Craft beer is an acquire taste. The bitterness of an over-hopped IPA or the coffee and vanilla hints of a brash porter don’t lend themselves to guzzling, like shot-gun-able cans of Natty Ice or Beast. They’re for savoring, pairing with food, and, yes, drinking for breakfast. Their respective merits are matters of opinion and ranking them is an onerous task.
Still, someone had to do it, so Ranker decided to ask their user base to rank 149 craft beers currently available in the US market. Some 18,000 votes were cast (pretty much evenly split between male and female respondents) — making this far broader of a survey than any of the front-page election polls you read last year.
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In case you’re new to beer, an IPA is a pale malted beer that’s hopped during the boil. That means hops or hop pellets are added while the malt is boiling. Then more hops can be added in every day while the beer ferments, depending on how much hoppyness you want. Hence the hoppy-ness of the IPA the Double IPA, etc. Brewers measure how much hoppy-ness there is by IBUs (international bitterness unit). Pabst Blue Ribbon has an IBU of around 10 — that’s barely hoppy at all. The Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA has an IBU of 90. That’s enough bitterness to make you wince.
With that little preamble out of the way, let’s have a quick look at what 18,000 Americans thought were the ten best craft beers out there.
1. Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA
Esquire Magazine called the 90 Minute IPA “perhaps the best IPA in America.” Dogfish Head hopped this beer continuously for the entire 90 minute boil. That gives this one an IBU of 90. So so hoppy. With an ABV of 9 percent it’s a heavy hitting beer that’s best sipped for its herbal, floral, and pine notes.
2. Sierra Nevada Stout
Sierra Nevada is a mainstay of west coast craft brewing and their Stout is often ranked among the best American stouts on the market. Expect a deeply dark beer with hints of smoke, chocolate, black bread, fennel, and licorice which is also low on fizz.
3. Stone Brewing Co IPA
This is a big IPA. It was launched in 1997 and became the defining bottle of beer for Stone. The IBUs check in at a paltry 71. Expect some citrus rind and pine with a hint of tangerine.
4. Lagunitas IPA
The IBUs here are at 51, making it a much easier drink — in fact it’s very quaffable. Lagunitas is a classic California beer. It leans towards the IPA flavor spectrum of citrus without much pine.
5. Goose Island IPA
Goose IPA is another middle of the road IPA. It leans more towards pine than citrus. It has an IBU of 55 and mid-range ABV of 5.9 percent, so it’s also very drinkable.
6. Lagunitas Little Sumpin’ Sumpin’ Ale
Little Sumpin’ Sumpin’ Ale amps things back up. This is a big beer with big flavors and an ABV of 7.5 percent and an IBU at 65. Wheat malt is used for the boil and that gives this ale a very hefeweizen edge, blended with a strong IPA taste.
7. Harpoon IPA
Harpoon IPA is a straight imitation of the classic English style IPAs but made with only American ingredients. So the IBU is on the lower end at 42. This one leans away from the pine and into hefty citrus and florals making it super refreshing.
8. Stone Brewing Co Arrogant Bastard Ale
Stone says “this is an aggressive beer. You probably won’t like it.” Obviously they’re only half right. People seem to love this heavy hitting ale. It’s bourbon barrel aged and has an “unclassified” IBU. But expect an very big beer with a lot of hoppy-ness and more raisin and orange notes.
9. Ballast Point Grapefruit Sculpin IPA
It’s all in the name. This heavy hitting Grapefruit IPA leans hard into the citrus and makes it a very refreshing drink. The IBUs are also very high at 70 with an ABV of 7 percent. So maybe not shot-gun-able, but still damn fine.
10. Stone Brewing Co Ruination IPA
Now we’re getting into some serious beer. This is a Double IPA with a IBU over 100. It’s alcohol content is 8.2 percent. Beers this strong are often considered palate punishers. The pine and hop notes can be too much. But if you’re into hardcore IPAs, then this is the beer for you.