Dang, guys. August 2nd really creeped up on me this year. Has it really been a year? Already?1 Today is National IPA Day and, if you’ve been reading BroBible long enough, you know that I’ve been compiling a list of some of my favorite hoppy beers that I tried in the last year for the last three years in a row. It’s one of my favorite annual editorial traditions – I get to thumb my nose in the air like a craft beer snob and write a bunch of gibberish about the hoppy beers that I treasure so dearly, even thought I mostly stick to a strict diet of Coors Banquets and the occasional Bud Light these days.
First, let’s start with a meme:
Isn’t that the truth? I mean, if you can’t laugh about that because you’re a super serious beer guy, you’re lacking a sense of humor.
Now let me show you how *dedicated* I’ve become to the IPA game this year…
Hey Costco, can you open a bar next?
I’ll be honest with you: I’m way less prepared to make this list than I usually am, even though I had my fair share of IPA tasting adventures on this last earthly trip around the sun. About a year ago to the date I packed up all my belongings to move from the East Coast to Southern California, home to many-a distinguished breweries known for great India Pale Ales.
The major theme of the year for me was juicy IPAs. This was the year I really embraced the juice when I bellied up to a craft beer bar. That said – I had a lot of big IPAs and not a lot of small brewery ones. I also haven’t been as adventurous with my craft brews as I usually am, instead focusing on the delicious beers brewed in Southern California, especially in the Los Angeles area that I now call home.
So, let’s get down to the nitty gritty, let’s get the show on the road. Below is this year’s IPAs To Try Before You Die list. It’s just as subjective as it always is and largely based on the POV of my own life experience, because what the hell is the fun in objectivity when ranking beer, sweet fermented nectar of the gods?
That said, there’s a beer that I’m dying to try right now. As a live music fan who lives and dies by getting into shows on Cash or Trade, CAN SOMEONE PLEASE HOOK ME UP WITH THE CASH OR TRADE beer from Fiddlehead Brewery in Vermont?! I gotta get my hands on it.
Also: I can’t truly classify it as an IPA, note shouts to Anyday Rose. Really enjoyed the six-er that was sent to me earlier this summer. It’s loaded with hops and vaguely resembles a solid IPA. Probably not going to drink it when I’m craving a real IPA, but the hops in this adult beverage deserve kudos.
Note: Don’t have a lot of pics this year and I’m writing this on a plane, so lots of tweets from fellow craft beer lovers to visualize how wonderful these beers are. Happy National IPA Day, you guys!
Pliny the Elder – Russian River Brewing Company
The holy grail of West Coast IPAs. The beer constantly ranked as one of the best in the world. A beer that gives you almost every flavor experience known to the pallet: Bold, bitter, sweet, savory, lemon-y, pine-y. I’ve had it a couple times at Father’s Office — one of my favorite haunts in Culver City (try the burger and don’t you dare ask for ketchup). Every time it tastes like I’m crossing something new off a bucket list.
A holy grail of East Coast IPAs. 2018 was the year I finally took another step without blaming it on myself and cracked open the OG New England juicy IPA. Treehouse Brewing has won my heart a lot over the years for putting Phish and Grateful Dead lyrics on the bottom of their cans. I’ve wanted to try it for years, but it was impossible to get without a trip to the brewery itself.
Then, boom: Serendipity. A buddy brought it out to California while visiting this past June. He picked up a bunch of cans at brewery and was just sitting on it, so big thanks to Dave for opening my tastebuds to the wonders of Treehouse Julius. It lives up to the hype and, indeed, tastes like hoppy gulp of orange juice. Another bucket list beer worth going out of the way to try (…wake up in the morning you’ll be gone).
Critical Band Tropical IPA – Modern Times
So, full disclosure: I have an entire fridge full of these right now. I tried it a couple weeks ago while tailgating for Dead and Company at Shoreline up in the Bay Area. I liked it so much that I couldn’t resist buying a whole damn case when I saw it for sale at Costco before my two week-long adventure chasing Phish up and down the West Coast in an Airstream. $55 well spent, right? Ehhhhhhh. Turns out you don’t really want to drink many IPAs in the dry, 100+ degree sun while camping at The Gorge, so now they’re taking up all sorts of room in my fridge.
But that’s OK! They’ll be consumed, in due time. San Diego’s Modern Times is blowing up on the national scene right now and Critical Band is a good testament to why: The subtle mango and guava flavors are quite delightful. Very tropical tasting and extremely drinkable, as the name suggests. It’s a Flavortown vacation (…sorry, Guy).
Mayberry IPA – El Segundo Brewing Company
Smog City and Monkish own the heady craft brewery scene in Los Angeles, with big boys like Golden Road and Angel City (…which has a much more nefarious nickname amongst us beer snobs) drawing huge crowds on the weekends. But there are many, many, many neighborhood ones that are quite delightful. I gravitated towards Mumford, Boomtown, and El Segundo Brewery company pretty quickly upon moving to the West Coast. All of them have a homey vibe and great people. El Segundo is particularly relaxed and just feels very South Bay LA surfer bro, even if it means you’re slurping down brews right under the backside of a runway where 757s take off from LAX airport. It’s also the brewery that makes Stone Cold Steve Austin’s beer (… he’s a South Bay local), though honestly it’s not quite as delicious as the Mayberry IPA.
