A Guide To Classic IPAs And The Beers They Inspired, In Honor Of National IPA Day

There’s a good chance that if you’re reading this, you’re a beer nerd. It’s OK. Admission is the first step. I’m a beer nerd. My buddies are beer nerds. We’re beer nerds here at BroBible. There’s no shame in having a hobby. Once you get into craft beer and IPAs, trying them all certainly becomes a bit of a hobby – much like baseball card collecting or gardening.

Real talk: Why else would you click into a post on the Internet about IPAs on National IPA Day if you didn’t actually like them? People who don’t like IPAs just tend to ignore them, focusing their drinkable appetites on hard seltzers (which many commonly called “TV static in a can”), the once-in-a-blue-moon light beer at a sporting event, or the harder stuff (read: liquor).

IPAs have a bad rap to a certain kind of person. But those of us that love them, they’re beers with taste. There’s a reason they’re the second biggest mainstream category of craft beer, right after hard seltzers. In 2020, an economist at the Brewers Association (BA) calculated that IPAs’ market share of the overall craft beer industry clocks in at around 40% overall. And all you have to do is look around to see that breweries of all shapes and sizes pop up like weeds, in practically every part of America. On the tap chalkboards of all of ’em? Their flagship IPA.

Rather than listing off a bunch of new beers this year, we thought we’d pay tribute to the classics. These IPAs are considered bonafide trailblazers in the category. The beers inspired dozens of other breweries to craft their own hoppy liquid art. These are the beers that inspired all the colorful cans and taps at your local beer nerd hang (mine’s a spot called LA Draught on Lincoln Blvd in Santa Monica).

To us beer nerds, these are the IPAs that we consider our Dark Side Of The Moons or Exile On Main Streets.

The Classic West Coast IPA: Lagunitas IPA

Technically, Lagunitas IPA isn’t really the oldest IPA on the West Coast. As far as bigger breweries are concerned, that distinction belongs to homebrewers and Sierra Nevada, the great granddaddy of the modern American craft beer industry. Ken Grossman started Sierra Nevada in the early ’80s, brewing the Celebration IPA – a beloved, dry-hopped seasonal IPA – shortly after the brewery’s inception. Voilà, the American-style IPA era begins.

Lagunitas IPA, however, certainly stands out as a pioneer of the style.

In 1995, brewing out of his house in the California village of Lagunitas, Tony Magee crafted a bitter, hop-forward take on the India Pale Ale, a beer style dating back to the  1700s in the British Empire.

Lagunitas IPA started taking off in Bay Area bars, where beer nerds were already growing familiar with Pale Ales thanks to Sierra Nevada’s foothold in the region.

Lagunitas IPA took off and became a whole thing around California, quickly becoming replicated by other breweries up and down the Pacific Coast before spreading east.

The beers it inspired: 

  • Maine Lunch
  • Jackie O’s Mystic Mama
  • Firestone Walker Union Jack IPA
  • Beer’d Dogs & Boats
  • Surly Axe Man
  • Ballast Point Sculpin
  • Stone IPA
  • Green Flash West Coast IPA
  • Bear Republic Racer 5 IPA
  • Victory Hopdevil IPA


The Classic American Imperial IPA, East Coast: Heady Topper

For over a decade, the beer world has obsessed over this double India Pale Ale brewed by The Alchemist in Waterbury, Vermont.

Like most great things from Vermont (Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream, Darn Tough socks, the jam band Phish), Heady Topper grew larger-than-life via word of mouth.

The gospel of The Alchemist in Waterbury grew throughout the Northeast, which started as a brewpub in 2003 before shifting into a bottling operation. Heady Topper was the beer people couldn’t get enough of – an 8% ABV double IPA that’s unfiltered and needs to be stored cold, encouraged by the brewers to be consumed in 16-ounce cans.

It even says it right there on the can, labeled clear as day: “Drink From The Can!” As the legend goes, brewer John Kimmich was concerned that the little unfiltered hops would turn people away from the beer if they poured it out and saw all that dank shake floating in their glass.

But also, to most of the beer-loving public, this is what made it lore. It was a strategically hard-to-get beer that required a pilgrimage to remote Vermont, often on a weekend, which made it part of the whole mythos. You had to really commit to getting it or have a very kind friend willing to pick you up some.

