It is evident that the use of hops in beers has evolved to a point far beyond a function of perseverance. Yes, in the days of old, extra lupulin was administered to beers to withstand the arduous journey from England around the Horn of Africa to colonized regions of India. But today, the utilization of boldly hopped brews has developed into a means of taste-making to achieve a multitude of complex flavors that serve to continually redefine perceptions of our ever expanding palates. Here is a look at 50 dynamic craft beers that make use of the world’s favorite brewer’s spice to accomplish some mouthwatering results. If you come across any of the following commercially available hoppy creations, do yourself a favor and give ’em a whirl(pool):
50. Ninkasi Total Domination – Since its commercial debut in 2006, Ninkasi‘s flagship brew has become a staple for Pacific Northwest hop heads. With a delectable underpinning of 2 Row Pale, Munich, and Carahell Malts, the star of this omnipresent IPA resides in the big floral notes made possible through the interplay of copious amounts of floral Summit, Amarillo, and Crystal hops. The mildly nutty and sweet backing character from the brewery’s Fullers English yeast results in a winning tasting experience.
49. Pyramid Discord – This dark IPA, Cascadian Dark Ale, what have you, is one from Pyramid for the ages. Celebrating the convergence of two beloved Northwest beer styles, the dark ale and the India Pale Ale, Discord delivers a breadth of assaulting components yet is magnificently balanced. Black Malt and Carafa II provide the deception that you are in for a stout or porter, when in reality, you are treated to wave upon wave of luxurious blossoming piquancy and florality. With Nugget, Zythos, Mt. Hood, and Cascade laying down the bittering stage of the beer, the real flowery punch is landed with the implementation of Falconer’s Flight and more Zythos and Cascade hops. Available seasonally through March through the brewery’s Ignition Series, we are more than pleased to discover this affordable product on shelves in 22-ounce, and now 12-ounce bottles.
48. Fort George Vortex – The story behind Vortex is an interesting one to say the least. Caught in a tornado in the Midwest while hauling their original brew system cross country from Virginia, a whirlwind of modern day history was added to the Astoria brewery’s rich past. Vortex is Fort George‘s best selling beer and is now available in their signature 16-ounce cans as well as on tap throughout the Northwest. The beer is what the brewery refers to as their “contribution to the IPA arms race.” With a hearty 7.7% ABV unfiltered, unpasteurized organic malt spine that makes way for Simcoe, Amarillo, and Centennial hops. Yep, those hops are quite popular with some of the region’s best brewers and it is obvious why. This beer is straight up delicious!
47. BridgePort IPA – A truly monumental beer that is so often overlooked since the heightening of the hops arms race is BridgePort Brewing‘s flagship India Pale Ale. With today’s 100+ IBU super-alpha bombs continually pushing the threshold of acceptable bitterness, younger craft beer drinkers might not remember how bold and innovative BridgePort’s signature brew was when it was released in 1996. Former BridgePort Brewmaster Karl Ockert says it was a beer brewed from an epiphany that “We sort of woke up and realized that we’re in the middle of Oregon hop growing region.” The brewery mindfully designed this beer to showcase the hops as the keynote ingredient. This 40 IBU ale may only taste as a pale ale in today’s market, but it’s beauty and balance is a marvel of modern brewing. Further, bottle conditioning adds a depth and complexity not commonly appreciated in today’s IPA. The natural effervescence of the aroma led by four different Oregon hops intermingles perfectly with the bready English yeast to result in a masterful beer that is as much of Portland’s modern brewing culture as any other.
46. Beer Valley Leafer Madness – From Oregon’s easternmost brewery, Beer Valley of Ontario is this unforgettable imperial pale ale. Founder and brewer Pete Ricks tells us that this brew was created during the great hop shortage of 2008. But there is no shortage of hops in all of its insanity. Brewed with large amounts of 2-row malt and Munich malt, and multiple hop varieties plucked in close proximity to the continent’s largest growing regions, this 9% ABV, 100+ IBU hop monster “quenches the thirst of those who crave the lupulin!” Try the Hop Harvest edition for even more madness.
