August 3rd is a national holiday in my book. It’s National IPA Day, a day reserved for celebrating the headiest of the heady beers — The India Pale Ale, that oh-so-distinct style of beer created by British sailors on long seafaring voyages that’s exploded in recent years. I’ve said it in the past on National IPA Day and I’ll say it again: IPAs are one of my favorite vices. Bitter as hell. Loaded with beautiful, delicious hops. As a craft beer lover with a dad bod, it’s perfection in a bottle.
National IPA Day is a day when I look in the rear-view mirror at another year of craft beer consumption and rank some of my favorite IPAs. A few years ago I did a very basic overview complete with the crowd-favorite — Heady Topper. Last year some big stand-outs made the list: Sip Of Sunshine and Philly’s Tired Hands, along with some of my favorite hard-to-get specialty brews.
This year’s list is a hodgepodge of delicious craft beers from both the Beast and Best Coast. Most are widely available, but some are very regional, with limited releases specific to a certain area.
I know I’m missing dozens, if not hundreds, of lovingly-made local beers. Other IPAs I still love, I just already covered them last year or two years before that. But that’s part of the adventure — Who knows what will make the IPAs To Try Before You Die list next year?
Hop Nosh — Uinta Brewing, Utah
Do you like the head of noshing on a pine cone? I do. Puts hair on your chest. That’s what Hop Nosh tastes like — Piney and hoppy, yet super smooth. It gets points for drinkability in a genre of beer where “eh, I can only do one” is a common refrain.
West Coast IPA — Green Flash Brewing Co., San Diego
I recently went from being a New York guy to a California guy. California really is on actually planet when it comes to tasty IPAs. This entire list could consist of nothing but Bear Republic IPAs. After all, CA perfected the West Coast IPA style, largely causing the craft beer explosion a few decades ago. This pint’s for you, Sierra Nevada.
Anyway, a buddy and I kicked back round-after-round of these at Simmzy’s in Manhattan Beach a few weeks ago. It was a heavenly beer for a great catch-up sesh in the Pacific breeze. It’s Green Flash’s consistently-delicious, widely-distributed flagship for a reason — It kicks your ass in all the right ways and reminds you that bitter is, in fact, better.
VooDoo Ranger — New Belgium Brewing Company, Colorado
Fat Tire is great and all, but VooDoo Ranger is hands down my favorite New Belgium beer. AND, on top of that, you can get it anywhere — Whole Foods, a lot of gas stations, six pack stores, etc. It’s maltier than most IPAs, with a distinct caramel backbone to tickle those tastebuds against the hops.
Crimson Pistil Hibiscus IPA — Troegs Brewing Company, Pennsylvania
As a born-and-bred Central Pennsylvania guy, Troegs Nugget Nectar will probably always be my favorite beer of all time. The Hershey brewery has mastered the sweet summertime IPA with the Crimson Pistil Hibiscus IPA. Made of Azacca, Nugget, and Vic Secret hops, Crimson Pistil pours bright red and pops with hibiscus flavor. It’s a little fruity thanks to the hibiscus, but still explodes with hoppy flavor.
Daylight Savings IPA — Flying Fish Brewing Co., New Jersey
Hopfish is the signature IPA of New Jersey’s Flying Fish Brewing Co. I gravitate towards their seasonal Daylight Savings Time IPA. It’s a session IPA so it’s lower ABV than most, much like the Oskar Blues Pinner IPA that I can’t get enough of. But you can barely tell it’s an IPA — It’s refreshing and light, with a hint of citrus flavor (but not enough to be overpowering!). The perfect brewski for the beach or the boat.
New Juice on the Block – Captain Lawrence Brewing Co., New York
This recommendation comes from a craft beer fanatic buddy. If you live in the Tri-State area, you probably think Hop Commander IPA when it comes to Captain Lawrence beers. Hop Commander is plenty good, but the real flavor comes in Captain Lawrence’s limited edition brew, New Juice on the Block. It’s dry hopped with Waimea Hops from New Zealand, resulting in a powerful brew that’s smooth, sweet, and creamy without being overly bitter. If you can trade a couple cans to get your hands on it, do it.
#Adulting — Evil Genius Beer Company, Pennsylvania
Fruit IPAs are weird — Everyone and their brother uses citrus in their malt. Pretty sure I can’t stomach another Blood Orange or Tangerine IPA without vomiting a little in the back of my throat. But Evil Genius figured out a deliciously perfect perfect with their #adulting IPA. Guava is the secret ingredient, perfectly blend of Citra, Cascade, and Warrior hops. #Adulting itself is hard. Drinking #adulting the beer is not.
Hopslam Ale — Bell’s Brewery, Michigan
The Two-Hearted Ale will always be one of the loves of my life. But when you’re an intrepid wayfarer in pursuit of the next great craft beer, there’s always something out there to push the agenda one step further. HopSlam is a bucket list double IPA — It’s brewed with six different types of hops and some of the most delicious honey known to man. It’s the type of fully-bodied liquid nectar that turns you into a man.
Huma Lupa Licious India Pale Ale — Short’s Brewing Company, Michigan
A wonderful brew you can pick up at any good beer store. It’s loaded up with five different hop varieties (Centennial, Columbus, Chinook, Cascade, and Palisade) and boasts a bold 7.7% ABV. It’s a sippin’ beer, with a very distinct floralness thanks to all those hops.
Vital IPA — Victory Brewing, Pennsylvania
If you like Victory’s signature HopDevil IPA, you’ll like Vital even more. This is the black coffee drinker’s IPA of choice. MMMMM. Nice and bitter, jacked up with big hoppy flavors.
Fluctuation — Equilibrium Brewery, New York
Another A++ recommendation from a friend. If life brings you to New York’s Hudson Valley, get your hands on a can release of this double IPA. Juicy. Creamy. Hits all the notes of what a good double IPA should be.
#NO FILTER IPA — Thomas Hooker Brewing Company, Connecticut
This has become my go-to when it comes to small batch beers that have perfected the IPA-is-juice formula. Everyone on the East Coast raves about Tree House, Tired Hands, and Other Half IPA releases, but Thomas Hooker’s #NO FILTER belongs in the same top-shelf category of heady, distinct IPAs. It hits with a bit citrus flavors and goes down like a hoppy Sunny D. It’s tropical and bright, perfect for crushing in the backyard in a lawn chair after mowin’ the lawn.