The result is the legendary New England Hazy style with a complex hop profile: Apollo, Centennial, Columbus, Simcoe®, and Amarillo® hops. It’s a little easier to get these days, yet still cherished by IPA heads all across the country:

The taste is an experience: Lots of orange, along with tropical fruit, pink grapefruit, and hints of pine and spice.

The beers it inspired: 

  • Cigar City Florida Man
  • Lawson’s Finest Liquids Double Sunshine
  • Grey Sail Captain’s Daugther
  • Sand City One
  • Ithaca Beer Company Flower Power IPA
  • Victory Dirtwolf Double IPA
  • Tired Hands Alien Church


The Classic American Imperial IPA, West Coast: Pliney The Elder

Don’t think for a second that Heady Topper was the first American Double IPA in the game. Russian River brewmaster Vinnie Cilurzo started brewing Pliney The Elder in 2000, highlighted by Amarillo, Centennial, CTZ, and Simcoe Hops.

Bottles from the Santa Rosa brewery were almost impossible to find outside California for years. Also adding to the legend: It was named the best beer in the country by the American Homebrewers Association for eight years.

Then, starting in 2017, it started getting knocked off that list by another iconic IPA on this list.

Despite its growing ubiquitousness, that minimalist red and green label still excites when it pops up on a beer spot’s menu.

The beers it inspired: 

  • Firestone Walker Mind Haze
  • Sierra Nevada Torpedo
  • Elysian Space Dust IPA
  • Lauguintas Maximum Colossal Double IPA
  • Three Weavers Expatriate IPA
  • Mayberry IPA by El Segundo Brewery
  • Pizza Port Swami’s IPA
  • Troegs Perpetual IPA


The Classic Citrusy IPA: Jai Alai IPA 

Disclosure: Cigar City Brewing is a BroBible advertiser, but this is not a paid ad or placement. 

It just makes sense that the ultimate citrus-forward IPA comes from Florida. Originally released in 2009 in brilliantly-color green and orange cans, it’s hard to miss it.

As we wrote earlier this summer:

“Jai Alai is really a beer for all occasions, but it’s tailor-made for summer thanks to the juiciness that contributes to its incredibly refreshing nature and the inherently tropical essence capable of transporting you to your own personal paradise. It also packs a very respectable 7.5% ABV, which is worth keeping in mind based on how easy it is to crush a can without realizing you’ve finished it.”

Named after a Basque sport that took off in Florida and Connecticut in the 60s and 70s, Joey Redner, the founder and CEO of Cigar City Brewing, recently told us how the game inspired the beer’s namesake: “I thought the game nicely encapsulated the spirit of American hoppy beers: over-the-top, borderline aggressive, yet still full of nuance.”

It’s tropical – A bright, fruity taste of Tampa to the tee.

The beers it inspired: 

  • Firestone Walker Mind Haze
  • Trillium Congress Street
  • Grimm Lumen
  • Creature Comforts Tropicália
  • Ballast Point Grapefruit Sculpin
  • Sierra Nevada Tropical Torpedo
  • Half Acre Bodem


The Classic New England Juicy Hazy IPA: Tree House Brewing Company Julius

When people say they want a “juicy” beer, Tree House Brewing Company is the first thing I think of. Get it? It looks like Orange Julius. In my mind, it’s the OG juice bomb.

Founded in 2011 on a small 2.7-acre farm in Massachusetts, Tree House has also mastered the scarcity model. They’re one of the breweries that spawned all the jokes about waiting in lines on a Saturday for a release, usually for the legendary cans of Julius.

Julius wasn’t the first juicy NEIPA to be brewed, but it was many-a beer drinker’s first NEIPA. And unlike The Alchemist, it was a little closer to home and easier to grab for the Boston crowd.

