BEST IPA IN AMERICA

Editor’s Note:  This post was originally created in August of 2010.  For an updated listing (July of 2011) please see the bottom of the page for a new link.  After you’re through reading of course.

As we’re all stuffed behind our desks at Aleheads HQ, trying to meet deadlines and up our word counts to outdo our colleagues, we sometimes forget just who we’re writing for.  We like to keep our readers up to date on changes and innovations in the beer world.  For instance, some breweries now like to use cans over bottles while others prefer to stuff their beverage into small rodents.  I say, to each his own.  What’s more, we like to give our readers a sense of the best and worst of the beer world.  We’ll write on and on about Beer Advocate ratings and changes in the “Top Lists”.  We’ll employ our vast team of interns to conduct research on the best X beer in the world and tell you just what you should be drinking on any occasion.  Sure, our readers want to know about these things and they want facts to back them up.  So, fellow readers, who do I write for?  I’d like to say I write for you or even for my fellow editors at Aleheads, but to be honest, I write for me.  I’d hope that by writing some passages about my favorite brews, I might some day come back to this website and actually recall how much fun I had drinking good beer.  I have a great memory when it comes to beer and I can usually remember tastings notes from years past, but when it comes to rankings and what I like better than the next, my brain turns to mush.  So, here’s my attempt to remember what I like most about beer.  I love IPA’s, so here lies my Top 10 List of the best IPA’s in America.

To give credit where credit is due, I need to point out that a fellow beer advocacy blog called TheFullPint.com recently conducted a poll to determine the best IPA in America.  Their readers chose San Diego’s Ballast Point Sculpin IPA as the best in the land, a pick that few would argue.  I thought about simply re-posting their results since it’s really a fantastic list of IPA’s, but remember that I write for me and me alone.  I’m assuming that you’d rather read an exhaustive list of great beers, ranked by people just like you, but it’s my site so you get to read about MY top 10 favorite IPA’s.  Enjoy the list if you want, that’s up to you, but like the Talented Mr. Roto says I’ve already got your click anyway so I’m good from here.

For my list I’m using a similar formula as TheFullPint with a few twists. Only domestics, No Double/Imperial IPA’s, no English or Belgian IPA’s (The styles, not the countries), and it has to be a beer that I can regularly get without too much trouble (Even if it’s not distributed locally in my area).  These are just straight-up American IPA’s, nothing more and nothing less.  If you need a bit of a refresher on IPA’s, feel free to check out my primer that I wrote a few months back.  And away we go…

10. Lagunitas IPA – At 5.7% ABV, this is the most sessionable IPA that’s almost always hiding in my fridge.  I won’t lie, I drink this bitch right out of the bottle while mowing the lawn.

9. Sierra Nevada Torpedo Extra IPA – I know, I was surprised as anyone to find Sierra on the list of best IPA’s.  What can I say, this beer is awesome and shows just how incredible an old salt like Sierra can be.  Classic West Coast hop aroma.

8. Victory Hop Devil - Victory may be one of my favorite breweries, but it was tough to get the Hop Devil into this list.  It’s a pretty astringent IPA and leans way more to the bitter side than most.  Toss up between this and their Yakima Twilight, which is a more approachable IPA but doesn’t have as much “Oomph” as the Devil.

7. Sweetwater IPA – Thank you to Brother Barley for introducing me to Sweetwater.  Although I can’t get their beer in New England, my Southern connection keeps me well stocked whenever I need a good jolt.  Just a touch of citrus in the finish makes this one of my new favorite beers.  Incredibly refreshing for an IPA.

6. Ballast Point Big Eye IPA – I’m sure the Sculpin IPA is better and I’m sure it would top my list, but like many West Coast beers (Especially limited editions), I simply can’t get my hands on it.  I did however find a bottle of the Big Eye IPA the other day and was struck by how complex a brew I had found.  Floral, bitter, grapefruity, with a hearty malt backbone.

5. Smuttynose IPA “Finest Kind” – Weird, stoners in NH.  I would have never guessed.  Always enjoyed the Big A IPA from these Portsmouth lads, but seeing as this is a “Single” IPA list and not a “Double”, I’ve got to give it up to the Finest Kind.  Surprisingly enough, there’s some suitable IPA’s in New England and while the region still can’t compete with the West Coast or even some Midwest stalwarts, I’d put Smutty’s IPA up against anyone.