45. Baxter Stowaway – We had the honor of tasting the first commercially available batch of this canned India Pale Ale back in early 2010 when the Lewiston, Maine brewery was in its infancy. Now, under the direction of founder Luke Livingston, named by Forbes.com as one of the top movers and shakers in the food and beverage world under the age of 30, Baxter has quickly emerged as one of the most notable brewing forces in New England. Available in 12-ounce cans, Stowaway converges five hop varietals into play with a clean and bright West Coast ale yeast and blend of North American 2-row malted barley, including barley grown in Northern Maine’s Aroostook County. At 6.9% ABV, 69 IBU, Stowaway offer a big hops presence without losing a sense of sessionability.
44. Red Rock/Pelican India Rye Lager – Two of the best breweries in the land teamed up to produce a one-of-a-kind drinking experience. Both Salt Lake City’s Red Rock Brewing and Pacific City, Oregon’s Pelican Brewery have won the illustrious Best Large Brewpub of the Year honors at the Great American Beer Festival. This unique specimen, available in limited 500ml bottles, is part IPA and part pilsner, with a spicy twist that is rye malt. See through to the eye, this beer is anything but light, with a 6.9% ABV body that houses copious amounts of bittering hops. For those who love the best components of boldly hopped IPAs and the bright crispness of a well built pilsner, the IRL offers a third dimension that is well worth the exploration of any craft beer lover.
43. Uinta Dubhe Imperial Black IPA – Another argument that Utah is certainly not the state of pedestrian 3.2% beer is supported by the phenomenal brewers at Uinta Brewing of Salt Lake City. Named for the brightest star in the Big Dipper, Dubhe is an astronomically hopped black-bodied behemoth brewed with five different Northwest hop varieties that shine a massive citrusy burst atop a roasty chocolate malt bill. It is by far the hoppiest beer in Uinta’s lineup. Further, the brew makes use of hemp seed (get it?!). 9.2% ABV, 109 IBU. ‘Nuff said.
42. Southern Tier 2XIPA – To expect anything but over the top from Lakewood, New York’s Southern Tier Brewing Co. would be asking a bit too much. Described as “Not quite an imperial, but certainly not a standard India pale ale. Our double IPA is a hop lovers dream. Citrusy and clean with an incredible finish.” A big 8.2% ABV hop giant, 2XIPA makes use of four types of hops and three types of malts to bring you an offering that is surprisingly light when compared to many of the brews in their portfolio.
41. He’Brew Hop Manna IPA – It’s easy to see why Shmaltz Brewing‘s latest rendition of this boldly hopped IPA took home gold at the 2012 World Beer Championships. Dry-hopped with Centennial, Cascade, and Citras, following a bittering base of the aforementioned varietals in addition to high alpha Amarillo and Warriors, the finished product highlights dank, spicy, and catty notes that unapologetically besiege the taster. Look for this year’s recipe in 22-ounce bottles and on tap where choice beer is available.
40. Deschutes Fresh Squeezed – From one of Oregon’s most heralded breweries, Deschutes, comes Fresh Squeezed, a Citra-hopped delight. “This Citra hop IPA is a “citrus bomb” in every way” says Deschutes’ Jason Randles, adding
“The aroma and flavor scream citrus. Three types of malt, one type of bittering hop and a whole lot of Citra hops were all it took to create this delicious offering.” Juicy goodness in each sip, Fresh Squeezed is a beer to seek out. You may only find it on tap at the brewpub for now, but keep and eye peeled, the IBUs 60 Alcohol 6.5% should (crossing fingers) find its way into bottles. It better!
39. GoodLife Mountain Rescue – From one of Bend, Oregon’s youngest brewery’s GoodLife, comes this magnificently auroral dry-hopped pale ale. According to Brewmaster Curt Plants, the key to the fantastic hop vivacity is due to a process called “Hop bursting.” Plants tells us that this involves “adding all of the hops into the whirlpool that we would normally add in the kettle. So basically, instead of getting our bitterness levels from the boil, we are trying to get all of our bitterness levels at the end of the process in the whirlpool. This allows us to add twice as many hops in the whirlpool while not making the beer overly bitter, and also allows us to pull out twice the amount of flavor from the hop then what we would get using traditional methods in the kettle.” Plants adds “We use the hop bursting technique in the Mountain Rescue to produce a very smooth and balanced flavor of citrus and black pepper while still keeping it at 45 IBU’s. A mouthwatering 5.5% ABV instant classic, Mountain Rescue Dry Hop Pale, now available in 22-ounce bottles, is yet another gem in GoodLife’s so-far stellar portfolio of brews.
