For many drinkers, IPAs are like cilantro. Either you love them in all their dank, resinous, piney glory, or you absolutely hate them for making your mouth taste like the inside of a bong. The average IPA won’t annoy anyone (except for drinkers who feel like the style overshadows other types of beer), but once you get into double, triple, and imperial IPAs things turn divisive.
Brandon “Habi” Habenstein, beverage director at The Kitchen & Bar at Bardstown Bourbon Company in Bardstown (KY), paraphrases Dr. Ian Malcolm from Jurassic Park when asked about IPAs.
“Brewers were so preoccupied with whether or not they could that they didn’t stop to think if they should,” he says. “Triple IPAs are the epitome of excess and, in my humble opinion, they serve no purpose in the arsenal of drinks available to those who imbibe. They’re not good by themselves and they’re not good with food.”
Criticism from drinks experts doesn’t hinder the popularity of DIPAS, TIPAS, and beyond. And if you like them, who are we to deny you a few ounces of pleasure in this perilous age? So we reached out to a handful of our favorite bartenders and asked them to name the best IPAs for drinkers who just can’t get enough palate wrecking hops. Most of them answered with hop bombs, as requested, while a few snuck in more nuanced IPA picks.
Equilibrium Straight Outta the Laboratory
Felipe Muñoz, head bartender Sweetleaf Cocktails in Long Island City, New York
My favorite would be Straight Outta the Laboratory from Equilibrium Brewery. It is chewy and a bit heavy on the palate, which is good to stick to your bones for winter but still full of fruit — maybe some vitamin C?
Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA
Erin Delaney, food and beverage director at Barn8 Restaurant & Bourbon Bar in Goshen, Kentucky
90 Minute IPA from Dogfish Head Brewery out of Delaware. It’s hoppy, but not over the top like most double or triple IPA’s. It’s floral, refreshing, and bold.
Due South Category 5
Eric Vincent, bartender at Sparrow in Fort Lauderdale, Florida
As a south Florida native, I will throw in Due South’s Cat 5 into the category. It has a beautiful amber color with aromas and flavors of perfectly ripe stone fruit. The malt sweetness is backed up quickly with the pleasant bitterness.
Crooked Stave IPA
Brandon “Habi” Habenstein, beverage director at The Kitchen & Bar at Bardstown Bourbon Company in Bardstown, Kentucky
The best IPA I’ve had in recent memory is being brewed at Crooked Stave out of Colorado. These guys changed the game with native yeast cultivation, barrel aging, and every-which-way you could approach a sour. This IPA shows you a delicate side instead of beating you over the head with bitterness.
Every brewer should aspire to Crooked Staves’ top-notch execution and vast versatility.
Bayou Teche Techeticles
Seth Falvo, bartender at The Hotel Zamora in St. Pete Beach, Florida
When I lived in New Orleans, Bayou Teche was one of my favorite regional breweries. I recently received a bottle of their triple IPA, Techeticles, from a friend in South Louisiana and I was extremely impressed. Despite its 12% ABV, this beer is incredibly smooth, with the hops providing tons of apricot and candied grapefruit flavor with plenty of vanilla and tropical fruit on the nose. It’s perfect for the fall because the body isn’t too rich and the flavors, while strong, aren’t too heavy, making it an ideal beer for the cooler, but not quite cold temperatures we’re experiencing this December.
Hayden Miller, head bartender at Bodega Taqueria y Tequila in Miami
Bell’s Hopslam is palatable for such an aggressively hopped beer. It’s a great choice for anyone who enjoys their beer with a crazy amount of floral and piney hops.
Dogfish Head 120 Minute IPA
Dan Marlowe, mixologist at Modena in Washington, DC
While admittedly I am a stout fan, especially in the fall and winter, I do enjoy the 120 Minute IPA from Dogfish Head. This floral IPA sits at 18% abv and had an almost syrup viscosity. Refreshing on the sip and warming on the swallow. Perfect for a brisk fall evening.
Long Live Three Times a Lady
Frederic Yarm, USBG bartender in Boston
Three Times a Lady by Providence’s Long Live Beerworks that they did in collaboration with Deciduous. It’s perfect for the season given its warming strength yet offers a tropical escapist element with its mango, pineapple, orange, melon, and resiny flavors and aromas.
Tröegs Perpetual IPA
This 7.5 percent ABV imperial IPA is dry-hopped to perfection and filled with pleasing flavors of juicy orange, fresh pineapple, subtly bitter and piney hops, and a nice cereal backbone.
Pure Formless Reflections
This murky, juicy IPA was made with Hull Melon, Nelson, and Mosiac hops. It’s filled with tropical fruit flavors and enough resinous hop presence to appeal to the biggest hop heads.