August 7th. IPA Day. On the scale of holidays, ranging from say Arbor Day to Christmas, this one ranks up there with Thanksgiving, at least for me personally. It’s the one day of the year, where it’s okay to wake up and crack open a hoppy Lagunitas, then have a Torpedo for lunch. Who am I kidding, for some of us, everyday is IPA Day. In that spirit, we’ve polled our beer writers and asked them to wax poetically about their own personal favorite IPA. Here, in no particular order, are the results.
Lazy Magnolia stands out from a lot of Southeastern breweries for how it incorporates traditional regional flavors into flavorful, no gimmick beers—there’s a sweet potato stout, a pecan brown ale (which alternatively comes bourbon barrel-aged), a honeysuckle-infused Belgian…But if you want to really appreciate Lazy Magnolia’s craft, note the excellence behind their traditional offerings like Southern Hops’pitality, its IPA. It’s a style that’s not particularly common (and when done, often a little disappointing) in the area, but Hops’pitality has a wonderfully dry, hoppy taste that’s sandwiched by a grapefruit-orange citrus scent and finish. For locals, it’s the one IPA worth reaching for even in the summer heat; for a visitor, it’s the one that’ll make you question whether all good IPAs do come from the west. -Nathan Mattise
When I first arrived in Decatur, Ga., in May, I did what most 24-year-old beer enthusiasts would do. I checked out the local bar scene. My final stop was Twain’s Brewpub & Billiards, and it’s been a favorite hangout ever since. I’m fairly new to the IPA world, and their Resolution IPA hooked me from day one. The bitter finish isn’t overpowering, which probably has something to do with the mango and peach used. It’s a small operation, so if you ever find yourself in Atlanta, stop by for some beer and billiards. You will not be disappointed. —Shawn Christ
Considering that the city of Bend, Oregon, boasts more breweries, per capita, than the rest of the state, it’s astounding that I kept ordering the same damn IPA every time I saw it on tap. Yeah, Boneyard’s RPM IPA is that good. This is a true Northwest IPA. The hops are there, big and bold and piney and delicious. But they don’t swallow the beer into an ocean of hedonistic, hoppy bitterness. Instead, notes of citrus and pineapple round out the crisp, refreshing experience. Right now, finding the RPM is hard—just draft, no bottles, and with nominal geographic reach. But that may change as the once-modest brewery moves to expand to a larger location in their home city. Here’s hoping their ambitions for growth result in country-wide distribution without a drop in overall quality.—Nathan Borchelt
There’s no denying that Revolution Brewing’s Anti-Hero is a hop showcase, but to simply label it as such is doing it a disservice. There’s a reason this beer has become one of the flagships not only of Revolution but of Chicago’s craft beer scene. This beer is a rare mix of assertiveness and approachability. It’s not 100 percent hops—rather, there’s a good charge of caramel sweetness and chewy malt, but it still finishes dry. The hops are a blend of everything iconically American, hitting notes that range from citrus and pine to the newer tropical fruits so popular in the current generation of IPAs. It feels like it’s bridging a gap between IPA generations, discovering a sort of middle ground that combines the best elements from multiple brewing philosophies. A fresh can of Anti-Hero would be my first choice in introducing someone to the idea of American IPA in 2014. -Jim Vorel
Long Beach, Calif.
It isn’t uncommon for craft breweries to have a couple of different IPAs in their portfolio, but even hop-focused operations rarely offer more than a handful of the pungent potables. Beachwood Brewing in Long Beach California rotates through no less than two dozen different IPAs, and somehow Brewmaster Julian Shrago manages to make them all distinct.
Amalgamator is a vivid testament to Shrago’s IPA-brewing skills; it’s kettle hopped with four fragrant, bitter varieties and then dry hopped with a huge dose of the en vogue Mosaic hops. The result is a punishingly bitter (the brew pushes 100 IBUs at just 7.1%ABV) and intensely aromatic beer that explodes on the palate with citrus, tropical fruit, and berry candy flavors. The complex Mosaic hop is the star, and there are few brews that I’ve sampled that showcase the exciting new varietal as well as Amalgamator. February—when the next bottles of the IPA are released—can’t come quick enough. -John Verive
Stone Brewing Co.
Time is not friendly to IPA. If you’ve been hoarding a stash of your favorite limited-release IPA to ration out slowly, I’m afraid I’ve got some bad news for you. From the moment that beer leaves the brew kettle, the clock is ticking on those beautiful hop aromas and flavors. Freshness is key, and with that in mind, no beer is fresher than Stone’s Enjoy By IPA. To further drive home the point that you shouldn’t wait to drink this hopstravaganza, you won’t find the “drink by” date in small print on the bottle. Instead, the folks at Stone actually change the name and bottle art for each vintage of the beer to reflect the end date of the window for optimum freshness. This beer is bitter, floral and citrusy, but it also has sweetness from the malt that rounds it out perfectly. The distribution territory for this beer changes with every release; so if you’re lucky enough to find it on the shelf, grab a bottle, and for God’s sake, don’t wait to drink it! -Don Ayres
Lagunitas Brewing Company
Lagunitas Maximus is the closest you can get to fresh hops without standing in a mature hop yard. If you’re looking for subtle flavor and aroma, keep moving, there’s nothing to see here. This beer is hops, the whole hops, and nothing but the hops, and it is amazing. Did I mention hops? -James Stafford
So I’m at a big beer festival recently with something like 7,000 different beers to sample in a four-hour window, and there’s only one beer that I stood in line for twice. Hop Drop n’ Roll. It’s all shiny now that it won gold at GABF, but strip this beer of its hardware and it would still be dank, floral and downright juicy. Which is why I went back for seconds at that festival. Okay, thirds. -Graham Averill
Paso Robles, Calif.
Sixty-four different IPAs competed in a very enjoyable, month-long blind challenge at the Paste office last year, including most everyone else’s favorite IPA on this list. But there could be only one winner, and it was Firestone Walker’s Union Jack—the platonic ideal of an IPA. Well balanced with all the full hoppy flavor you could ask for, there is not a single note off in this beer. Please come to Georgia, Firestone Walker. Or at least send me another six-pack. —Josh Jackson, editor-in-chief