When we began this list in mid-March, we surprised even ourselves at how many downright fantastic IPAs we'd tried so far in 2019. Now that it's mid-June, we've updated this list with yet another bevy of standout IPAs from hazy to straight hoppy, and several of which that even cross over into sour territory.
Now, 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 are some of our favorites of 2019 to date, a list we’ll keep on updating as we keep on tasting.
"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.
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 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."
"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 Fagenberg. "Year after year, you can count on two things: juicy haze bombs and Boston championships."
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."
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."
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.
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.
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."
"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.
“This is as close to the ideal NE IPA as you can get outside of Vermont,” writes Jerard Fagenberg 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.
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.”
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.”
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.”
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.”
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 Fagenberg 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.”
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.
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.”
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.”