The Best IPAs of 2019

December 16, 2019

By October Staff, December 16, 2019

Another year, another boatload of IPAs.

Over the span of 2019, we tasted dozens of hazies and hop-bombs, some of which bore little resemblance to one another. You could argue that the term “IPA” doesn’t even mean anything anymore, considering that the category now includes a broad swath of beers appended with qualifiers from Brut to Brett, clear to cloudy, fruit-forward to double-dry-hopped. As Anthony Gladman wrote in January, “The name no longer connected back to the ur-IPA, conceived in London and birthed in Burton. Instead it referred to something more nebulous, a shared hop-forward nature.”

But you could also argue that the loose definition of “IPA” has only energized creative brewers to push the boundaries of the style and devise new subgenres along the way. (Brut IPA, in particular, is one such successful example.) And perhaps it’s the constantly evolving taxonomy of the IPA family—and our evolving expectation of what a good IPA should taste like—that makes the category so exciting.

Below, you'll find our very favorite IPAs of 2019.

The Top 10 of 2019

Fair State and Modern Times’ Spirit Foul

Fair State Brewing Cooperative’s collaboration with San Diego’s Modern Times resulted in not only one of the coolest can designs we’ve seen recently, but also a beautifully balanced and near-perfect IPA. Jerard Fagerberg notes, “The New England-style IPA trend may calcify and fade, and drinkers may move on to new innovations, but Spirit Foul will remain as an emblem of the greatness the style can achieve.”

Tree House Lights Out Pale Ale

OK, we’re cheating here by including Lights Out, which is technically a pale ale, not an IPA. But if you like Tree House’s famously killer IPAs, you’ll understand why we had to mention this pale ale, which is bursting with fruity hop notes like your favorite IPA. “Think about the most citrus-forward IPA you’ve ever had, then double the fruit and halve the bitterness. That’s Lights Out,” says Tucker Anders.

Lamplighter Brewing Co.’s Rabbit Rabbit

“This is as close to the ideal NE IPA as you can get outside of Vermont,” writes Jerard Fagerberg of Lamplighter’s double-hopped double IPA. “Lamplighter’s flagship sails on an ocean of juice,” he adds of Rabbit Rabbit’s irresistible citrusy notes of tangerine and grapefruit.

Toppling Goliath Hopsmack

Many beer die-hards believe that King Sue, named after a famed T. rex skeleton, is Toppling Goliath’s best double IPA. Not so, says Tucker Anders. “For my money, King Sue isn’t Toppling Goliath’s best double IPA. That distinction belongs to Hopsmack!, a tropical hop bomb that delivers big fruit and doesn’t neglect the bitterness necessary to balance it out.”

Crooked Stave Trellis Buster

Tucker Anders says it all when he writes, "Crooked Stave’s Trellis Buster is everything I want in an IPA." The Denver-based brewery is better known for its sours, but it hit all the right notes with Trellis Buster. "A hazy IPA boasting a more traditional IPA flavor profile with the tropical fruit hiding underneath is quite the combo."

Bearded Iris DDH Ever Clever

"Double Dry-Hopped Ever Clever is a great example of why dry-hopped, hazy IPAs have captivated the craft beer community," writes Tucker Anders of this juicy brew amped up with an additional dose of Simcoe, Mosaic, Motueka, and Centennial hops.

Toppling Goliath’s Golden Nugget

This one’s for the haze skeptics. “What separates Golden Nugget from other hazy IPAs is how that haze holds the light and accentuates the color of the beer. It’s cloudy, but not turbid, and could never be mistaken for a glass of orange juice,” says Tucker Anders. “It packs the citrus and tropical fruit flavors as well as aromas typically reserved for the most sought after hazy IPAs, all without neglecting the bitterness and balancing all that sweetness.”

Bell's Double Two Hearted

Two is better than one, right? The double IPA version of Bell’s beloved Two Hearted, “this is a case where doubling down on a classic turns out exactly right,” says Tucker Anders. “The fact it isn’t wildly different from the classic makes it all the more appealing considering the standard’s well-earned reputation.”

Zero Gravity Conehead

If you want a solid example of the hazy IPA style, look no further. "The flavors of Conehead are bright, bold, and juicy," writes Jesse Bussard. She adds, "One word: Amazing. I really don’t think you can go wrong with a beer hopped with 100% Citra hops."