4. Bear Republic Racer 5 – Once upon a time this was the Baron’s favorite brew, but I think some years in the Midwest may have changed his mind (See Bells, Founders, and Three Floyds).  For my money, you really can’t beat a 6-pack of Racer 5 if you’re an IPA lover.  The Hop Rod Rye actually gets a better rating on BA for the American IPA category, but I prefer the Racer since it’s not quite as dry and smacks you in the face way harder with spicy, citrus hops.  If someone asked me why West Coast IPA’s are better than East coast, I’d probably point directly to Racer 5.  I may be wrong, but oh well, it’s my site.

3. Alesmith IPA – I did a tasting note on this IPA back when Aleheads was in its infancy.  I’ll simply post this quick excerpt from my passage, which explains perfectly my love for the 7.75% ABV Alesmith IPA:

It’s nice to get into something without “Extreme”, “Double”, or “Imperial” on the label that can still deliver on some boozy goodness.


2.. Bell’s Two Hearted - Little background.  Before the Aleheads were “The Aleheads Dot Com”, I took a little trip out to Chicago with Brother Barley so we could visit our dear friend Sudsy von Brüe.  This was roughly a year and a half ago when beer-bashing and brewery comments were relegated to email strings and drunken dinner parties.  I let slip that I had never experienced anything from Bell’s Brewery, one of the best regarded breweries in the country and a brewery that’s consistently recognized for their IPA’s.  Within minutes of landing in sub-freezing temperatures I was whisked away to The Map Room and “Forced” to sample everything that Bell’s had to offer.  While I immensely enjoyed some of their more potent offerings, I kept going back to the flavor profiles found in the Two Hearted.  I had never found a beer that had a little bit of everything I love about all beers in general.  Touches of spiciness, citrus, bitterness, sweetness, all balanced out with a fantastic level of carbonation.  Perfection in a glass.  For the rest of the weekend I started off every session with a Two Hearted and since that trip I’ve prayed to the Gods that Bell’s will one day find its way into the land of the Masshole.

1. Founders Centennial IPA – Yup, I know.  The second that any fellow Alehead pulled up this post and saw it was from me they’d know that Founders Centennial IPA would be tops on my list.  I’ve said on multiple occasions that this is my favorite beer in the world, nay, I’ve said it’s the best beer in the world.  It goes without saying (Although I’m saying it), that if this is the best beer in the world it’s clearly the best IPA in America.  Sure, it’s currently rated #26 on BA for best American IPA, but it’s still #1 in my heart and mind.   It does get 98 points from Rate Beer though so clearly people like this IPA a whole bunch.  You really have to like the citrusy, oily characteristics of Centennial hops to enjoy this brew.  It won’t suck your face in, which is a good thing for a 6-pack, but it certainly packs a punch.  7.2% ABV, 65 IBU’s, this is the perfect recipe for an everyday IPA that will blast you with flavor but won’t throw you to the floor.  I’m so happy just writing little bits of notes about this brew.  I’d tell you more, but a full tasting note is in order and I wouldn’t do it justice by rambling on in this space.  Just know that the Founders Centennial IPA is the #1 IPA in America according to Dr. Ripped Van Drinkale III.  If that means something, great, but if not I’m still a happy man.

Clearly this list isn’t exhaustive.  You’ll notice that some of the best IPA’s in America were left off the list, but that’s your opinion and I don’t really care (OK, I care, that’s what the comment section is for).  Before I started this post I racked my brain for my favorite IPA’s, cross-referenced with Beer Advocate to make sure they fit the category (Apparently I like a lot of Double IPA’s that I thought were just regular IPA’s), and came up with roughly 50 of my favorite IPA’s.  Crossing out 25 of those entries was pretty easy, but the remaining half were really tough.  For example, here’s the last 5 bubble teams that didn’t make the list:

- Boulder Beer Mojo IPA

- Great Divide Titan IPA

- Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale

- Rogue Brutal Bitter

Terrapin Rye Squared

All of those IPA’s are fantastic and shouldn’t be missed, but I needed to pare down my list to what I really wanted in an IPA.  Sessionable, strong, hoppy in both the nose and the finish – These are the attributes that I favor most in my American IPA’s.  At the end of the day the list is subjective so go right ahead and bash my list as you see fit.  Yes, I left off Russian River because I can’t get their beer.  Are they amazing beers?  Sure.  I just have no opinion on them.  Surly, Deschutes, Green Flash, Minneapolis Town Hall – All great breweries.  Love em’.  For me though, my top 10 represents me and when I look back at this site in 5 years and want to see what “I like”, I’ll have a little place on the web to hold my thoughts.  I think that’s pretty cool.  Let the critiquing begin!

