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Craft Beer Experts Tell Us The Best IPAs For Absolute Newcomers

Even though it’s one of (if not the) most popular craft beer styles in the US, there’s no more divisive beer than the IPA. It’s like the cilantro of beer. In fact, for a lot of beer drinkers, some overly hopped IPAs do indeed taste like dish soap (the problem that “supertasters” have with cilantro).

Even though there are different versions of the IPA (West Coast, New England, milkshake, etc.) with various levels of hop bitterness, there’s still a divide. And to be fair, there are a lot of misses out there that can turn even IPA lovers off. This is why your first IPA — or the IPA you try in an effort to finally convert — must be a complex, flavorful beer that’s still well-balanced.

To find these gems, we asked a handful of well-known brewers, beer professionals, and craft beer experts to tell us the best IPAs for absolute newcomers (and maybe those wishing to give the beer style another try). Let’s dive in!

Old Nation M-43

Old Nation M-43
Old Nation

Erika Wojno, US director of marketing at BrewDog in Columbus, Ohio

ABV: 6.8%

Average Price: $15 for a four-pack of 16-ounce cans

Why This Beer?

I’m going to give some love to my home state and go with Old Nation’s M-43. It’s a New England-style IPA, so a more modern spin. But I quite enjoy the tropical fruits and light, balanced bitterness.

This year I’ll definitely be making it a point to find the seasonal strawberry version when it’s released.

Firestone Walker Luponic Distortion

Firestone Walker Luponic Distortion
Firestone Walker

John Montes De Oca, co-head brewer at Barebottle Brewery in San Francisco

ABV: 5.9%

Average Price: $10 for a six-pack

Why This Beer?

Firestone Walker is a master of blending hops in a synergistic way, and they show that off in their rotating Luponic Distortion. Luponic Distortion is always fruit-forward with a restrained bitterness and an ABV that makes it the perfect IPA to drink multiples of. The best part is that they rotate which hops they use so you are always getting a new experience.

You’d swear they put fruit in it, making it the perfect gateway IPA.

Pizza Port Swami’s IPA

Pizza Port Swami’s IPA
Pizza Port

Chris Hotz, research and development brewer at Ballast Point Brewing in San Diego

ABV: 6.8%

Average Price: $14 for a six-pack

Why This Beer?

Swami’s IPA from Pizza Port is a must-have for anyone getting into IPAs. First brewed in 1992, it has become a staple in the craft beer scene in Southern California. A West Coast IPA brewed with all the “C” hops (Chinook, Cascade, Centennial, Citra, CTZ) and Simcoe, it comes across with a catty, citrusy, piney aroma and flavor that defines the style.

It’s my go-to beer at gatherings.

Russian River Blind Pig

Russian River Blind Pig
Russian River

Skip Schwartz, head brewer at WeldWerks Brewing Co. in Greeley, Colorado

ABV: 6.25%

Average Price: $8 for a 510ml bottle

Why This Beer?

Classics are classic. The history of the American IPA is wrapped up in this beauty of a beer that has pine and citrus with a malty backbone. Every American IPA brewed after this beer came out only stood a chance because of this beer.

Sierra Nevada Celebration

Sierra Nevada Celebration
Sierra Nevada

Joe Connolly, director of Springdale Beer Co. in Framingham, Massachusetts

ABV: 6.8%

Average Price: $11 for a six-pack

Why This Beer?

This season it’s all about Sierra Nevada Celebration. Probably the most basic beer industry answer, but with good reason. It has a lovely bouquet of bright hop flavors of pine and citrus, anchored by the right dollop of malt balance.

Rhinegeist Truth

Rhinegeist Truth
Rhinegeist

Kevin Smolar, lab manager at Sun King Brewery in Indianapolis

ABV: 7.2%

Average Price: $10 for a six-pack

Why This Beer?

Truth by Rhinegeist Brewery is a classic IPA that hits all the right notes for me. The hops offer a mix of old and new-school IPA flavors with orange, grapefruit, passionfruit, and guava. The bitterness is present without being aggressive and would be an excellent introduction to new and old IPA drinkers alike.

Other Half Green City

Other Half Green City
Other Half

Patrick Ware, co-founder and head of brewing operations at Arizona Wilderness Brewing Co. in Phoenix

ABV: 7%

Average Price: $20 for a four-pack of 16-ounce cans

Why This Beer?

Green City by Other Half because they’re generally pretty low in bitterness. Hazy/New England-style IPAs are a great way to introduce the novice drinker to the letters “IPA.” Other Half owns this space.

Fruity, dank, and delicious, this beer is the entrance to the rabbit hole.

Bell’s Two-Hearted Ale

Bell’s Two-Hearted Ale
Bell

Connor Klopcic, director of brewing operations at Perrin Brewing in Comstock Park, Michigan

ABV: 7.1%

Average Price: $11 for a six-pack

Why This Beer?

Two Hearted by Bell’s Brewery is a classic for a reason. It’s a great representation of an all-centennial IPA that drinks great and covers the high ABV well. A perfect beer for beginners that you’ll continue drinking for years to come.

Writer’s Picks:

Springdale IPA

Springdale IPA
Springdale

ABV: 6.2%

Average Price: $14 for a four-pack of 16-ounce cans

Why This Beer?

This year-round offering from Springdale (the offshoot of Jack’s Abby) is a classic IPA in every facet without being overwhelming in any. It’s filled with bright citrus flavors, tropical fruits, and a slight bitterness that won’t scare away even IPA novices.

Threes Logical Conclusion

Threes Logical Conclusion
Threes

ABV: 7%

Average Price: $17 for a four-pack

Why This Beer?

This seven percent ABV IPA is a great example of the New England style done right. Brewed with Citra, Simcoe, and Mosaic hops, it’s highlighted by flavors of dank pine needles, sweet wheat, mango, guava, and nice, slightly tart tangerine. The finish is a great combination of fruity sweetness and light hop bitterness.

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