Without IPAs, the modern craft beer industry would look a whole lot different.
The India Pale Ale style has evolved numerous times since the dawn of the craft era, and most expressions no longer come close to resembling the original, meant-for-long-sea-journeys-because-water-would-kill-you English-style IPA. And since IPAs are essentially the opposite of macro lagers, in part driving the growth of the industry, it’s understandable that IPA is nearly synonymous with craft beer for non-craft beer drinkers.
With more than 7,000 breweries in the U.S. and almost every one taking at a crack at the IPA, there’s no way any one drinker can try them all, but there are a few worth tracking down and trying. The Manual’s last list of IPAs to sip right now included Other Half, Tree House, Russian River, Revision, and Offshoot.
With the insane number of IPAs on the market, we decided to expand the reach a little bit, including some new, some old, but all altogether incredible IPAs available. There’s a load of hyped IPAs on the market that are worthy of being on this list, but a good balance of old and new is ideal. Sometimes it’s important to return to appreciate those IPAs that helped set the stage for the beers that dominate the hype today.
Here are some of the best IPAs to drink right now. (And we mean right now; remember to drink IPAs as fresh as possible.)
El Segundo Brewery
El Segundo has been quietly producing outstanding IPAs from its coastal California outpost for several years now. The Los Angeles brewery possesses a thorough understanding of the West Coast IPA, devising brilliant hop bills that complement each other much like a good blend of grape varietals does in a good wine blend. Its flagship
Surly Brewing Company
Minneapolis brewery Surly continues to set increasingly high standards for the Midwest craft scene and beyond. The Axe Man is the label’s most triumphant IPA, dry-hopped and offering an embedded richness. The beer is a collaboration project with Denmark’s Amager Brewery and manages to be both powerful and polite. It would not be an
Maine Beer Company
Is there anything better than a beer named after a meal? Not a whole lot if there is. It helps that Maine Beer Co. makes really tasty beer normally, but Lunch has made waves across America, even though it’s not all that widely distributed. The incredibly clean labels are attractive no matter your aesthetic preferences, which is awesome. Diving into the beer, the Amarillo, Centennial, and Simcoe hops contribute an awesome mixture of fruit and pine flavors with a great malt backbone. Dinner isn’t too bad, either.
Half Acre Beer Company
The Bodem IPA is a modern stab at the category, calling on relatively new hops like Cashmere and Cryo hops. A time capsule of sorts, the beer seems to capture our current taste for the über-popular style. If there’s a sweet spot between the fruitiness of East Coast IPAs and the forest-driven pungency of many West Coast IPAs, Chicago brewery Half Acre has found it in this offering. It’s immensely smooth, showing ripe summer fruit qualities and a pronounced crispness.
From Wayfinder to Breakside, Ex Novo to Great Notion, Portland, Oregon really is brewvana. Ruse, arguably the beer-centric city’s best current outfit, should be on every IPA-lover’s radar. The Translator is a beaming brew, putting hops on a pedestal but also integrating them deftly for a well-rounded result. You can pick up the grain, along with the complexity and subtle berry flavors that tend to show up in Mosaic hops.
Chicago’s Alarmist Brewing lands on the list because it shook the beer world in September. Le Jus topped the Juicy or Hazy India Pale Ale category at the Great American Beer Festival. Sure, that’s probably in large part because the category’s fatherland of New England largely abstains from the competition, but to top the ginormous category still takes some serious skill. Made with Mosaic and Citra hops, the beer also has a touch of lactose to bring a bit of smooth creaminess to the beer.
Space Camper IPA
Boulevard Brewing Company
In a world where IPAs keep coming fast at a consumer, a good beer goes a long way, but so does a cool hook. Boulevard Brewing recently released its newest IPA, Space Camper, but with it came a video game. Boulevard built an 8-bit video game in the same vein as Space Invaders and Galaga for fans to play — and win prizes. The company also pledged to the Arbor Day Foundation to 10,000 trees in 2019, to support “the only planet with beer.” It helps that the beer is solid, too. At 5.9% ABV, Space Camper is loaded with citrus, stone fruit, and watermelon notes from its mix of Ekuanot, El Dorado, and Galaxy hops.
Snake Handler IIPA
Good People Brewing Company
There’s a cool craft scene underway in Birmingham and Good People Brewing Co. is a big part of it. The brewery’s double IPA does what so many can’t in delivering a sturdy wall of hops that you can still see over. In other words, while strong, the Snake Handler is also no stranger to finesse. It’s no wonder this beer is one of the brewery’s most popular, with its deft mashup of spicy, citrusy, tree sap, and tropical fruit notes. Be advised, this puppy clocks in at 10% ABV.
Article originally published April 28, 2018. Last updated in August 2020.
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