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CRAFTR's Top IPA's

When craft beer began taking off and the first popular IPAs (India Pale Ales) started coming out, it may have looked like just another fad that would fade away over time. Quite the opposite has happened since craft breweries like Harpoon in Boston released their first IPA efforts in the early 1990s. According to Craft Brewing Business, today IPAs are the most popular craft beer choice and the style shows no signs of losing popularity.

To create our list of the Top 10 IPAs in America, we combined the results of the gold medal winners in IPA categories from the 2016 Great American Beer Festival (GABF) and the top IPAs in the 2017 Zymurgy Best Beers in America Reader’s Poll and sorted them alphabetically. In the following list, IBU stands for International Bitterness Units and ABV% is the percentage of Alcohol by Volume.

Two Hearted Ale , Bell’s Brewing, Comstock, MI – (Zymurgy #1): This legendary American IPA is brewed exclusively with Centennial hops, and has 7% ABV and 55 IBUs. The massive hop additions in the brew kettle as well as dry-hopping in the fermenter, bring out the pine and grapefruit aromas. Bell’s says, “Perfectly balanced with a malt backbone and combined with the signature fruity aromas of Bell's house yeast, this beer is remarkably drinkable and well suited for adventures everywhere.” This is the first year that Two Hearted Ale has beaten Pliny the Elder in the annual Zymurgy Reader’s Poll, so that should be a signal from the Beer Gods to try it if you haven’t already.

bells two hearted ale

Trump Hands , Cannonball Creek Brewing, Golden, CO – (GABF - Session IPA): A gold medal beer with a hysterical name is definitely worth trying for the fun of it and for the experience of enjoying an awesome brew. Trump Hands will greet you with 4.6 ABV, although the IBUs value seems to be elusive. Comments on the beer from UnTappd include “Really fruity and hoppy but so light and crisp. A great session beer, “Light body, malt profile tends to dominate, but it’s flavorful for a session, citrus, lemon.”

trump hands ipa cannonball creek

Sculpin IPA , Ballast Point Brewing, San Diego, CA – (Zymurgy #10): Two big things that make this IPA unique and worth trying are the fact that it is hopped at 5 different stages in the brewing process and it has won over 29 medals in competitions around the world since 2007. Sculpin IPA has 70 IBUs and 7% ABV. The brewery says to look for hints of peach, mango, apricot and lemon flavors. They add that it packs a bit of a hoppy sting like the Sculpin fish for which it is named.

Sculpin IPA, Ballast Point Brewing, San Diego, CA

PSB Session IPL , Perry Street Brewing, Spokane, WA – (GABF - Session Beer): According to UnTappd, this beer has 55 IBUs and 4.5% ABV, so it should be a smooth IPA experience that can be enjoyed over and over. IPL stands for India Pale Lager, a beer fermented at cooler temperatures with lager yeast which gives distinctive lager characteristics, as opposed to an ale fermented at warmer temperatures. Lager yeast brings out more hop and malt character in the beer, so sit down and do a side by side test with PSB’s IPA and a traditional ale IPA and see if you can pick out the differences.

PSB Session IPL, Perry Street Brewing, Spokane, WA

Pliny the Elder , Russian River Brewing, Santa Rosa, CA – (Zymurgy #2): Pliny has been #1 on the Zymurgy Reader’s Poll for years but he was dethroned this year by Bell’s Two Hearted Ale. The beer has 8% ABV and about 100 IBUs. The brewery describes the Pliny experience this way: “Pliny the Elder is brewed with Amarillo, Centennial, CTZ, and Simcoe hops. It is well-balanced with malt, hops, and alcohol, slightly bitter with a fresh hop aroma of floral, citrus, and pine. Best enjoyed FRESH!

Pliny the Elder, Russian River Brewing, Santa Rosa, CA

Paradocs , Raised Grain Brewing, Waukesha, WI – (GABF - Imperial Red Ale): This winning beer has 8.7% ABV and 80 IBUs and was the first beer Raised Grain ever brewed. The brewery says it is “a full-bodied beer with a bright hop aroma and initial caramel notes that are enlightened by a slightly citrus, acidic finish.” Visit their website and check out the color of Paradocs. Very appealing.

