and richness. The finish is brisk and dry, with a mouthwatering citrus juice and peel flavor that lingers.
abv: 5.5% Price: $8/22 oz
This is a clean, refreshing and well-balanced IPA, offering bold hop flavors without extraordinary astringency on the palate or bitterness on the finish. Dry hopped with 66.8% Meridian, 16.6% Cascade and 16.6% Centennial hops, the hop aromas are front and center, with lively scents of orange slice, pink grapefruit, green mango and pineapple. The palate offers more of the same, supported by a clean malt backbone that leads into a dry, brisk finish.
abv: 7.6% Price: $9/12 oz 6 pack
This fruity IPA pours a rich golden color, with a frothy, lingering head. It offers an attractive bouquet of hop resin, fresh citrus and malt cracker. It’s flavorful without being overdone or feeling too heavy, with delicate carbonation and flavors of grapefruit peel and pine sap. Well balanced and extremely drinkable, there’s an attractive dryness to the finish that leaves you ready for more.
abv: 6% Price: $8/12 oz 6 pack
Labeled a “West Coast style IPA,” this new selection was born in Sam Adams’s nanobrewery, a 10-gallon beer “test kitchen.” The intent behind the brew was to showcase the expressive nature of Pacific Northwest hop varieties—Cascade, Simcoe, Centennial, Chinook and Amarillo—without the typical overt bitterness. The result is a bold and intensely aromatic brew, brimming with notes of fresh citrus and grapefruit peel, as well as resiny pine and fresh red apple. It’s medium bodied yet drinkable and refreshing, with a solid cracker-malt backbone to support the assertive hop characteristics.
abv: 6.5% Price: $10/12 oz 6 pack
This canned classic pours a beautiful golden color, with a solid white head that leaves substantial lacing behind. The hop aromas are forward on the nose, with assertive scents of citrus peel, lemongrass, hop flower and a touch of pepper. The palate is round yet balanced, thanks to a solid backbone of caramel malt and a light honeyed sweetness, but the finish takes you back into hop country, with flavors of lemon rind, fresh pine and warm peppery spice.
abv: 7% Price: $10/12 oz 6 pack
The low alcohol might be a bit misleading, if you think that means this IPA will be lighter on hop aroma and flavor. The typical citrus peel characteristics dominate the nose and mouth, with additional accents of biscuit malt, orange oil and faint grass. The mouthfeel is medium-light and approachable, with brisk carbonation that keeps the palate lively and refreshed. A bitter twang holds on through the close.
abv: 4.3% Price: $9/12 oz 6 pack
- 194 Founders Centennial IPA (American IPA; Founders Brewing Co., MI)
- 294 Karl Strauss Mosaic Session Ale (American IPA; Karl Strauss Brewing Company, CA)
- 391 Hops and Grain Greenhouse IPA (American IPA; Hops and Grain Brewing, TX)
- 490 Full Sail India Pale Ale (American IPA; Full Sail Brewing Company, OR)
- 590 Samuel Adams Rebel IPA (American IPA; The Boston Beer Co., MA)
- 689 21st Amendment Brew Free! or Die IPA (American IPA; 21st Amendment Brewery, CA)
- 788 Smuttynose Bouncy House IPA (American IPA; Smuttynose Brewing, NH)