38. Ballast Point Sculpin – All across American, hop heads are raving about Sculpin IPA from Ballast Point Brewing in San Diego, and with good reason. The bombastically hopped IPA won gold at the 2010 World Beer Cup in Chicago and remains on the top of the list for so many beer geeks. Available year round in 22-ounce bottles and on tap, Sculpin is named for a spike-finned fish that can poison its enemies. Fear not of being poisoned by the beer, but prepare for a sharp tongue lashing from this not-so-modestly hopped 7% ABV, 70 IBU (about the threshold for which the human palate can no longer determine more bitterness) beer which offers a variety of citrus and fruit flavors from the hops likened to lemon, peach, mango, and apricot.
37. Samuel Adams Latitude 48 – Quite an interesting concept for a beer belies in Boston Beer Company‘s Samuel Adams Latitude 48. You see, the name denotes the approximate latitude around the earth in the Northern Hemisphere where this India Pale Ale has obtained its hops. Known as “the hop belt”, Latitude 48 employs varietals from Germany, England, and America in what could quite possibly be Sam Adam’s best India Pale recipe to date. “The combination of hops in this beer creates a distinctive but not overpowering hop character” sayeth the brewery of this brew that is tropical fruit-esque bitter brew, dry-hopped with Ahtanum, Simcoe, and East Kent Goldings hops. The result is a balance between mild malt sweetness and bright citrus pizzazz.
36. Bell’s Two Hearted – Here is another storied IPA that is a must try for any one who loves beautifully crafted ales. The key to Bell’s Two Hearted Ale resides in a little Pacific Northwest hop known as Centennial. Massive kettle and dry-hop additions of this wonderfully diverse hop provide a lingering range of fruity characteristics that unfold and evolve with each quaff.
35. Pelican Elemental – Brewed only once a year at peak hop season, Pelican Brewery‘s Elemental Ale is made with 450 pounds of freshly picked, “wet” Sterling hops from Goschie Farms in Silverton, Oregon. The hops are only three hours from the vine when they go into the kettle. The mash tun was also used as a hop back, holding 300 pounds of hops. This beer features a huge floral, spicy, grassy aroma with a firm malt background and a huge, snappy hop finish. The use of piny Sterling hops come across something like a tropical Christmas tree…in a good way, of course.
34. Lompoc C-Note – New Old Lompoc‘s C-Note Imperial Pale Ale is a study of and assault by C hops. Brewed with Crystal, Cluster, Cascade, Chinook, Centennial, Columbus and Challenger varietals, this 6.9% ABV IBU floral and resinous hop giant plays second fiddle only to the brewery’s C-Son’s Greetings. Rich tangy, bitter and flowery notes rise above a rather neutral esterous yeast to give hop happy heathens just what they want, and perhaps a tad more than some even bargained for. Look for it year round on draught and in 22-ounce handsomely redesigned labeled bottles. Your hair might just fall out from the amount of alpha acids that flow to your head after a few sips.
33. Boundary Bay Inside Passage Ale – This strong pale ale from Bellingham, Washington’s Boundary Bay Brewing has remained amongst the upper echelon of artisan India Pales since its inception more than a decade ago. It balances a nice rich malt character with lots of chewy caramelly and biscuity bite that couples well with its splendid hops kick. For Northwest IPA purists, this very well could be the ultimate hoppy offering. A moderate 6.4% ABV is right in the ballpark you’d hope for for the stalwart brew, and you know if it’s from Boundary Bay then it means it is a product of great quality.
32. Naked City Hoptrocity – If you ever find yourself in the great state of Washington, make certain to pay a visit to Seattle’s Naked City Brewery, where many a great beer may be found. Here, on occasion, founder and brewer Don Webb brews up an Imperial India Pale Ale like no other. Hoptrocity Imperial Rye IPA is brewed with 18% Rye Malt and hopped with Magnum, Centennial, Amarillo, and Zythos. It is dry hopped with additional Zythos. A total of 3l pounds of hops per barrel give this beer 100+ IBUs to counter the big malt and alcohol (9.6% ABV) backbone. Webb says “This is definitely one of our most popular beers at Naked City.We also brew a single IPA version that comes in at 7.4% ABV and about 85 IBUs. Again with 18% Rye in the grist.” Oh, suppose that’ll do, too.
