These days, it feels like it’s impossible to keep up on the IPA train. This is still, by far, the most popular craft beer style in the U.S., and just when you think you’ve seen it all, leave it to playful American craft brewers to come up with something completely new and totally different—varying subcategories or takes on classic IPAs that use different base styles, grain bills, techniques and more.
Today, we’re seeing more and more experimentation with different colored IPAs.
It’s an endless adventure to try and keep up on the latest offerings. Though, truthfully, it’s also a delicious one. Back in late 2010, we first introduced you to a beer style that was gaining serious traction among producers and drinkers alike. The topic of its name was a hot one, and the debate had a classic east-versus-west vibe. Both coasts were vying for official recognition of the style—and some serious bragging rights. The team names, Cascadian Dark Ale in the west and Black IPA in the east, both tried to stake their claim in the record books.
The end results? The Brewers Association had to step in, listing a new item in their Beer Style Guidelines judging manual for 2010: American-style Black Ale.
Today, we’re seeing more and more experimentation with different colored IPAs, from white (using wheat beers as the base style) and golden (golden/blonde ales) to red (amber/red ales) and, of course, black. The possibilities seem somewhat endless.
But beyond mere colors comes other ingredient- or technique-based styles, like rye-based beers or wild ales, being married to the vibrant hop profiles of IPAs.
When they work, these marriages showcase the best of two worlds, often skillfully highlighting a strong grain core in addition to a forward hop presence.
Since these substyles aren’t all officially recognized or classified, it’s not always completely clear what to expect from any given bottling. But that just means more reason to try and taste as broadly as possible, all in the name of research and good taste.
Bruery Terreux Humulus Terreux With Mosaic Hops (American IPA; Bruery Terreux, CA); $20/750 ml, 93 points. Bruery Terreux is known for specializing in funky, adventurous, experimental beers of wonder, and this selection fits seamlessly into their lineup. Labeled as “a hoppy Brett beer,” it’s the brewery’s take on an India pale ale that’s 100% fermented with Brettanomyces. As a result of this, and as expected, it’s brimming with wild, earthy, funky notes of barnyard, earth and lemony tartness, but it’s complemented by a bright hop profile of fresh citrus, stone and tropical fruits from the Mosaic hops. More prominent bitterness unfolds on the medium-weight palate, which is smooth but easygoing, thanks to lively carbonation and a bright, acidic character from the wild yeast. Final notes of lemon rind, dried hay, pressed hop flowers and lupulin powder hang around on the dry finish. A strange but cool trip, indeed. abv: 6.3%
Coronado Brewing Co. Stem to Stern Batch No 1 Hoppy Red (American IPA; Coronado Brewing Co., CA); $9/22 oz, 91 points. Coronado’s Stem to Stern series is all about experimentation, and the first in the small-batch series encapsulates just that. A journey of experimental hops, this is brewed with a hefty dose of Denali and yet-to-renamed #07277 hops, set against a red ale backdrop. The result is a highly aromatic and smooth brew, with assertive scents of apricots, fresh citrus fruits and peels, as well as a touch of earthy, woody spice. The palate is smooth and slightly slick, with a rich malt core that’s accented by notes of woody spice, toasted nuts and grains, peach pit and pine resin. It’s a bit of a roller coaster ride, but one worth the thrill. abv: 7.7%
Stone Pataskala Red X IPA (American IPA; Stone Brewing Co., CA); $12/12 oz 6 pack, 91 points. Labeled as “a massively dry-hopped crimson IPA,” this brew gets its vibrant red hue from the special German malts used, called Red X, and its hop profile from the addition of Mosaic, Cascade and Amarillo hops. The resulting beer is a pleasant mix of IPA and red ale characteristics, with bright hop-centric scents of lemon and orange rind that are countered by a hit of clean malt. The smooth, medium-bodied palate boasts a rich, malty core, with flavors of toffee and toasted bread alongside hints of grapefruit pith and pine that carry through the mildly astringent finish. It’s surprisingly balanced, harmonious and easy to drink, despite the moderate alcohol. abv: 7.3%
Deschutes Swivelhead Red India Style Red Ale (American IPA; Deschutes Brewery, OR);$14/12 oz 6 pack, 90 points. This pours a lovely amber-brown color in the glass, with a solid off-white head that shows good retention. The bouquet immediately intrigues, with upfront aromas of caramelized nuts, toffee and toasted bread that are laced with notes of earthy hops, grass and light pine. On the palate, the malty core continues to take center stage, with ripe caramel, biscuit, peach and melon flavors, although the hops lend a nice, slightly bitter framework that weaves seamlessly in and out of the experience from start to finish. Medium bodied, with soft, smooth carbonation and a lingering dry finish, this is a fun interpretation of a burgeoning style. abv: 6.5%
Schlafly Black IPA (American-style Black Ale; The Saint Louis Brewery, MO); $11/12 oz 6 pack, 90 points. Part of the Hop Allocation Series, this beer was originally a draft-only selection, but it’s now partially bottled after being brewed in a small batch. It pours a dark brown, almost black color, with a thick tan head that leaves nice lacing behind. It showcases a beautiful balance between the rich, roasty, chocolaty malt characteristics and the fruity, spicy, piny hop profile. The mouthfeel is creamy, slightly chewy and slick, with plush malt flavors that give way to lingering bitterness by way of roasted coffee bean, bitter orange peel and pine resin flavors. abv: 7%
Smuttynose Rhye IPA (American IPA; Smuttynose Brewing Company, NH); $12/12 oz 6 pack, 90 points. Once a one-time offering in the brewery’s Big Beer Series lineup, then introduced as a seasonal selection and now available year-round, Smutty’s Rhye IPA is an India pale ale brewed with rye malt. Based off the brewery’s Finestkind IPA, but tweaked to include 30% rye malt, in addition to a few other small changes, it’s a flavorful beer that still manages to show great harmony between the hop, malt and rye characteristics. Spicy notes of black pepper, rye and resinous pine unfold throughout, grounded by a malty core of light caramel and nutty, toasty bread flavors that are smooth and satisfying. A pleasant bitterness and spicy rye character lingers long on the dry finish. abv: 7%