Eight Of The Most Well-Known Grocery Store IPAs, Blind Tasted And Ranked

Sometimes it seems like there are too many IPAs on the market. This is especially true if you’re one of those drinkers who doesn’t fully embrace the resinous, dank, piney, and sometimes aggressively bitter nature of this iconic beer style (and all of its various offshoots). But the glut of IPA choices at breweries from Tacoma to Tampa means that no matter where you go, there’s always an IPA to be found. Many are regional IPAs only found near their home bases, but there are also widely available, flavorful IPAs that can be purchased just about anywhere.

Today, we’re talking about “grocery store” IPAs. These are the IPAs from bigger names that you (likely) can find at any grocery store, beer store, or anywhere that sells beer wherever you live. But I didn’t just make a list ranking my favorites. I selected eight well-known, easy-to-find IPAs and blindly nose, tasted, and ranked them all in order to crown one big name IPA the pine cone king.

Wonder how your favorites fared? Keep scrolling to see how everything turned out.

Today’s Line-Up:

  • Cigar City Jai Alai
  • Bell’s Two-Hearted
  • Lagunitas IPA
  • Firestone Walker Union Jack
  • Bear Republic Racer 5
  • Stone IPA
  • Goose Island IPA
  • Ballast Point Sculpin

Part 1: The Taste

Taste 1

IPA #1
Christopher Osburn

Tasting Notes:

Citrus peels, lemon zest, caramel, biscuit-like malts, and dank, resinous pine are highlighted on this beer’s nose. The palate continues this trend with cereal grains, caramel, dried fruits, lemon peels, tangerine, grapefruit, and dank, herbal, slightly bitter pine. Overall, this is a very well-balanced IPA.

Taste 2

IPA #2
Christopher Osburn

Tasting Notes:

The nose is over-the-top citrus peels and floral, piney hops, and really nothing else. I really tried, but that’s all I could focus on. The palate has some grapefruit, pineapple, and other tropical fruit flavors, but it’s really overpowered by aggressively bitter, piney hops.

I enjoy hops, but this was just too much.

Taste 3

IPA #3
Christopher Osburn

Tasting Notes:

This beer starts off with a nose loaded with complex aromas of lemongrass, orange peels, bread-like malts, caramel, tropical fruits, and bright pine needles. The palate is filled with flavors like caramelized pineapple, tangerine, grapefruit, caramel malts, and bitter, piney, resinous hops.

The finish is slightly sweet with a lingering, piney bitterness.

Taste 4

IPA #4
Christopher Osburn

Tasting Notes:

The nose is filled with aromas of fresh-cut grass, tropical fruits, citrus peels, biscuit-like malts, caramel, and earthy, piney hops. The palate is a mix of caramel, biscuit malts, tart grapefruit, mango, tangerine, wet grass, and slightly bitter and dank pine needles. The finish is a great mix of malt sweetness and hop bitterness.

Taste 5

IPA #5
Christopher Osburn

Tasting Notes:

A nose of wet grass, citrus peels, light caramel malts, and herbal, piney hops greets you prior to your first sip. Drinking it reveals some bread-like malts, light caramel, citrus, fresh-cut grass, and a ton of dank pine. The finish is dry and overly bitter. It kind of cancels out the other flavors.

Taste 6

IPA #6
Christopher Osburn

Tasting Notes:

The nose is fairly intense even though I could only find ripe grapefruit, sweet malts, lemon zest, and dank pine. The palate is tropical fruits, citrus peels, cereal grains, and bright, bitter, piney, herbal hops at the finish. While the hops are fairly aggressive, the other flavors still shine through.

Oddly, everything here has a bit of a synthetic flavor.

Taste 7

IPA #7
Christopher Osburn

Tasting Notes:

This beer starts with fairly generic IPA aromas of caramel malts, citrus zest, and pine needles. Really, that’s it. The palate is bready, caramel malts up front with tangerine and grapefruit making an appearance. The finish is a mix of malts and bitter, piney, dank hops. It’s a decent IPA, but the bitter hops are slightly out of balance.

Taste 8

IPa #8
Christopher Osburn

Tasting Notes:

On the nose, I found tangerine, grapefruit, caramelized pineapple, sweet malts, and pine needles. This trend continued on the palate with more grapefruit, tart orange, cereal grains, caramel malts, and bold, bitter, slightly floral hops. It’s bitter, and citrus-laden, but tempered well with sweet malts.

Part 2: The Ranking

8) Ballast Point Sculpin (Taste 2)

Ballast Point Sculpin
Ballast Point

ABV: 7%

Average Price: $14.99 for a six-pack

The Beer:

Named for a spiny fish, this popular IPA from San Diego’s Ballast Point is known for its mix of tropical fruit flavors, bright citrus, and a floral, piney, bitter sting of hops at the finish. It gets its unique flavor profile from being hopped at five different times during the brewing process.

