Life

Our Panel Of Beer Experts Name The One IPA They Can’t Live Without

To say the IPA is a popular beer style is a massive understatement. Wherever you live, there are bound to be craft breweries nearby consistently highlighting West Coast, New England-style, and even Milkshake IPAs on their beer menus. The oftentimes slightly bitter (and sometimes aggressively bitter) beer style is a craft brewing mainstay from Bakersfield to Bar Harbor and everywhere in between.

There’s just something special about the IPA. Its distinctiveness is what makes it so sought after, but also so divisive. A well-made IPA might be a perfect harmony of malts and hops, citrus, ripe fruit, and other flavors, while a poorly-made one (or one made with too heavy a hop hand) might be bitter to the point of aggression. This is why great IPAs are so widely heralded while bad IPAs are quickly forgotten.

And, even though there are countless breweries scattered throughout the US, there are a few that stand above all else. That’s why we asked a few well-known craft beer experts, brewers, and beer professionals to tell us the one IPA they never get tired of drinking. Keep reading to see some familiar names as well as a few scrappy underdogs.

Fiddlehead IPA

Fiddlehead IPA
Fiddlehead

Mike Haakenstad, brewing operations manager at Sycamore Brewing in Charlotte, North Carolina

ABV: 6.2%
Average Price: $14.50 for a four-pack of 16-ounce cans

Why This Beer?

This question is a lay-up. Without a doubt, Fiddlehead IPA is a must-try for any IPA fan. This is hands down my number one personally. This beer has a “dank-ness”(and I do hate that term) that is unmatched. I can only describe it as an oniony/garlic that I have not found in another beer, ever. They execute their hopping precisely for this characteristic to be showcased and it is beautiful. I would say King Sue from Toppling Goliath would be a close number two with similar characteristics. This beer drinks super well on a hot summer day and drinks just as well after snowboarding. This beer is a “W”.

The Veil WhiteFerrari

The Veil WhiteFerrari
The Veil

Josh Lancaster, brewer at Seven Sounds Brewing Company in Elizabeth City, North Carolina

ABV: 8%
Average Price: $19 for a four-pack of 16-ounce cans

Why This Beer?

The Veil Whiteferrari is a perfect representation of the New England Double IPAs that The Veil led the way in popularizing across the country. It’s smooth and slightly sweet and perfectly balanced, expressive of my favorite hops, Citra and Galaxy. You can always find several great IPAs on tap at The Veil, but when they release Whiteferrari I go and buy as much as I can.

Bale Breaker Top Cutter

Bale Breaker Top Cutter
Bale Breaker

Andy Innes, lead brewer at Phillips Brewing & Malting Co. Ltd. In Victoria, British Columbia

ABV: 6.8%

Average Price: $8.99 for a six-pack

Why This Beer?

Anything by Bale Breaker. Specifically, I’ll shout out Top Cutter. For hop-obsessed individuals who have yet to make the pilgrimage to Yakima, please go. Go down for the Fresh Hop Fest and carve out an afternoon for Bale Breaker. Their brews magically encapsulate the best of PNW hops and are so fresh and delicious. Top Cutter has a lot of what you’d expect, with big citrus and pine, but the delicate floral aromas they capture in their dry-hopping are wildly good. Rosewater. Geraniol. The things dreams are made of.

BKS Counterculture

BKS Counterculture
BKS

Chris Meyers, co-founder at Crane Brewing Company in Kansas City

ABV: 7%

Average Price: Limited Availability

Why This Beer?

BKS Counterculture is a must-try beer. This is another great, local option and so worth snagging if you can get some. We are fortunate to have so many neighborhood breweries like this. Double dry-hopped with Citra, Mosaic, Simcoe, and Galaxy hops, it’s juicy, hazy, hoppy, and perfect.

Russian River Pliny the Elder

Russian River Pliny the Elder
Russian River

Douglas Constantiner, founder and CEO of Societe Brewing in San Diego

ABV: 8%

Average Price: $6.99 for a 16.9-ounce bottle

Why This Beer?