31. Avery India Pale Ale – Colorado’s first packaged IPA, Avery IPA, has been made since 1996 and remains one of the most delicious brews of all time. “The Avery IPA is a very aggressive, assertive IPA” says head brewer Matt “Truck” Thrall. At 69 IBU with tons of hops, the beer, as Thrall points out, features lots of “grassy Centennial notes, piny Chinook notes, and some dank Columbus notes.” Available in both 12-ounce bottles and cans, it really is a versatile and very much approachable ale considering its bite. “It’s a badass beer and that’s why I drink it 500 days a year” says Thrall. You can’t argue with that, now can you?
30. Laurelwood Workhorse IPA – Laurelwood Public House & Brewery‘s number one selling beer at all of their pubs is their Workhorse IPA, and if you’ve ever placed in upon your palate and down your gullet, you will know exactly why. In 2009 Workhorse beat out 63 other competitors nationwide in the National IPA Competition (NIPAC). Developed by brewmaster Chad Kennedy, now with Worthy Brewing in Bend, Oregon, Workhorse makes use of some of the world’s most sought after hop varietals such as Simcoe, Amarillo, Cascade, Columbus, and Nugget. According to the brewery, “The over-the-top aroma comes from a heavy handed dose of hops in the kettle, hop back and 2 separate dry-hop additions.” This beer is harder to find these days due to the availability of some of the aforementioned hops, but behold, Laurelwood’s current brewmaster Vasilios Gletsos continues to wow palates with several other tasty vittles such as the Gearhead IPA and others.
29. Silver City Whoop Pass -Silver City Brewing of Washington’s Kitsap Pennisula has one hell of a double IPA in their Whoop Pass. Once a limited seasonal release, last year the brewhouse decided that this wouldn’t cut it and now you can experience a lupulin licking year round. “As a brewer you want to make beers that are bold, impactful and get people excited. That definitely describes the Whoop Pass”, says founding brewer Don Spencer. Silver City’s commercial description sums up the attitude behind the brew: “Without a doubt the boldest and hoppiest mother of a brew Silver City has ever created. More than 50 lbs. of Washington State Columbus and Cascade hops are infused, injected, or otherwise inflicted upon a single 15 barrel batch. Welcome to Hop country. 8.5% ABV, 85 IBUs”
28. Avery Hog Heaven – Dubbed a barleywine despite containing more IBUs and a lower ABV than their Maharaja Imperial IPA, Avery Brewing Co.‘s Hog Heaven is one fine swine, featuring dank Columbus hops and is dry-hopped for further aromatic properties. A deep garnet color from Two-row barley and caramel 75L malts prop up a ferocious hops burst that has won it awards as an Imperial Red Ale category at the Great American Beer Fest. Find it in 22-ounce bottles, but it is recommended that you share it with a friend, because it still clocks in at a 9.2% ABV. The 104 IBU make this big pig deceptively smooth.
27. Oskar Blues Deviant Dales – A newer release from Lyons, Colorado brewery Oskar Blues is their Deviant Dales IPA. A beefed-up version of their much loved Dales Pale Ale, Deviant offers 8% ABV and 85 IBU of assertive grapefruit and pine notes. The beer won a silver medal at the 2011 Great American Beer Festival in Denver and now folks around the country can steal a taste of the beer from newly packaged 16-ounce cans. The brewery says “the Devil incarnate with untold amounts of malt and hedonistic Columbus dry-hopping.” Get some!
26. Squatters IPA – A wonderful example of an IPA, this 6.0% ABV brew with a golden hue offers a nice mix of floral hops over waves of rich English malted barley. A real treat from Utah Brewer’s United, Squatters IPA took home a gold medal at the 2007 GABF and 2006 World Beer Cup. If you are looking for a straightforward, beautifully balanced (for an IPA) hoppy brew, here’s one of your best bets. The floral hops bring to mind notes of pineapple, grapefruit, and candy sugar and match excellently with the cracker-like mild chewiness of the base maltiness. This beer may not be as pungently hopped as many of the latest high alpha hops IPAs, but it is certainly a beautiful beer worthy of your palate’s time.
25. Black Raven Trickster IPA – From Redmond, Washington’s Black Raven Brewing comes this strong pale ale with a deep chewy malt character obtained from copious amounts of ESB, Munich, and Crystal combined with a blast of Chinook, Magnum, Simcoe, Amarillo, and Cascade hops. “In mythology, the raven can play tricks or otherwise disobey normal rules, hence the name Trickster. This well-balanced IPA has a nice, light fruit, citrus and piney hop aroma with a full hop flavor. With its balanced malt body and a 6.8% ABV, this beer has truly earned its name.” Cheers!