Bottom Line:

Ballast Point Sculpin is one of the highest-rated IPAs on the market. For me, it’s just too abrasively bitter. It overpowers everything else in my opinion.

7) Goose Island IPA (Taste 5)

Goose Island IPA
Goose Island

ABV: 5.9%

Average Price: $10.50 for a six-pack

The Beer:

Nowadays, many drinkers mostly know Goose Island because of its highly coveted Bourbon County Stout. But the Chicago-based brewery also makes myriad other beers including a popular IPA. This award-winning, 5.9% ABV IPA is Goose Island’s twist on the classic English-style IPA.

Bottom Line:

Goose Island’s IPA suffers the same problem as many well-known IPAs. The finish is so dry, piney, and bitter that it mutes all of the other flavors.

6) Lagunitas IPA (Taste 7)

Lagunitas IPA

ABV: 6.2%

Average Price: $11.99 for a six-pack

The Beer:

One of the most well-known IPAs in America, Lagunitas IPA is brewed with Caramel malts as well as Centennial, Chinook, Cascade, and Simcoe hops. It’s known for its mix of sweet malts and piney, floral hops.

Bottom Line:

Lagunitas IPA is a popular beer for a reason. In a world of overly bitter, aggressive IPAs, it’s… borderline balanced. It still leans a little too heavily into the bitter-hop domain for me, though.

5) Stone IPA (Taste 6)

Stone IPA

ABV: 6.9%

Average Price: $11.99 for a six-pack

The Beer:

There are very few IPAs more popular than Stone IPA. First brewed in 1997, it’s known for its malt backbone and mix of citrus, tropical fruits, and pine. The hops included are Centennial, Magnum, Chinook, Azacca, Ella, Vic Secret, and Calypso hops.

Bottom Line:

It’s no surprise that Stone IPA is a popular beer. It has everything IPA fans could want. The only downfall is that it all tastes rather generic.

4) Bell’s Two Hearted (Taste 1)

Bell’s Two Hearted

ABV: 7%

Average Price: $12 for a six-pack

The Beer:

If you polled brewers and bartenders on their favorite easy-to-find IPA, you’d get a lot of people saying Bell’s Two Hearted. This popular, widely available IPA is brewed and dry-hopped with Centennial hops. At 7% ABV, this year-round beer is known for its mix of pine, citrus, and malts.

Bottom Line:

While many popular IPAs (especially West Coast IPAs) lean almost aggressively bitter, Bell’s Two Hearted has the bitterness IPA fans enjoy, but well tempered with malts.

3) Firestone Walker Union Jack (Taste 8)

Firestone Walker Union Jack
Firestone Walker

ABV: 7%

Average Price: $10.99 for a six-pack

The Beer:

This popular West Coast IPA from the folks at California’s Firestone Walker is kettle brewed with CTZ, Cascade, and Centennial hops before being dry-hopped with Cascade, Centennial, Simcoe, Citra, Amarillo, Chinook. That’s a lot of hops.

Bottom Line:

This is a beer for hop fans. It’s loaded with hop aroma and bright, floral, dank, pine flavor. It’s not one-sided though. A very well-balanced beer.

2) Cigar City Jai Alai (Taste 4)

Cigar City Jai Alai
Cigar City

ABV: 7.5%

Average Price: $12.99 for a six-pack

The Beer:

If you think football is violent, you should check out Jai Alai. This rowdy sport is one of the most violent in the world. It also happens to be popular in Tampa, Florida where Cigar City is brewed. That’s why this popular brewery named its now iconic, well-balanced, citrus-filled IPA for the sport.

Bottom Line:

There are few easy-to-find IPAs more balanced than Cigar City Jai Alai. Sure, it’s a pine and citrus bomb with a good deal of bitterness, but it also has a ton of sweet malt flavor.

1) Bear Republic Racer 5 (Taste 3)

Bear Republic Racer 5
Bear Republic

ABV: 7.5%

Average Price: $11.99 for a six-pack

The Beer:

This award-winning West Coast IPA is brewed with house ale yeast, pale barley malt, white wheat malt, and crystal malt. It gets its bright, vibrant hop profile from the addition of Columbus, Chinook, Cascade, and Centennial hops.

Bottom Line:

This IPA deserves all of the awards it receives. It starts off with a ton of malt flavor, but it has the characteristics of a classic West Coast IPA. It’s filled with citrus, tropical fruit, and bitter pine flavors.

Part 3: Final Thoughts

While I won’t fault you very enjoying your lip-puckering, overly bitter IPAs without much else, those aren’t for me. Clearly, I prefer a well-balanced IPA with citrus, tropical fruits, dank pine, nice bitterness, but also a good malty backbone. Semi-sweet is where it’s at.

A nice balance between caramel sweetness and resinous pine bitterness — and if you vibe with that, the top three are certainly going to be for you!