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7/1/2011 Update: Please remember to check out our updated post on this subject, “The” Best IPA in America”, to see the new list of Top IPA’s.  As with any list on great beers, these lists should and will change as time goes by.

 

 

 

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38 comments

  1. Magnus Skullsplitter · ·

    Brother Barley, the Professor, the Commander and I (among others) polished off a keg of Two-Hearted not long ago at a wedding (this was after we managed to drink the entire supply of Two-Hearted at the bar we were at the night before). Best wedding beer I’ve had thus far, for sure. Big fan.

    Can’t argue with your selections, and not surprised at all that the Centennial is #1. I’ve only found it on tap once, but it was certainly an awesome brew. I think I probably would have to include the 60-minute and Green Flash’s West Coast IPA (which is regularly on tap at my favorite beer bar here in NYC), but it’d be hard to take any of your choices off the list.

  2. Solid Top 10. I bow to Doc’s IPA knowledge since the style is more in his wheelhouse than mine. Nevertheless, here’s my admittedly similar list:

    1. AleSmith IPA: Had this on Doc’s recommendation. Thought it was the “quintessential” American IPA. Great balance…perfect hop aroma.
    2. Russian River Blind Pig: No one uses hops better than Russian River. The Blind Pig is a master class.
    3. Founder’s Centennial IPA: This is Doc’s baby, but I can’t argue with it. Maybe the best IPA in terms of maximizing the characteristics of a specific hop varietal.
    4. Bell’s Two-Hearted: I’m guessing I’ve consumed more Two-Hearted than any other IPA on the planet. Never fails to amaze me.
    5. Bear Republic Racer 5: The first West Coast IPA I had after moving to California. It opened up my eyes to the style.
    6. Smuttynose Finestkind IPA: As Doc said, the East Coast still knows a thing or two about IPAs.
    7. Rogue Brutal Bitter: For all of our Rogue-bashing, you can’t argue with this beauty. Perfect balance in a bottle.
    8. Sierra Nevada Torpedo: I knew Sierra would nail the style, but I didn’t realize just how good it would be. Awesome beer.
    9. Short’s Huma-Lupa-Licious IPA: Just had my first in Ann Arbor a few weeks ago. The hoppiest “standard” IPA I’ve ever had. Normally I wouldn’t go for something like that, but this one won me over. Completely uncompromising and delicious.
    10. Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA: In my opinion, you can’t make a best IPA list without DFH’s flagship.

  3. It’s funny, two beers that I left off my list that I knew would irk a few people were Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA and Stone IPA. Trust me, I know just how good these beers are, there’s just something in there that I’m not crazy about. With Dogfish I think it’s because I had hundreds of 90 Minute IPA’s well before the 60 Minute hit the shelves and I found the 60 too dialed down for me. Call it a spoiled pallet if you will. I don’t know why I can’t appreciate Stone like others do. Their flagship IPA is highly regarded and I can understand why, but I just wouldn’t put it in my top 10. I guess that’s a preemptive rebuttal for the next person that asks why Stone didn’t make the list. Someone please make me like Stone more than I do. I know they’re great so show me the way…

  4. To be fair, I don’t drink straight IPAs all that often. I tend to gravitate towards Double/Imperials if I’m in the mood for a hop-bomb. So my list needs to be taken with a grain of salt.

    I do think the DFH 60 is a must, just because so many Aleheads consider it THE American IPA. It’s the flagship of the brewery that many people consider the best in the US. I understand your argument about the 90 Minute spoiling your palate…I actually agree with that. But the 60 Minute still sneaks into my list because when I’m doing a mental search of what an IPA tastes like, that’s the beer my brain defaults to.

    As for Stone…whatever. They’re not on my list either. It’s a very good IPA, but not something I ever feel the need to order at a bar or purchase at a package store. Like most Stone products, it underwhelms me.