24. Green Flash West Coast IPA – “A menagerie of hops is layered throughout the brewing process: Simcoe for unique fruitiness and grapefruit zest, Columbus for strong hop pungency, Centennial for pine and citrus notes and Cascade for floral aroma. A multi-dimensional hop experience.” This description from Green Flash Brewing of their coveted ale pretty much sums up the aptitude of this pioneering San Diego-style India Pale Ale that shook up the brewing scene a few years back and has been delighting bruised tongues ever since. At 7.3% ABV, 95 IBU, there is no mistaking a glug of this treasure when delving into a world of delightfully dank lupulin.
23. Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA – Declared by many to be the best IPA in America, the rate at which kegs of this beer empty across the land is a testament to its prowess. Using the continuous-hopping method, additions of the green resinous beer spice are added throughout the brewing process to culminate to a rich raisinous, citrusy masterpiece. From Delaware the 9% ABV 90 Minute from Dogfish Head Brewing remains a standard by which many other East Coast India Pale Ales are compared. Surely you’ve tried one, but if not, you’re in luck, it is available year round in several states throughout the country.
22. La Cumbra Elevated IPA – The 2011 gold medal winning IPA at the Great American Beer Fest, Elevated requires just one taste to understand why New Mexico’s La Cumbra Brewing is quickly asserting itself as one of the nation’s finest. It’s pale golden body and thick white head behold a fortitude of flavor and a wallop of 100 bittering units of hops. Rightfully so, the brewery states this beer is “the culmination of a decades worth of studying and brewing.” Seek it out along with a range of other excellent styles from this young yet accomplished brewery.
21. Ninkasi Maiden The Shade – Introduced in 2009 by Eugene, Oregon’s Ninkasi Brewing Co., Maiden The Shade is a highly refreshing and exuberant summer IPA that combines a crisp malt base consisting of 2-Row Pale, Vienna, and Flaked Barley with a vivacious array of Northwest hops including Summits, Centennials, Simcoes, Columbus, Crystals, Palisades, and Amarillos. It’s 6.8% ABV and 72 IBU are right in the wheelhouse for most West Coast palates and is a sure sign that the warmer days are upon us.
20. Odell Myrcenary – One of the best breweries you’ll ever experience from Colorado, Odell, is known for greatness achieved within a vast range of styles. Myrcenary Double IPA is one such beer that illustrates the Fort Collins’ brewery’s sheer awesomeness. Named for Myrcene, a component of essential oils in the hop flower, this mammoth 9.3% ABV goody employs an hop bill that has the highest level of the component possible. A centrifugal filtration process gently clarifies this big brew ensuring that no fresh aromatic qualities are lost. It’s a champion IIPA that rivals even the best that the nation has to offer. Our only regret is that it is not distributed where we live…otherwise, you can be assured our fridge would never be without it.
19. Hop Valley Alpha Centuri Binary – Purveyors of the deep, dank, and delicious are the brewers at Springfield, Oregon’s Hop Valley Brewing. Lead by founding brewer Trevor Howard who developed many hoppilicious heavensends during his tenure at Rogue’s Tracktown Brewpub in Eugene, Hop Valley strikes gold with this 8.7% 100 IBU floral and grapefruity phenom. A hazy orangey hue from Great Western 2-Row and Munich malts are the fulcrum to an orchestra of Simcoe, Galena, Amarillo, Centennial, and Cascade hops. Originally brewed to commemorate Hop Valley’s 100th batch, the beer was so well received that it is here to stay.
18. Walking Man Nomadic India Session Ale – Homo Erectus is the beer that comes to mind when most Northwest beer lovers think of Stevenson, Washington’s beloved Walking Man Brewing. A groundbreakingly bold Imperial India Pale Ale, the flagship is a massively hopped 9% ABV beast. However, lead brewer Dan Munch has developed a far more sessionable hop delight for those who enjoy many repeat visits to the tap. Say hello to Nomadic ISA, a 4.5%, 52 IBU brew pours light golden in color, producing a clean frothy white head. Munch explains “(Nomadic offeres) big citrus hop notes in the nose from copious dry hopping with Bravo and Cascade hops. From bold Northwest hops in the forward, to graham cracker malts and a resinous hop finish, Nomadic ISA is our salute to the return of spring in the Columbia River Gorge!” Amen, brother!