Firestone Walker’s Easy Jack IPA

It may only clock in at 4.5% ABV, but Firestone Walker’s Easy Jack has the depth of flavor and character of a much stronger beer. “Grapefruit, lemon, and orange mix with sappy pine and honey-like malt to create a complex balance between sweet, bitter, bright, and deep,” writes Tucker Anders. “Easy Jack has way more flavor and complexity than any 4.5% ABV beer should be able to achieve, striking the perfect compromise between flavor punch and drinkability.

Our Other Favorites of 2019

Modern Times' Space Ways

“Riffing on a popular style by adding new layers of flavor is a solid recipe for success, and Modern Times absolutely capitalizes on that with Space Ways,” writes Tucker Anders. “The heavy reliance on the seldom-used Nelson hop brings an entirely new flavor profile that is totally unexpected from other hazies.”

Untitled Art and Mikerphone DDH Juicy IPA

“Taking the first sip, only one thought enters my mind: I wish I had bought more,” says Tucker Anders of this juicy AF IPA. “Where most hazy IPAs are a do-it-yourselfer with a hammer looking for a nail, Juicy IPA Version 4 is a carpenter quietly plying his trade. The distinctive flavor profile lead by melon combines perfectly with the mellow mouthfeel to create a beer I haven’t come across much lately—a unique hazy IPA.”

Cigar City Tocobaga

Tired of all the haze? Cigar City's red IPA Tocobaga is for you. "The aroma leads the drinker to guess that they’ll find comforting malty flavors of caramel and biscuit—and you do—but then the IPA qualities reveal themselves in a hoppy finish," writes Tom Thornton.

DuClaw Brewing Co. Strawberry Letter 23

DuClaw bills Strawberry Letter 23 as an IPA, but Jesse Bussard thinks it isn't easy to categorize. "The Baltimore-based brewery blurs the lines between multiple styles, creating a beer that is neither IPA, sour ale, nor fruit beer, but something entirely original," she writes, adding, "Strawberry Letter 23 is ridiculously good." 

Stone Brewing Co. and Aviation Gin's Liquid Compass

Stone’s collab with Aviation might surprise some, especially when it results in a botanical-forward DIPA that’s only on tap at Yard House. But those gin flavors of juniper and citrus play beautifully with some malty sweetness. “The combination of flavors is lively and refreshing—and rather easy to drink quickly,” writes Tom Thornton. “For an 8.5% double IPA, this drinks less like a oddball collaboration, and more like a crowd-pleasing brew that fans of many styles will enjoy.

Bell’s Brewery Official

With bold tropical aromas and a lot of haze, Bell’s Official is a “porch-pounding crowdpleaser,” writes Tom Thornton. “Bell's Official attempts to be many things to many audiences here, and the brewery has very nearly pulled it off,” he adds. “Ballparks, outdoor bars, and convenience stores should probably load up on Official—it's easy to like, and many drinkers will make it a fridge staple.”

Nightmare Exposure

Nightmare’s intensely morbid can art might make you think Exposure is an IPA for only the most hardcore beer drinkers, but that’s hardly the case—even if it does pack a wallop. As Tucker Anders notes, “Despite the laughable 10.1% ABV, the hops somehow overshadow the booziness, and were it not for the thick mouthfeel you might even forget about it altogether—until you finish the can and try to maintain normal functions.”

North Coast Brewing Co.’s Steller IPA

Food-friendly and sessionable, North Coast’s Steller IPA drinks more like a bold pilsner than some of the zanier IPAs now on the market. As our reviewer Tom Thornton notes, “There are no gimmicks here, but rather a subtle and balanced IPA that leans just a touch toward sweet.”

Crooked Stave's Hazy IPA

Crooked Stave is better known for its stellar sours, but this hazy IPA proves the brewery has many tricks up its sleeve. “Talk about a unique take on a hazy IPA. The amazing aroma and appearance boost the overall rating tremendously, with the aroma in particular pulling more than its fair share of weight,” marvels Tucker Anders.”

Sierra Nevada's Hop Bullet

If you want hops, this is it. “Aggressively bitter and ostentatiously boozy, Hop Bullet takes no prisoners in reasserting hop bitterness,” writes Jerard Fagerberg. “Its peers on the East Coast should take notice.”

