Hop Heads Unite: The Best IPAs in America

Perhaps the most beloved style of beer right now, the bitter, piney tang of a great IPA is the stuff dreams are made of. Interestingly enough, more than anywhere else, San Diego helped establish what is now known as the West Coast IPA, which translates to beer that is aggressively hopped, masterfully balanced, and deliciously bitter. Luckily for beer drinkers the world over, West Coast IPAs can now be enjoyed pretty much everywhere. Whether you like an extravagant IBU count, or you’re more into the delicious notes of citrus and prickly pine, we’ve put together a list of favorites for both the seasoned hop-head and the novice quaffing his first glass of bitter majesty. Read on to find out why bitter isn’t a bad thing.

Enjoy By IPA
Stone Brewing Co.
Stone’s Enjoy By IPA is specifically brewed NOT to last. This fresh-hopped IPA is made to be enjoyed soon after you purchase; in fact, its “Enjoy By” date is printed front and center on the bottle itself. Stone, venerable IPA heroes, have outdone themselves with this variation, showcasing a mastery other breweries would kill for. With an extraordinary flavor profile of pine and grapefruit, and a richly fragrant hoppy aroma, you probably won’t have any trouble enjoying this masterpiece by its suggested date -- though keeping it stocked in the fridge is another matter entirely.

Pliny The Elder
Russian River Brewing Co.
For many IPA aficionados, this is the high-water mark of the style: the hoppy Holy Grail. Famously selling out of many craft beer shops hours after arriving, Russian River’s Pliny the Elder is an impeccably balanced, deliciously aromatic Imperial IPA. The experience starts right when you open the bottle -- crisp, floral aromas greet your nose like you’re walking in a pine forest. Flavors of citrus rind and pineapple are balanced against a fine malt base, and the pour is long and amber-golden. This is the IPA by which we measure others. A must-drink for long time fans and newcomers alike.

Sculpin IPA
Ballast Point Brewing
Not content with their already delicious Big Eye IPA, San Diego’s Ballast Point created this exquisite beauty with a five-stage hopping process. The result is a flavorful and finely balanced master course on the art of the IPA. Flavors of apricot, peach, and freshly cut grass hit first, with a pleasantly bitter rush; the aftertaste is balanced with a slightly sweet malty goodness. This one is a bit pricey, even by craft IPA standards, but it’s worth every penny. For the adventurous, there are also seasonal variants like Grapefruit Sculpin and Habanero Sculpin.

60 Minute IPA
Dogfish Head Brewing Co.
Dogfish Head brewery uses what they call a “continuous hop process” with this gem -- 60 different hoppings over a 60-minute boil (thus its name). This is definitely not a West Coast IPA; with a low alcohol content (for an IPA) and an exceptionally balanced taste, this is a wonderful place to start for hop newbies who aren’t ready to take the plunge into the resinous hop bombs above. It’s also a great day drinking option when you aren’t looking for the 8%-10% alcohol of a typical IPA. Dogfish Head also makes a 90 Minute IPA -- a hoppy beast and perennial favorite for “Best IPA in the World”. Really, you can’t go wrong here with either; Dogfish has you covered, no matter the season, no matter the context.

Palate Wrecker IPA
Green Flash Brewing Co.
For the IPA lover who cannot get enough hop flavor and aroma, I present my personal favorite, the bitter behemoth from San Diego’s Green Flash Brewery called, aptly enough, Palate Wrecker. To say this glorious beer is aggressively hopped is an understatement. With six pounds of Centennial, Columbus, and Simcoe hops per barrel, this is a hop-forward Triple IPA that does not apologize for its intense flavors and hop heroics. As Green Flash says, “Your palate will recover, but you’ll remember that last round forever.” For those who aren’t ready to enter this delicious world of palate punishment, Green Flash also has a top quality double IPA (the Imperial IPA) and an amazing original IPA (West Coast IPA). Choose wisely.

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