Russian River Pliny the Elder. To me, Pliny is to beer what ‘The Godfather’ is to movies. There are so many variations of the IPA now for beer drinkers to be excited about but even though Pliny has been around 20 years it’s still impressive. It has the perfect balance of grapefruit, pine, and malt backbone. There is nobody like Vinnie in this world when it comes to hops. When you drink Pliny, know that every IPA that you have ever had owes to this beer.

Odell IPA

Odell IPA
Odell

Dan Lipke, head brewer at Clown Shoes Beer in Boston

ABV: 7%
Average Price: $9.50 for a six-pack

Why This Beer?

Odell IPA is a can’t miss beer. A great American IPA, big on citrusy hops, mellow on malt. Finishes with a crisp bitterness that makes you want another sip. The best part? It’s not that difficult to find.

Russian River Pliny the Younger

Russian River Pliny the Younger
Russian River

Alex Wenner, owner of Lasting Joy Brewery in Tivoli, New York

ABV: 10.25%
Average Price: Limited Availability

Why This Beer?

Anyone introduced to hoppy beers in the days where haze is king should do themselves a favor and try the now classic West Coast offerings. And if you are going to put a West Coast IPA on your bucket list, it is Pliny the Younger from Russian River Brewing. Released at their brewpubs only for a couple of weeks a year, it is certainly not an easy beer to get your hands on. None of the pure juice and pillow-sweetness of the Northeast, Pliny the Younger is piney, grassy, and dank with notes of citrus set against a boozy, caramel malt backbone.

Tree House Doppelgänger

Tree House Doppelgänger
Tree House

Austin LaBrune, brewer at WeldWerks Brewing Co. in Greeley, Colorado

ABV: 8.2%
Average Price: Limited Availability

Why This Beer?

Doppelgänger: Tree House Brewing Company. Everyone knows about Treehouse if you’re looking at some of the best IPAs to try—Julius undoubtedly is the fan-favorite pick. But for me, Doppelgänger is where it’s at. It delivers the same experience every time. Doppelgänger is a juice bomb full of peach rings and mango while still delivering the textbook malt profile that Treehouse is known for. If I could only have one more IPA for the rest of my life, this is the one.

Russian River Blind Pig

Russian River Blind Pig
Russian River

Nik Mebane, brewmaster at Wynwood Brewing in Miami

ABV: 6%
Average Price: $5.50 for a 16.9-ounce bottle

Why This Beer?

That would have to be Blind Pig by Russian River. They literally wrote the book on West Coast IPAs. Sure, the Pliny beers get more press. But I believe the best, most bucket-list-worthy beer they actually make is the hoppy, slightly bitter, complex Blind Pig IPA.

Telluride Freaky Fish

Telluride Freaky Fish
Telluride

Matt Simpson, head brewer at Tennessee Brew Works in Nashville

ABV: 8.5%
Average Price: $14.99 for a six-pack

Why This Beer?

Freaky Fish from Telluride Brewing Company brewed an Imperial IPA that was served at the Big Beers Festival in Vail several years ago. Not sweet, great aroma, bitterness was balanced. One of the best high-gravity IPAs of all time.

Bell’s Two-Hearted

Bell’s Two-Hearted
Bell

Marshall Hendrickson, co-founder and head of operations at Veza Sur Brewing in Miami

ABV: 7.1%
Average Price: $7.99 for a four-pack of 16-ounce cans

Why This Beer?

Bell’s Two Hearted Ale is my pick. I’m sure most IPA-heads have tried this beer, but it’s one of the best IPAs out there. I believe it’s a single-hop IPA that only uses Centennial hops. It’s mind-blowing how they achieve such a dynamic hop profile with only one hop.

Tree House Julius

Treehouse Julius
Tree House

Frank Gervasi, certified Cicerone™ and general manager at Arizona Wilderness Brewing in Phoenix

ABV: 6.8%
Average Price: $5.50 for a 16-ounce can

Why This Beer?

Treehouse Julius. The availability of this beer has changed from when you had to line up at their Monson facility and could maybe get 5-8 cans of their new releases, but that doesn’t mean the beer has changed. It’s incredibly tropical fruit-forward. My first time drinking any of the Treehouse IPAs (Green and Haze included), I was amazed that there was no actual juice in the beer.

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