The beer world likes its made-up holidays. (There are two this week, in fact). But the IPA is a cause worth celebrating.
Lagers are the nation’s most popular beer, thanks to sales of Budweiser, Coors, and Miller (and, of course, the many craft offerings). But IPAs are the industry workhorse. They’re a must-have for any brewery and they’re the top seller for many brands. And they continue to grow.
Last year, dollar sales of Lagunitas IPA were up 2.1%, while Founder’s All Day IPA saw a 15.3% jump, according to market research firm IRI. And Bart Watson, staff economist at the Brewers Association, says the American IPA style is the primary driver of growth in the craft beer industry.
IPAs weren’t showing any signs of slowing popularity, but they’ve gotten a renewed push in the past year or so, as hazy New England-style IPAs have spread in popularity. As of May 20, that very narrow offshoot of the category has claimed 1.4% of all craft beer dollar sales. That’s more than the entire pilsner style.
The good news for those who plan to celebrate National IPA Day is there are seemingly limitless options. It’s hard to escape the hop heavy beers, whether you’re at the store, bar, or restaurant. But if you’re a little overwhelmed by the selection, here are a few worth seeking out.
Yep, it’s a whale —a beer that’s damned near impossible to find if you’re not near the brewer, but if you’ve got access to one, today’s the day to crack it open. Drink from the can to inhale additional hops before the beer hits your tongue, prepping your palate for what’s to come—an explosion of citrus and delicious bitterness But it’s one of the most well-balanced beers you’ll come across and has a perfectly clean finish.
An absolutely fantastic blend of citrus, pine, and spice, this California IPA has a hoppy tang to it that’s incredibly fresh. The flavors hit one at a time, resulting in a very layered beer that’s quite refreshing. It finishes with a creamy hint of bitterness that leaves you wanting more.
Ballast Point Sculpin
Widely available, this IPA is hop heavy, but that’s muted with hints of apricot, pineapple, and peach. It’s light-bodied, with a piney scent and just the right amount of bitterness (a slight, initial bite, but not overwhelming).
Firestone Walker Easy Jack
Remarkably crisp with pronounced orange flavors accompanying the hops, this is a refreshing Session IPA (meaning lower alcohol volume) that you shouldn’t miss if you get the opportunity. It’s a full-flavored beer that’s not overly heavy—and one that retains the resin-like qualities of heftier IPAs.
Melvin Brewing Chuck Morris
A well-made double IPA with a strong pine flavor and Chinook hops, Melvin is a master of the IPA style.
NoDa Hop Drop ‘N Roll
The winner of the 2014 World Beer Cup Gold Medal, this is one you want to put on your beer bucket list. It’s filled with a citrus-y, hopsy flavor that explodes on your tongue and a nice piney finish.
Hops & Grain’s A Pale Mosaic
Hops & Grain is one of the most underrated breweries in Austin, consistently putting out incredibly nuanced beers. A Pale Mosaic deftly balances the hops and malt and finishes with a trifecta of dry hops. It’s a pale ale with a piney taste, but not one that’s overwhelming. And it finishes remarkably clean.
Wicked Weed Brewing Pernicious
Some beer lovers take issue with this, since Wicked Weed is now owned by AB InBev, but Pernicious is still an absolutely incredible IPA. With the distinctive taste of Mosaic leading the charge, there are also hints of mango and pine. It used to be near impossible to find, but now is widely available.
Great Notion Juice Jr.
As the name implies, this IPA is a juicy take on the style. It’s a hazy, medium bodied offering that explodes in your mouth. Great Notion was rightfully named as the maker of the best IPA in the country by Paste Magazine recently. Finding that style (Brewing Ripe) will be hard, even for people at the Portland tap room, but any of the brewer’s offerings are worth your time.