Mayberry IPA is a great house beer. It’s better out of a tap than in the bottle, but the little stubbie bottles are quite badass and something that I wish more craft breweries would experiment. The beer itself is a touch on the amber side, with notes of lemon, blueberry, and grapefruit. It’s bitter and, as a hophead, I’m totally cool with that.
Expatriate – Three Weavers Brewing Company
Can’t talk about SoCal beers without talking about Three Weavers, one of the largest independent brewing companies in Los Angeles. I’ll be honest – I’ve had some Three Weavers brews that have fallen a little flat for my liking. Maybe it’s just bars dropping the ball on keeping the taps fresh? Maybe it’s because they started the whole glitter beer trend that I just can’t get behind. I don’t know.
BUT, The Expatriate is consistently delicious. It’s a very nice ABV of 6.9% and super hoppy, with some floral and citrus hints.
Fresh Squeezed IPA – Deschutes Brewery
Oregonians have been drinking Deschutes for ages and now the brewery is going big time. Now it’s in Michigan and being distributed all over the place. I love the Fresh Squeezed IPA. I love it so much. I love it on tap, I love it in a bottle. It’s the perfect mass-produced hazy juice IPA. Popped it open for the first time last summer in a Detroit hotel bar, just after midnight after getting to Michigan for the August NASCAR race.
One of the most crushable beers on this list, if you like CRUSHIN’ ’em like I do.
Wolf Pup Session IPA – Golden Road
Another OG SoCal brewery that’s just part of the tapestry of life in Los Angeles. There are many great Golden Road beers to in the fridge at Ralph’s. Too many to list here. But here’s what you need to know about Golden Road and why I like this beer, in particular: There’s a Golden Road bar inside the Staples Center. Wolf Pup Session IPA is always on tap, at least in my six trips to the Staples center in the past year. It’s a good, drinkable beer for taking in a hockey game and that stand makes for a nice meeting point when it comes to meeting up with friends in the crowd.
Hillz Have Haze – Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.
If you ever get a chance to go to Asheville, North Carolina, do yourself a favor and hit the Sierra Nevada brewery facility a couple miles outside town. The grandaddy of craft brewing poured tens of millions of dollars into making it a magical Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory of craft beer. There are places to toast a pint in the woods, places to toast a pint in a taproom, places to toast a pint to live music. IT’S HUGE and very far out, like Alice’s trip down the rabbithole.
I stopped by while in the area for the Bristol spring NASCAR race (…that was inevitable rained out, because that always happens at Bristol). The most memorable beer of the weekend was Sierra Nevada’s Hillz Have Haze. It’s hazy, crisp, and packs a serious punch. In their own words: “This hazy DIPA is a unique nod to both coasts. It is brewed with a mix of malt from the foothills of The Great Smoky Mountains, dosed with a blend of new-school hop varietals and infused with the tropical essence of guava fruit, giving this beast of a beer a little bit of everything.”
…Everything except great weather for stock car racing. But hey – No rain, no rainbows. And the flavors of this particular beer enjoyed at their cathedral-of-a-brewery were certainly worth it.
XPA – Santa Monica Brew Works
The only craft brewery in Santa Monica and it’s in the basement of an office park. That said, it’s very close to the beach, in case you work up a thirst while hunting down that surf break. You’re probably not going to spend an entire day chillin’ here, but they have an IPA that’s damn delicious if you’re craving some flavor experiences: The XPA is a heavenly pale ale – lots of grapefruit taste yet goes down easy with toasted malt. It hits the pallet in a very refreshing fashion, making it drinkable like a proper day-drinking beer.
The Propagator C-Hops Pale Ale – Firestone Walker
When I first moved to the West Coast, I lived in a little guesthouse in Venice, kinda close to Washington Boulevard. The Firestone Walker Brew Pub was a short walk away and quickly became a great home base for Thursday night football games.
I enjoyed LOT of their beers, but nothing hit me like a firecracker in the tastebuds quite like The Propagator C-Hops Pale Ale. It’s golden and hoppy, with a lot of bite and notes of pine. I had it this past spring and it really melted my brain with those hops.
Relax Hazy IPA – Offshoot Beer Co.
I believe this is called “A JUICE BOMB” in craft beer circles. Offshoot Beer Co. deserves a graphic design award for labeling their cans with a menacing shark like that. But let’s be straight: You need this beer in your life because it’s just damn good, like a drinkable IPA should be. It’s very citrus-y and juicy, yet the flavor of the hops still distinguishes itself as the real all-star.
M-43 NE IPA – Old Nation Brewing Company
Michigan, Michigan, Michigan. Very pleased to learn that Michigan does hazy New England-style IPAs very well. Threw a bunch of these bad boys back in a Detroit hotel room back in January, while in town for the auto show. It was quite a fun evening: Walked around in sub-zero temperatures after watching the Philadelphia Eagles secure a spot in the NFC championship. Ordered some takeout wings from Sweetwater Tavern, hit the grocery store across the street up to buy a pack of M-43. Enjoyed with some of the best wings in the world.
Unpresidential – Mumford Brewing
It’s downtown LA, baby, and THE JUICE IS LOOSE. Look – I only had this brew once and it was at a birthday party, but, man, did it leave an impression. Mumford’s taproom is one of the more laidback taprooms in Los Angeles and it’s worth going out of the way to visit, especially if the Unpresidential is on tap.
Here’s a little TBT to the time I drink some IPAs with two craft beer LEGENDS…