The beers it inspired: 

  • Other Half DDH All Citra Everything
  • Toppling Goliath Big Sue
  • Great Notion Juice Jr. & Ripe
  • Parish Ghost in the Machine
  • Voodoo Ranger Juice Force IPA
  • Deschutes Fresh Squeezed
  • 450 North Brewing Company Juicy Nuggets
  • Cloudburst Children of the Haze
  • Vitamin Seas Just Another T-Shirt Shop
  • Monkish Spock It


The Classic Dry-Hopped IPA: Bell’s Two Hearted Ale

Debuting in August 1997, Bell’s Two Hearted Ale became the midwest staple for the style. It’s also the beer that usurped Pliney The Elder from its throne in 2017. Beloved by craft beer heads as their first introduction to a dry hopped beer. Unlike juicy IPAs and the others with a complex hop profile, Bell’s is made from 100% Centennial hops, giving it more of a malty taste than most of the other IPAs of this list, with hints of grapefruit.

And that label! The trout that looks like it’s ready to be bagged by a fly fisherman?! It’s pure Michigan in a way we can only describe as Hemmingway-esque. In an alternate universe, it’d make a great cover for The Nick Adams Stories.

The beers it inspired:

  • Founders Centennial
  • Burial Surf Wax
  • Societe The Pupil
  • Fiddlehead Second Fiddle
  • Sierra Nevada Harvest Ale

The Classic Double IPA: Dogfishhead 90

I’ve always thought of Dogfishhead founder Sam Calagione as the Jerry Garcia of the craft brewing world. Together, he and his wife Mariah Calagione built a beer legacy on adventure, whimsy, and experimentation. Gregarious, yet also an enigma. They ran headfirst at liquid innovation. Truly “off-centered” ales, through and through.

The “continual hopping” process for the 90 Minute IPA remains a storied technique in brewing, resulting in a smooth, floral beer that’s 9% ABV and 90 IBUs.

Sam once told us about Dogfishhead’s come-up in Delaware:

“Most people didn’t know what an IPA was. Sierra Pale Ale was like the dream beer for hoppiness back then. The landscape was a lot of ambers, porters, lagers, and stouts.

When we opened, I would start bringing my beers to places like Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., and Manhattan. I knew New York City would be a great place to showcase these really exotic beers because I could help the media tell the story by making the recipes themselves so unique that they were a de facto marketing campaign.

Back in that era, I would go to beer festivals and people would get mad at me or yell at me or laugh at me. They didn’t understand why I would brew Raison D’Etre, a Belgian beer with raisins or beet sugars, or make a stout with maple syrup and vanilla beans. They’d say, ‘Why are you putting maple syrup in beer? That’s disrespectful.’”

The beers it inspired:

  • Pipeworks Ninja Vs. Unicorn
  • Flying Dog Double Dog
  • Flying Dog Raging Bitch
  • New England Brewing Co. G-Bot
  • Avery Maharaja


The Classic Colorado IPA: Odell’s IPA

No definitive list of IPAs would be complete without a Colorado staple. Colorado boasts the second-most breweries in the nation, right after California. Practically every town and neighborhood has one. And they all have an IPA that owes its history to Odell’s IPA, Odell Brewing’s flagship beer.

Odell Brewing was started in 1989 by Doug Odell, his wife Wynne, and his sister Corkie. Doug worked at San Franisco’s Anchor Brewing company – one of the few independent players at the time. He got into homebrewing and ended up in Ft. Collins, opening the brewery in 1989 in an old grain elevator.

Odell’s IPA rolled out as a test in the mid-90s. Then it was shelved, only to be revisited in 2007. That year it became the beer to define the category at the most prestigious beer festival in America, the Great American Beer Festival (aka, Comic Con for beer nerds). Odell IPA won the gold medal at Denver’s Great American Beer Festival in 2007, then a gold medal at the World Beer Cup.

The brewery claims it *still* is considered the benchmark for judges at GABF.

It set the path for Colorado breweries of all shapes and sizes to dabble with IPAs from that point forward.

The beers it inspired:

  • Oskar Blues Double Dales
  • Weldwerks Juicy Bits
  • New Belgium Voodoo Ranger
  • Great Divide Titan
Brandon Wenerd avatar
BroBible's publisher and a founding partner, circa 2009. Brandon is based in Los Angeles, where he oversees BroBible's partnership team and other business development activities. He still loves to write and create content, including subjects related to internet culture, food, live music, Phish, the Grateful Dead, Philly sports, and adventures of all kinds. Email: brandon@brobible.com