    Magnus makes a strong case for Green Flash though. Their West Coast IPA is a thing of beauty, but alas, I can’t get their lovely brews down here.

    Also, I find it very odd that Bell’s doesn’t distribute near you. I’m always amazed when non-Southern breweries sell their wares down here but not in New England. Weird.

  5. I’m embarrassed to say how few of these I’ve had. However, the ones I have had I would like to think I have significant experience with, as I tend to stick with stuff I like. Can’t say enough about the Bells two hearted — Magnus mentioned it already, but a few of us aleheads tried to drink all of the Bells two hearted ale in michigan a few weeks ago. If I remember correctly, we were quite successful (note: it is not clear that I remember correctly). I’m normally a big Dogfish head fan, and love the 60 min. IPA as well.

    IPA’s are great to make at home as well (as are many highly flavored beers), but I must admit — with all the craft beer I’ve been drinking lately I’ve lost a lot of faith in my own ability as a homebrewer…

    1. Professor, you and I discussed some homebrew IPA ideas while we were in Philly and I’m happy to say that I bottled my first Imperial IPA the other day. I took a bunch of pictures throughout the whole process so I’ll get a post up as soon as the bottle conditioning is done (About 2 1/2 more weeks). My expectations are ridiculously low, but it sure smelled good.

  6. [...] IMPERIAL IPA IN AMERICA Doc wrote up an epic Top 10 American IPAs list yesterday and I enjoyed it so much that I thought it would be fun to keep the trend going. [...]

  7. [...] back).  Apparently I’m not the only one obsessed with Top 10′s as our last two posts, Best IPA in America and Best Imperial IPA in America, generated more traffic than we’ve ever seen on Aleheads. [...]

  8. [...] up the blogosphere, so we’re keeping the momentum going here at Aleheads. While the Pale Ale/IPA/Imperial IPA categories were firmly ensconced in Doc’s hoppy sweet spot, today we’re [...]

  9. [...] on cask, then sign me up).  I’m a Hophead (In case you hadn’t guessed from my drooling IPA list) so when I gravitate toward a Stout it’s usually of the Imperial variety.  While most Stouts [...]

  10. Doc, I must admit being from Brother Barley’s current neck of the woods leaves me woefully undernourished in the ways on many fantastic breweries. Founders being prominent amongst them. Fortunately, I travel to Atlanta fairly often and can grab some tasty treats I cannot get home in AL. The Centennial IPA was one such brew I recently got a hold of for the very first time. You are pretty spot on in your assessment. Is it my all-time favorite? Probably not. That will belong to HopSlam or Pliny the Elder, but it is damn good. Thank you good Doctor.

  11. John, I’ll be the first to admit that I over-hype the Centennial IPA every chance I get. While I love IPA’s from a broad spectrum, there’s just something in the Centennial that strikes me to the core. Victory Hop Wallop and Lagunitas Maximus (Both Double IPA’s) share the same characteristic of rich, grapefruity, very slightly piny notes that you’ll find in the Centennial. Not sure that everyone wants those flavors in their IPA’s though so I can understand why Founders isn’t at the top of most lists.

    I’ll hopefully be down in your area soon and I’m sure I’ll be drinking plenty of Terrapin’s Hopsecutioner and lots of the HopSlam while I’m there. I can get a lot of good IPA’s in the Northeast, but those guys still elude this neck of the woods.

  12. [...] Doc crowned Founders Centennial IPA the best IPA in America, he invited the rest of us to do a full tasting note on it.  As Commander of Aleheads Central [...]

  13. [...] word for your title 4) Best Pale Ale – Who doesn’t love a Top 10 List of Pale Ales? 5) Best IPA’s in America – Again, who doesn’t love a Top 10 List of IPA’s?  So, if you Googled those [...]

  14. Mike Jacobson · ·

    There are a few that deserve some consideration: Surley Furious, Tyrannea Bitter Woman IPA, New Holland Mad Hatter and Infused Mad Hatter, Kuhnhenn Brewing Simcoe Silly, Arcadia Hop Rocket, Ale Asylum Ballistic IPA, Three Floyd’s Arctic Panzer Wolf, Two Brothers Resistance IPA and Heavy Handed IPA, Dark Horse Crooked Tree IPA,

  15. [...] up a word for your title 4) Best Pale Ale – Who doesn’t love a Top 10 List of Pale Ales? 5) Best IPA’s in America – Again, who doesn’t love a Top 10 List of IPA’s? Has anything changed in the past few [...]