17. Moylan’s Hopsickle – Calling Moylan’s Brewery‘s Hopsickle a hop monster would be a bit of an understatement. Quite possibly the hoppiest beer ever, hopsickle is an unmistakably gigantuous expedition into massive flavor. A 9.2% ABV malt spine surprisingly steps aside to allow tidal waves of bombastic Tomahawk, Cascade and Centennial hops. Puckeringly cutting like a punch of alpha acid to the dome, Hopsickle hits the nail on the head when the describe this brute as “a Hop tribute, worthy of a King’s Imperial Court.” Make no mistake, this beer is not for the skittish or those who are averse to being assaulted by seemingly endless bitter altercations.
16. Barley Brown’s Turmoil – In 2010, the first year American Style India Black Ales (or whatever you wanna call ’em) were allowed their own category at the Great American Beer Festival, Barley Brown’s Turmoil reiterated why their hoppy ales are not to be reckoned with. Developed by Brewmaster Shawn Kelso, now with 10 Barrel Brewing Co., Turmoil is a cage fight of non-compunctious renegade roast with an atom bomb of face melting hoptitude. But above the bitter cloud rises a vibrant complexity of fruity, floral, and unwavering grapefruit notes that lure you in while they continue to beat you down. Not sure if Barley Brown’s will be able to continue the legacy of this beer without Kelso, it’s still worth a trip out to Baker City in the far reaches of Eastern Oregon for a taste.
15. Lagunitas Hop Stoopid – The commercial description of Lagunitas Hop Stoopid is worthy of a chuckle: “For those mornings when you have to cut right to the chase, this is the one. Sure to blast through just about anything still lingering from the night before, this mouthful of Hops and huge rich Malt has a guarantee built right into the name!” Brewmaster Jeremy Marshall doesn’t mince words when he explains this beer as “built for everything hop heads desire.” With the recognizable Lagunitas’ house flavor, this 8% ABV brewski pours a beautiful golden hue that holds a illustrious bitterness and an aroma that reaches out to your nose from an arm’s length. Marshall says “Our goal was to use as many different hops as we could.” Make no mistake, this joyous recipe, as the name indicates, is built to thrive.
14. Double Mountain Killer Green – A perennial favorite amongst lovers of fresh hop flavor, Double Mountain Brewery of Hood River, Oregon repeatedly draws high praise for their harvest season release known simply as Killer Green. Vaporous and dank quantities of freshly picked Brewer’s Gold hops from Sodbuster Farms are the key ingredient in this tenacious late summer release. A toffee-like malt spine lies a hearty IPA base in this orange-ish dandy. If you are ever so fortunate to make it to Hood River’s Fresh Hop Festival, than make sure to get your paws on some Killer Green. You deserve it!
13. Ice Harbor Fresh Hop IPA – You might expect to only find great wine around Tri-Cities in Eastern Washington, but there is one brewery that rises head and shoulders above the rest, and if it existed in Portland or Seattle would be a top contender for best brewery in those world class craft beer markets. Ice Harbor Brewing of Kennewick produces some of the nation’s best beers, and their Fresh Hop IPA is a marvel to behold, if you can get any. Arriving during the late summer and early autumn months, this beer took home first place in the 2011 Yakima Fresh Hop Festival. To be considered #1 in the #1 hop growing region in North America says something, right?! “In addition to traditional kettle hopping and dry hopping, this Fresh hop beer was made using mash hopping, first wort hopping and a hop back. Twelve pounds of fresh Amarillo and Centennial hops per keg give this IPA an explosion of fresh hop flavor.”
12. Russian River Pliny the Elder – To call yourself a hop head is to pursue this internationally touted and highly sought after Imperial India Pale Ale from Santa Rosa, California’s Russian River Brewing Co. The hops are of the intense high alpha variety and include Amarillos, Centennials, CTZs, and Simcoes. But unlike many other big IPAs utilizing any combination of these varietals, Pliny’s deceptively pale body possesses various methods of hop infusion such as hopbacking, dry-hopping, and yes, hop extractions. And though the popularity and hype of this storied ale may precede the lovely liquid itself, it is undeniable how well made the beer truly is. On the low end (8% ABV) for a Double IPA, what Pliny lacks in booziness and body, it certainly makes up for in its citrusy, resinous qualities.
