Like a lot of beer geeks out there, IPAs, or India Pale Ales, are one of my all time favorite styles. With their huge hop character and varying malt backbones, these beers really showcase the tools a brewer uses to make a great beer. There are hundreds of different IPAs out there to choose from, ranging in bitterness, ABV, and malt character. While it is difficult to choose a favorite, I narrowed it down to this list of my top 5 IPAs. Check it out.
Pliny The Elder
I might as well start it off with what many people consider the best IPA out there. Russian River’s Pliny The Elder (pronounced plinny) is an amazing 8% double IPA. Pliny is a super fresh IPA that is meant to be consumed as soon as possible. Definitely not a beer to age at all. With a killer aroma and amazing taste, this is probably my favorite IPA I’ve had to date.
A little history here: Pliny The Elder was a Roman naturalist and author that lived from 23 AD to 79 AD. He is known as the first person to mention the hop plant in his “Natural History.” There is some debate on whether he spoke of hops or not, but it makes for a great story to tell when enjoying one of these beers.
The second beer in my list is Firestone Walker’s Double Jack. This killer Imperial IPA features an impressive hop bill, including Warrior and Columbus for buttering, Cascade and Centennial for late kettle addition, and Amarillo, Cascade, Centennial, and Simcoe for dry hopping.
Double Jack is a non-pasturauzed beer, so it is meant to be consumed whiting 4 months of bottling and should always be stored at or below 44* F, to protect it’s freshness. Once again, not a beer to age.
This beer has an awesome character, with citrusy notes from the hops and a higher 9.5% ABV, both of which are hidden nicely by the huge malt backbone. A great beer if you can get it.
The next beer in my top 5 IPAs is from Bells. Hopslam is a seasonal beer, and as such is somewhat difficult to get your hands on. This is another fresh IPA that should last on a shelf for about 6 months. Hopslam comes in at 10% ABV and boasts a hop bill including six different hops, with a dry hop of Simcoe. Honey is added to this beer, giving it a nice, almost hidden sweetness that pairs nicely with the huge hop character. Many craft beer fans consider this IPA to be one of the best, and I couldn’t agree more.
This beer can be slightly over-hyped, but take away the hype and you have a damn good IPA.
I don’t believe any list of IPAs would be complete without Dogfish Head’s 120 Minute IPA. Dogfish Head offers 3 beers in their Minute series, including 60,90, and 120. These numbers reference the length of the boil and the continuous addition of hops. Usually, hops are added at specified times in the boil, but with these beers, the hops are added on a continuous basis from start to finish.
This beer is known as the highest alcohol IPA. It comes in at 15-20% ABV with 120 IBUs. This beer is truly amazing, and while definitely a sipper, the tastes are balanced amazingly well in this beer. Even though this beer averages around 18% ABV, it is still very beer like. Some higher alcohol beers tend to lose their beer character, but this still drinks like a beer, albeit a slow one. 120 Minute is released a few times a year on a seasonal basis. This beer, unlike the previous ones in this list, is great for aging. Drink one now and let one age for a year or two as I talked about in this podcast and this post.
The last beer in my list of top 5 IPAs is from Lagunitas (pronounced lag-u-knee-tas). Their Maximus double IPA is 8.2% ABV and is available year round. Maximus has an awesome mix of sweet and bitter, and is almost too easy to drink, especially for it’s alcohol content!
This beer is similar to Lagunitas’ IPA, just with more of everything to make it a bigger beer. Slightly piney in it’s taste, and floral in the aroma, it’s a nice pairing of hops and malt.
Well, there you have it! My top 5 IPAs. I know you probably noticed that all 5 are higher ABV beers, and I did think about this when making the list. It just so happens that the trend now is to push the ABV of beers, especially IPAs, so the most flavorful ones also happen to be higher in alcohol content. There are definitely some good lower ABV India Pale Ales out there, like Bell’s Two Hearted IPA and Sierra Nevada’s Celebration Ale, but for my all time favorites, This list rounds it out nicely.
I hope you got something from this list and maybe even found a new beer to try. Check out my other Top 5 posts, and until next time,