Defiance Twisted Logik

“In a world dominated by IPAs—both hazy and clear—it can be hard to stand out, but when an IPA brings distinct and unique fruity flavor like Twisted Logik, it does just that,” declares Tucker Anders. “The stone fruit flavor makes me wonder if Defiance uses a hefty dose of Mosaic hops in Twisted Logik, but whatever the hop blend, it makes for a tasty brew.”

Alvarado Street Contains No Juice

“Hands down, this is probably one of the best hazy double IPAs I’ve had,” declares Jess Bussard. “It’s ironic, but the juiciness factor is undeniable when drinking Contains No Juice. Its hop and malt combo work together to create a tropical explosion on the nose and palate paired with a fluffy mouthfeel that brings it all together.”

Lord Hobo 617

"Named for the Title Town area code, 617 is an in-your-face juicebox beer that, despite any feelings you may have about the region's sports teams or its beer, you’ve just gotta respect," writes Jerard Fagerberg. "Year after year, you can count on two things: juicy haze bombs and Boston championships."

New Belgium’s Brut IPA

Somewhat skeptical of the Brut IPA trend, Tucker Anders was prepared to be unimpressed by this offering from New Belgium. As it turns out, he was wrong: “New Belgium clearly understood what makes the style so appealing. It’s dry, but not too totally void of sweetness. It’s hoppy, but with the right balance of flavor and bitterness. Add in the bubbly effervescence and grocery store-sixer price tag, it turns out the only bad things about New Belgium’s Brut IPA were my preconceived notions.”

pFriem's IPA

“In a world of hazy IPAs, it’s hard to not notice how beautifully clear this particular IPA is,” notes Jesse Bussard. “Hands down, this is a solid, well-balanced IPA that should make just about any hophead happy.”

Oddside Shamone

Questionable name aside, Oddside's IPA Shamone "proves that you can break all the rules and have a damn good time doing it," writes Jerard Fagerberg. "A well-made kettle sour will make your palate sweat like you’ve just eaten a pack of Starburst in a single sitting. A well-made hazy IPA will slick your cheeks with fresh juice. Shamone manages to do both."

Maplewood's Son of Juice

“With the number of hazy IPAs out there increasing by the hour, it’s difficult to stand out from the crowd,” writes Jesse Bussard. “Maplewood overcomes this barrier with Son of Juice and its surplus of juicy, tropical flavors.”

Anchor Brewing Company San Franpsycho IPA

Anchor Brewing is hardly a factory for juicy haze-bombs, but it got everything right with its San Franpsycho IPA. "Not your typical IPA, San Franpsycho showcases a juicy, sweet bready malt flavor blended with robust notes of mango and peach from the fruit purees added during secondary fermentation," writes Jesse Bussard.

Threes Brewing Logical Conclusion IPA

"While a lot of brewers are switching things up with new, trendy hop varieties in their NEIPAs, Threes Brewing was able to produce a phenomenal hazy IPA using tried-and-true hops like Citra, Simcoe, and Mosaic," writes Jesse Bussard. 

Coronado Weekend Vibes

“While bitter—60 IBU is nothing to scoff at—Weekend Vibes’ goal is to keep you drinking,” writes Jerard Fagerberg of this quaffable IPA. “Long days on the links call for something juicy and fun. A verdant can of sunshine that will propel you from tee to tee. Next time you head out, shove a four pack of Weekend Vibes into your bag.”

Dogfish Head Slightly Mighty IPA

While Dogfish Head's low-calorie IPA Slightly Mighty didn't score quite as high as the others on this list, we're including it because it manages to pack tons of flavor without the carbs of a typical IPA. "If I want a hoppy beer when calories or carbs are a chief concern, this is the beer I’ll grab," says Tucker Anders.

Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.’s Resilience Butte County Proud IPA

Sierra Nevada made headlines when it announced that is would brew a beer in partnership with hundreds of other breweries that would benefit the victims of the Camp Fire wildfire in California. Our reviewer Nathan Matisse—who claims to not be a hop-head—tried two versions of the beer made by Austin breweries, and he was won over: “Resilience IPA had the perfect amount of hops for my palate. It’s slightly bitter, but each sip proves quite clean with a quick impact on the tongue and very little lingering aftertaste.”

ZX Ventures, a division within AB InBev, is an investor in October
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