Paradocs, Raised Grain Brewing, Waukesha, WI

Melvin IPA , Melvin Brewing, Jackson, WY – (GABF Fresh or Wet Hop Ale): Melvin IPA wants to have a relationship with you, but don’t take any liberties. The brewery says you and Melvin IPA could have “the hoppiest relationship you could ask for...hold my hand?” This IPA is fruity but not bitter and has 7.5% ABV and 80 IBUs.


Humulus Insani , Überbrew, Billings, MT – (GABF Imperial IPA): Humulus Insani is an American Double / Imperial IPA with 8.5% ABV and it has a challenging 100 IBUs. There are no beer descriptions on the Überbrew website, but some comments on UnTappd include “Filthy dirty milky murky grapefruit swamp water. Absolutely amazing this go round,” and “Like drinking grapefruit juice but much better.” Untapped also details “Insane Hops. Seven hop additions (Mash hops, three kettle additions, two Fermentor dry hop additions and one in the bright tank) including Chinook, Simcoe and Citra.”


Hopslam , Bell’s Brewing, Comstock, MI – (Zymurgy #5): The legendary Hopslam is a seasonal ale from Bell’s (January-February) with 10% ABV and 70 IBUs. It features hops from the Pacific Northwest because of the blend of grapefruit, stone fruit and floral notes they give to the aroma. Bell’s says, “Starting with six different hop varietals added to the brew kettle & culminating with a massive dry-hop addition of Simcoe hops, Bell's Hopslam Ale possesses the most complex hopping schedule in the Bell's repertoire.”


Heady Topper , The Alchemist Brewing, Waterbury, VT – (Zymurgy #6): These guys don’t have beer descriptions on their website, but according to Beer Advocate, their Heady Topper American Double/Imperial IPA has 75 IBUs and 8% ABV (also scores 100 with over 13,000 reviews). Some of the comments on Beer Advocate are “very hop forward,” “hoppy, fruity, grapefruit, exotic fruits” in the aroma and “not harsh or bitter.”


Gatecrasher , Temperance Beer Company, Evanston, IL – (GABF - English IPA): Gatecrasher is an English IPA that is available year-round from Temperance. It has 6.6% ABV and 66 BIUs. The brewery has quite a humanized description of it, “Gatecrasher gets into the sold-out show without a ticket. It doesn’t have to shout for people to listen. It arrives fashionably late but closes the place down.”


Fresh Squeezed IPA , Deschutes Brewery, Bend, OR – (Zymurgy #8 [tied]): This beer is part of Deschutes Bond Street Series and is hopped with Citra, Mosaic and Nugget. It has 6.4% ABV and 60 IBUs. The brewery describes the beer this way:” A juicy citrus and grapefruit flavor profile. As if fresh Citra and Mosaic hops were squeezed straight into the bottle.”


Celebration , Sierra Nevada Brewing, Fletcher, NC – (Zymurgy #8 [tied]): This is actually one of Sierra Nevada’s seasonals, commemorating the first hop harvest each year. It is an American IPA which Founders says was one of the country’s first ever made back in 1981. Enjoy this historic IPA that has fresh Chinook, Centennial and Cascade hops along with 6.8% alcohol and 65 IBUs.


Bodhizafa IPA , Georgetown Brewing, Seattle, WA – (GABF - American IPA): This IPA is made with rolled oats which gives the beer a silky texture. Sufficient hopping with Chinook, Citra, Mosaic and Columbus hops give is 80 IBUs and it has an ABV of almost 7%. The brewery describes the flavor and aroma coming through as mandarin and citrus.


All Day IPA , Founders Brewing, Grand Rapids, MI – (Zymurgy #13): This Session IPA has been one of Founder’s signature beers for many years. It has 4.5% ABV and at 42 IBUs it won’t leave your tongue numb. Founders says, “The perfect reward for an honest day’s work and the ultimate companion to celebrate life’s simple pleasures.”


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