11. Three Floyds Alpha King – With a name like Alpha King, how can this beer fail? Well, it can’t, doesn’t, and won’t. Hailing from Munster, Indiana, not far from Chicago, Three Floyds Brewing is known for producing greatly desirable geek-oriented brews for which much beer trading is pursued. An American pale ale with a deep amber hue, Alpha King features a devilish 6.66% ABV and 66 bittering units. Its intense citrus character and bold finish is obtained from the use of Centennial, Cascade, and Warrior hops. Asserting itself as a national classic, Alpha King has long been the benchmark for which other pioneering and champion India Pale Ales are measured. You won’t find it on the West Coast, but with our love for all things hops, don’t be surprised to see this change sometime soon.
10. Port Brewing Mongo – Oregonian’s know that a trip north or south across state lines is required to legally obtain a taste of Port Brewing‘s luminously hopped heavensend. Named for Columbus, a brewhouse cat at the San Diego brewery, Mongo is everything and more you’d hope for from a region where hoppy ales are king. Within a hazy yellow hue, the forefront of this beer’s character is, you guessed it, the sticky resinous flowers. Long and lingering notes of Columbus, Amarillo, Centennial, Simcoe, and Cascades punch through and leave an empty glass more odoriferous than most when full. A dry, malty mouthfeel balances out (to a degree) the 8.5% ABV that is so cleverly masked. Mongo is the kind of beer that you might want to sniff at for some time before delving into.
9. Firestone Walker Union Jack – When Firestone Walker elected to use the catch phrase “Passion for the Pale”, they were telling the truth. This double dry-hopped IPA has become a West Coast standard by which many others within the style might be measured. A beauteous grapefruit and citrus aroma is achieved through multi-leveled hopping that involves 4-pounds per barrel mix of Warrior, Simcoe, Cascade, Centennial, Amarillo, and Chinook. Union Jack and its bigger and bolder brother Double Jack IIPA are glorious examples of the care and attention that the Paso Robles, California brewery takes in each batch. If you haven’t had one lately, rediscover the Jack today!
8. Stone Ruination – Known widely for their high-alpha, and robust offerings, Escondido, California’s Stone Brewing Co.’s Ruination IPA is undoubtedly a top choice when considering flamboyantly hopped brews. Trailblazing the Double IPA category when many other champion hoppy brewers where still in their infancy, Stone presents a luxuriously vibrant and unmistakably bitter year-round release in this selection. Since 2002, Ruination has been piquing the interest of hop heads worldwide. It’s 7.7% ABV malty underpinning marries with more than 100 IBUs of Columbus and Centennial hops. Recent draught-only renditions of the beer have featured addition dry-hoppings of aromatic varietals such as Calypso and Citra to give those who can’t get enough lupulin just a little more oomph.
7. Victory Prima Pils – You might not expect to find a pilsner on this list of divine hoppy brews, but we would be remiss to exclude one of the greatest liquid treats of our time in Victory Brewing‘s Prima Pils. With boatloads of divine hops, the secret to this beer is in striking a distinct balance in the hops and steering from unleashing too much grassiness of skunkiness exhibited in many overly hopped American-brewed pilsners. Victory brewmaster Ron Barchet says “Prima is a term used in Germany to mean ‘excitingly good’ literally. Generally when you taste a Prima Pils, you are going to have this exclamation of joy.” Barchet and fellow Victory brewmaster Bill Coveleski traveled throughout Germany in the late 80’s in search of the perfect recipe. With Prima, they found it. A New York Times wine critic Eric Asimov dubbed this beer as the best Pilsner in the world. Big words that the 5.3% pale lager backs with 2-row German pale malt and German and Czech whole hops. The beer is bolstered by a double hopping of Saaz hops and then with Northern Brewer hops from Germany.
6. Bear Republic Race 5 – When contemplating the perfect IPA to grace our keggerator, thoughts of Bear Republic‘s Racer 5 IPA continue to come to mind. This American IPA is the quintessential ideal for balance and complexity when it comes to the style. It is a full bodied beer brewed American pale and crystalmalts, and heavily hopped with Chinook, Cascade, Columbus and Centennial giving it more than 75 IBUs. It’s hard to believe that Racer 5 weighs in at 7% ABV when considering its outstanding drinkability. The Healdsburg, California brewery makes a lineup of excellent beer available widely across the West Coast, so you shouldn’t have much difficulty in sourcing a taste for yourself. Like the brewery says “There’s a trophy in every glass.”
