Of the many multitudes of craft beer styles, none is so versatile as the India pale ale. IPAs can be light or dark, clear or hazy, strong or weak, bitter or sweet, or anything in between. The sub genres of IPA are numerous: West Coast, New England, English, White, Black, Farmhouse, Wild, Sour, Brut, Cold, Milkshake, Session, and probably a few hundred others that I’m forgetting.
So, what makes an IPA, an IPA? As far as I can tell, these days, the only defining characteristic of an IPA is that it’s hop-forward (in either flavour or aroma, or both), and is dry-hopped (hops are added after the wort has been boiled while the beer is fermenting). Other than that, it seems like it’s fair game to slap the “IPA” name on just about anything.
And there’s good reason for this: IPAs sell. The name itself has become largely meaningless at this point; it’s now little more than a marketing term.
That said, never has there been more quality and variety in the IPA game. Understandable, you might be overwhelmed by the many IPA options at your beer store today. And if you’re new to craft beer, or maybe you were turned off style years ago by some 150 IBU monster during the dark ages of the IBU arms race, you probably don’t know where to start.
But fear not, because we here at Growler HQ are going to find you the perfect IPA to match your mood.
Got shit to do tomorrow? Try Steel & Oak’s beep beep!
This “small IPA” (which I’m pretty sure is just a pale ale, but whatever) comes in at 4.5% ABV and is perfect if you need to get up in the morning and pretend to be a semi-functioning adult tomorrow. Light bodied with a faint crackery malt note, it’s the Belma and Strata hops that do the heavy lifting, flavour-wise. Notes of passion fruit, stonefruit, grapefruit and melon with a dry finish and balanced hop bitterness.
Kickin’ it old school? Try Herald Street’s 2012 Called!
Remember black IPAs? AKA Cascadian dark ales? You could be forgiven for trying to purge any memory of them from your mind. Most examples of this flash-in-the-pan style were horribly unbalanced, overly bitter, and terribly tannic. Not so, Herald Street’s 2012 Called Black IPA. The malt character is soft and sweet, with notes of cocoa, coffee, cracker, and dark fruit. On the back end, a resinous hop note cuts through the sweetness with just enough bitterness to clean up the finish and leave wanting more of this surprisingly balanced beer. Nostalgia never tasted so good!
Lounging in the sun? Try Superflux’s Jellystone!
Honestly, who doesn’t like an expertly executed hazy IPA. Vancouver’s Superflux has been knocking it out of the park in this category since before they even opened their doors at their brick-and-mortar brewery in Yeast Van. Jellystone is a classic Superflux juice bomb, with tropical fruit flavours a plenty: we’re talking pineapple, passion fruit, coconut, peach, cantaloupe, citrus, and some lovely resiny dankness on the back end. Low hop bitterness, maximum hop flavour and aroma.
Feeling a bit bitter? Try Backcountry’s Everything’s Coming Up Milhouse!
West Coast IPAs have been making a comeback in a big way in the past few years, and the contemporary versions of the style that launched a thousand craft breweries are better than ever. Backcountry’s latest pop culture-referencing release has all the hallmarks of the IPAs of yore, but with far more balance and depth of flavour. The requisite notes of citrus, grapefruit, and pine are all here–but so is melon and peach and passion fruit. The moderate hop bitterness is pronounced, but balanced, thanks to a sturdy malt base, and the finish will leave you wanting more.
Feeling kinda funky? Try House of Funk’s Houseguest Sour IPA!
Does dry-hopping a sour wheat ale fermented with kveik yeast make it an IPA? Apparently, it does! Honestly, we could care less what a beer is called, so long as it’s delicious. And this beer is DELICIOUS. A collab with the soon-to-be-open Small Gods Brewing in Sidney, this IPA is bright and tart with lively notes of stonefruit, gooseberry, grapefruit, pine, vanilla and oak, along with some lovely earthy funkiness to pull it all together. Complex but approachable, and incredibly refreshing.