Even though brewers continue to question what will be the next big thing in the world of craft beer, consumers will forever return to certain classic styles: lagers and stouts, sure, but definitely India pale ales (IPAs).
For years, American IPAs have reigned supreme. The style always sees the highest number of submissions in any judging or competition, including the mother of them all, the Brewers Association’s annual Great American Beer Festival. It seems we just can’t get enough of the stuff.
Historically, the American-IPA style was driven by a “bigger means better” ethos. Hopheads clammored for more hop aroma and flavor, feverishly pushing the limits of reasonable IBUs (international bittering units).
New, exciting hop profiles are ready to be experienced in brewers’ attempts to showcase these innovative varieties.
While some might still subscribe to the theory that the more hops, the better, it seems that many brewers have taken another look at the style. Sure, American beers—especially IPAs— are still quite hoppy, but we’re increasingly searching for more refined, balanced options now that we’ve gotten over the initial hop-shock and awe.
Another key factor shaping the American IPA landscape is the release of new hop varieties. There are now close to 200 hop varieties 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 are ready to be experienced in brewers’ attempts to showcase these innovative varieties. Today, you can find an array of beers touting the use of new or experimental hop varieties, or even focusing on a single hop for a pure expression.
Recommended American IPAs
Lord Hobo Hobo Life Dry-Hopped Citra Session IPA (American IPA; Lord Hobo Brewing Company, MA); $9/12 oz 6 pack, 91 points. This pours a hazy golden-yellow color, with an off-white head that shows good staying power. The hop aromas immediately waft from the glass—loads of grapefruit peel, fresh grass and minty pine needle that all carry through to the palate. It smells bigger than it is, as the sip is surprisingly light, balanced by just enough malty support and fine carbonation. It’s sessionable, for sure, but definitely not lacking in flavor. abv: 4.5%
Samuel Adams Rebel IPA (American IPA; The Boston Beer Co., MA); $10/12 oz 6 pack, 91 points. After more than four years, the brewers undertook what they dubbed “Project Lupulus” and completely reformulated this brew, taking advantage of hops that were not available when Rebel IPA was first launched in 2014. All in all, seven hops were chosen for the new recipe: Cascade, Centennial, Chinook, HBC 566 (a new hop variety proprietary and exclusive to Sam Adams), HBC 682 (another new experimental hop variety), Mosaic and Simcoe. The resulting brew is well balanced and more tropical in nature than the initial offering, with a solid but not overpowering caramel-malt core and varying hop tones throughout, from grapefruit rind to fresh pine, with bright pineapple and lemon fruit flavors. abv: 6.5%
Coronado Brewing Co. Islander IPA (American IPA; Coronado Brewing, CA); $11/12 oz 6 pack, 90 points. Brewed with Centennial, Chinook and Columbus hops, this pours a slightly cloudy-gold color, with a medium off-white head that leaves nice lacing behind with each sip. The hop aromas are front and center on the nose, with aggressive scents of fresh pine resin, citrus peel and mango skin that carry through to the medium-weight palate, alongside a pleasant, malty sweetness that rounds the mouthfeel out. Ample carbonation keeps the finish fresh, with a kiss of bitterness on the back of the close. abv: 6.5%
Firestone Limited Release Luponic Distortion Revolution No. 006 (American IPA; Firestone Walker Brewing Company, CA); $10/12 oz 6 pack, 89 points. The latest release in Firestone’s Luponic Distortion series, each offering a different hop profile, features a blend of seven hops, though the star is the hops grown at Hop Head Farms in Michigan. The nose is all citrus upfront, with some minty, herbal and white floral accents that lend depth and interest. The palate offers more of the same, grounded by a clean malt profile and medium carbonation. It’s not quite medium bodied, with a crisp, clear color and a mild bitterness that persists through the finish. abv: 5.9%
Anchor Brewing Go West! IPA (American IPA; Anchor Brewing Co., CA); $10/12 oz 6 pack, 88 points. This year-round selection is well balanced and accessible, with surprisingly subtle hoppy notes of citrus peel and freshly dried grass that dance atop a core of light toast and caramel malt. The medium-bodied palate is crisp and mildly bitter, with ample carbonation to balance the slightly sweet malt characteristics and a pleasant dryness to the finish. abv: 6.7%