5. Fremont Interurban – Redefining the session beer is what innovative Northwest brewers are all about. 6.2% may seem a bit bold for a repeatable brew, but Seattle’s Fremont Brewing has struck liquid gold with their exceptionally refreshing IPA. Named for the Fremont district’s most famous interactive outdoor sculpture, Waiting for the Interurban, this year round offering begins with a simple 2-Row, Munich and Honey malts spine and metamorphoses into a world class India Pale through additions of Chinook, Centennial and the modern day marvel that is Amarillo hops. No trip to the Emerald City is complete without a quaff of this pleasantly palatable pour.
4. Georgetown Lucille – When most people in the Pacific Northwest think of Seattle’s Georgetown Brewing, the first beer that often comes to mind is their flagship Manny’s Pale Ale, a beautifully balanced pale ale that you can find about as readily as Mac & Jack’s African Amber, but since 2010, Lucille IPA has been shaking up palates and putting a definitive stamp on the brewery’s prowess. A simple crisp canvas of 2-row Pale, Caramel, and Cara-pilsner malt and English Ale yeast lay it down for the stars of the show: Columbus, Centennial, Amarillo, and Cascade hops. At 6.8% ABV, a wallop of 85 IBU cuts across with a confluence of bitterness and bright aromatics to exemplify just how great it is to live in these times.
3. Hopworks Organic Ace of Spades – Winning a gold medal at the 2009 Great American Beer Festival isn’t the only reason to try this phenomenal Imperial IPA from Portland’s Hopworks Urban Brewery, but it should be some indication to you just how killer it truly is. The annually released beast, available in 22-ounce bottles and on tap, serves up a boisterous 9.5% ABV and 100 IBU. A tribute to Motorhead frontman Lemmy Kilmister, the beer rocks equally as hard. Ace prominently features Amarillo, Cascade and Centennial hops, which the brewery say is added at every point of the brewing process: mash tun, first wort, kettle, and dry hop. All of the hoppy green goodness results in a beer with a huge citrus hop aroma, flavor and deep, clean bitterness. One of the finest hoppy treasures of all time, but don’t take our word for it, go snag yourself one when you can.
2. Boneyard Hop Venom – Hailing from Bend, Oregon, arguably the nation’s most enticing craft beer town (with more than ten breweries to date), Boneyard Beer is making great strides in infusing hop flavor in their sought after goods. A truly West Coast style IPA, Venom bites at the perception of what humulus lupulin can do for you. In a blind side-by-side comparison, we found Hop Venom to best even the most hyped imperial IPAs of our time. According to the brewery, brewmaster Tony Lawrence was inspired by the awesomeness of Firestone Walker’s Double Jack IIPA. As the brewery points out “No one wants bitter beer face” and the 10% ABV of Venom is well concealed betwixt 80 IBU of myriad hops. Not sparing any malt girth, this gem of a beer runs the gamut from essential balancing bitterness to bright aromatic lusciousness. If you find this beer near you, don’t make the mistake of passing it up.
1. Sierra Nevada Hoptimum – If there was ever any doubt about the aptitude of one of America’s pioneer craft brewers from Chico, California, it should be put to rest with the return of this prestigious Imperial India Pale Ale. A top offering at Saraveza’s IIPA Fest, Hoptimum is a 100 IBU, 10.4% ABV portrait of the majestic properties that bold and multifaceted hopping can accomplish. Using a resinous and innovative proprietary blend of bright whole cone hops, Hoptimum brings notes of grapefruit, flowers, and tropical fruits into the light in a way no other beer can. SN’s California Ale Yeast lays out a canvas for multi-tiered infusions to do their thing. Simcoe, Citra, and Chinook meld from a big bittering base right through until the finishing torpedo is launched. 2-Row Pale, Golden Promise, Munich and a bit of Wheat Malt allow for more complexity than most are accustomed to in such a big India Pale. And it’s not just this beer that sets Sierra Nevada apart from the pack. Don’t pass up on snagging a tallboy of their Torpedo IPA, on shelves all over Beervana.