  16. Great list! Yes Surley makes a great IPA but hard to get outside of MN. Luckily I live here. MN is brewing up somer killer beers right now, if you’re interested, you can get some details at Post A Pint on FB.

  17. Thanks Zak! You’ve just reminded me how very old this post is (Written way back in August of last year). I think it’s time to get the Alehead trust together and come up with a more comprehensive list. Now that I’ve had Surly Furious (Amazing!) and Ballast Point’s Sculpin it would be a damn shame to omit them from any top 10.

  18. Pretty happy with Firestone Walker’s Union Jack at the moment!

  19. Can’t argue with this list. Great stuff!

  20. Thanks G-Lo. You’ve got impeccable timing – We’ll be updating this list with a new post coming out tomorrow morning.

  21. Excellent! I’ll keep an eye out for it.

  22. [...] and in essence, others’ personal palates?  Hell no.  When we put up our original “Best IPA In America” post last August, it quickly became our most viewed article and still has legs some 10 [...]

  23. Anonymous · ·

    What about Brooklyn’s India Pale Ale? That’s my choice, though I haven’t tried all your choices. Victory’s Hop Devil is excellent, and while I love Sierra N. Pale Ale and Porter, Torpedo is way too hoppy. Dogfish a solid choice too.

  24. Baba Brewy · ·

    Port Brewing’s Wipeout IPA and Coronado’s Idiot IPA are my 1 & 2. Nothing in my opinion can touch these West Coast beauties.

  25. [...] – Best IPA In America, Best Pale Ale in [...]

  26. Maybe I haven’t read enough here, but I don’t see a brew on here that runs out on shelves faster than anything I’ve ever seen. Pliny the Elder is one of the greatest IPAs I’ve had. If you can get a hold of one, you will enjoy it. I’d put it up against any IPA out there. And so would many many others.

  27. Chris: This is a list of all single IPAs that were meant to be easily attained. There’s also a newer version of this list that, in my opinion is actually a lot better, which we did more recently. You can find that link at the bottom of the page.

  28. Anonymous · ·

    sorry, but you missed it. Firestone Walker (Paso Robles, CA) Double Jack is the best IPA. I agree with most everything you have said but without this beer in the line up you have missed the best IPA on the market.

  29. Oh anonymous, you kind of missed the boat on this one. While Firestone Walker Double Jack is an incredible beer, you’re unfortunately touting the best Imperial IPA you’ve ever had (I use unfortunate very loosely, because there’s nothing unfortunate about drinking that tasty beer). At almost 10% ABV, the Double Jack certainly misses the cut by a longshot on this list. Now, if you want to check out our most recent list of “The” Best Imperial IPA’s in America, feel free to criticize us for not including the Double Jack. Just don’t do it on an outdated list of single IPA’s. Also, feel free to check out the updated list of “The” Best IPA’s in America for a better listing that puts this old article to shame.

    Thanks for commenting though – You have good taste.

  30. Unless of course you’re talking about the Firestone Walker Union Jack, their highly respected single IPA. If that’s the case, I’ll have to defer to your opinion since the only varietals I can get here in MA are the Double Jack and their Porter (Can only find the big bottles for some reason, no six packs of their everyday beers).

  31. Anonymous · ·

    How did you leave 90 minute IPA off of this list? Geez……

  32. Anonymous, this is a list for single IPAs, not doubles. It’s also out of date; the updated version is available in the links above.

  33. Tin Tuc Thoi Trang…

    [...]BEST IPA IN AMERICA « ALEHEADS[...]…

  34. Dude, I don’t care who you are or your experience, you don’t know a good IPA worth shi, t

  35. A real list from someone who actually knows what is good

    Stone Ruination IPA
    Pliny the Elder IPA
    Sculpin IPA
    Union Jack
    Wipeout IPA
    Racer 5
    Gubna IPA
    Stone IPA
    Mongo IPA
    Green Flash IPA

  36. Well, thanks for putting me in my place Farter. The class appreciates your efforts. Douche.

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