Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Top 10 IPAs

In celebration of the four or five different IPAs sitting in my fridge waiting to be consumed and reviewed, the following is a list of my top ten IPAs. And I love IPAs, so some of these are in the tops for my all time beer lists.

*** Special Consideration: Surly Furious, Oscar's Blues Gordon, Central Waters Glacial Trail - all three are great and probably deserve to be on the list, but for various reasons they often don't make the cut when I'm staring at the beer cooler. Surly isn't in my cooler, it's only available in Minnesota; Gordon is often just too pricey for my budget; and the Glacial Trail, well, if I were making this list in the fall when the darker malts seem, I don't know, more appropriate, it probably would have made my top 10.

10. Urthel Hop-It - big and syrupy and incredibly hoppy but surprisingly medium-light bodied; this beer is all about the hops, with nary a nod at balance

9. Two Brothers Heavy Handed - I love that each batch is numbered with a focus on different hops for each batch; last year alone saw: US Tettenang, Baby Cascade, Columbus-West Field, Galena, Centennial, Columbus-East Field

8. Great Lake Commodore Perry - being from Cleveland this beer holds a special place in my heart; I have had more of this out of plastic cups at hole-in-the-wall bars around Cleveland than almost any other beer

7. Dark Horse Crooked Tree - a nice, different, take on the IPA that is really very well-balanced; the Double Crooked Tree is a hop bomb of a whole 'nother level

6. Tyranena Bitter Woman IPA - as good of an everyday kind of beer as you're going to find on this list; it's perfectly balanced, and while it's progeny (bitter woman from hell, scurvy, hop whore, stickin' it to the man) are all great, this is the original and supremely drinkable

5. Avery Maharaja - a perfectly crafted IPA; well-balanced with a slightly darker malt profile than many, the malt and hop complexity are top-notch

4. Bear Republic Hop Rod Rye - similar to the Maharaja, but has 20% rye in the grain bill (and we all know how much I like rye)

3. Stone IPA - with all of its hops, it has a great malt body and surprisingly dry and clean; it is exactly what I imagine when I imagine IPAs.

2. Dogfish Head 120 - this beer holds a special place in my heart as one of the first "come to the light" craft beers that I truly remembered; hoppy and sweet and alcoholic it is a big beer in a lot of ways; moreover, served chilled in a champagne flute, it isn't nearly as cloyingly syrupy as it is when it warms up and loses some of its carbonation.

1. Stone Ruination - like the 120, it's a love-it or hate-it beer; if you have one, you can't drink anything else for the rest of the evening; it's an all-out assault on the palatte with huge hop complexity and a surprisingly strong malt presence; but have no doubts, this beer is all about the hops; just smelling this beer makes my head spin

So there you have it. I'm sure your list is very different from mine, but these are my favorites and I've had a lot of IPAs.


  1. I know you don't like the fact that Bell's is on tap everywhere, but for my money Two Hearted and Hopslam are the best of the best. Recently the Bear Republic Racer 5 and Ale Asylum Balistic caught my attention as well.
    I've never had the Urthel, Magaraja or Hop Rod Rye, I'll have to look into those.

  2. Yeah, Two Hearted and Hopslam are excellent as well. You like Bells, I like Stone - tomato, tomato.

    I haven't spent enough time with the Ballistic yet for it to be on the Top 10. I have a six of it in the fridge for the reviews that are coming up and I've had one or two of them. I really like it, but it's pretty big and I need some time with it.

  3. I think this list should be only IPAs - you've got three imperials on here and though the two styles are linked, they're different beers. Imperials are about the extreme alcohol content and hop usage, whereas some IPAs are well balanced between bitter and sweet.

  4. Good point Seth. Though, honestly, the "special considerations" would all move on to the list and the three IIPAs would move off.

    I tend to link the two together, only because the range of IIPAs is anything from "big IPA" (Ruination) to something like 120 or Hop-It or Existential (New Holland). But you're right, in most cases IIPAs are an entirely separate beast altogether.

  5. I agree with the adding the missing Bell's choices, and I have to wonder where our local heroes are, like Ale Asylum and especially the New Glarus IPA. The NG IPA is, IMO, soooo nice to drink and is my favorite New Glarus beer. I was surprised it didn't make the list or even the discussion...

  6. A little surprised that Founder's Harvest Ale didn't make even a special consideration. It's not merely in the number 1 position on my top ten, but has extended its lead with repeated drinkings.

  7. Just found your blog so I'm posting on this older topic. Have you never had a Pliny the Elder from Russian River? It's a must try beer and would bump the Ruination from #1 and the Urthel from the list.

    Other than the the omission of Pliny, the list is great. Well rounded selection of IPA's and IIPA's. Not too fond of the 120 myself but it can't be ignored.

  8. I have not had the Pliny the Elder, which is, obviously, why it didn't (couldn't) make the list. I'd love to give it a shot, but it's not available here in Wisconsin. Do you know if it's available in Chicago?


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