Top 6 IPA’s – and a bit of beer history.

India Pale Ale‘s are a wonderful thing. The history of the IPA is also riddled with inaccurate stories and myths. The most common myth is that a certain type of ale was meant for export to India. When it arrived the merchants opened the barrel and the beer was spoiled! Oh no! The next time around Mr. So-and-So said, “I have an idea!” and before the barrel left for India from England he filled the remainder of the barrel up with hops. This time after the several weeks journey the beer was still fresh but noticeably “hoppier”.

Here is the actual rather boring history of it, as according to numerous sources:

A certain Bow Brewery made a beer that was well liked by merchants for the East India Company. Either this beer was hoppier than normal beers or if it was developed specifically for the East India Company traders is not known. This beer was given the title or eventually came to be known as a India (style) Pale Ale. Pale Ale’s were already around at the time, this was just a more defined “hop” flavor. Beer had already figured out how to survive a trip on a boat for weeks or months at a time and stories of the hops preserving the still fermenting beer on long trips are just that – stories. While they may help with this process they certainly are not the reason for IPA’s.

However, there has been quite a bit of evolution in the past 150 years or so of the IPA.

English IPA, East Coast IPA, West Coast IPA as well as many blends of IPA’s and Belgian styles, or chocolate IPA, coffee IPA.

Personally, the titles of beer are something to look at with caution if one really wants to ‘truly’ categorize a crazy beer such as a “Belgian style chocolate-toffee India Pale Ale”, but that is a blog for another time.

English IPA
Your standard English IPA is a variation of the English Pale Ale. It is crisp, dry, and slightly hoppier than malty, however the malt still plays a big part in the taste profile. While I do like a good English IPA I will admit that I am more of a West Coast IPA fan. However, Samuel Smith’s India Pale Ale is a standard English IPA go-to for me if I were shopping for one.

East/West Coast IPA
East Coast IPA are differentiated from West Coast style IPA in that where as West Coast style is HOPS HOPS HOPS, East Coast tends to be a bit less intense in the bitterness category and focuses more on making a well-rounded mix between English Style and West Coast. Many agree that they are hoppier than English but not nearly as much as West Coast. Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA is pretty close to East Coast style. West Coast IPA, like stated above, is hop-heavy. I’ve noticed in recent years a trend for brewers to incorporate citric and even subtle floral flavors, thus giving the all-too-hoppy(and amazing) IPA a bit more flavor.

To put this into a quick easy Beer-notes perspective:

IBU International Bittering Units <— that means how bitter something is.
Imagine your typical American Lager(Bud, etc) has a IBU Rating of 10 out of 100.
Your English IPA might have somewhere between 40-50 depending on the brand.
Your East Coast IPA might be a bit bolder and head up towards 60+
West Coast IPA's tend to float somewhere around 75-85

Obviously, these lines and distinct style are constantly getting blurred nowadays geographically, but generally if a brewer despite his location makes a 90 IBU IPA it will be called a "West Coast Style" IPA.

————-
Onto my Top 6.

I’ve consulted with my IPA friends and come up with a list of what we agreed were the top 6 that are easily available in my location. The Los Angeles area. In no particular order:

1. Bear Republic Racer 5
2. Dogfish Head 90-Minute IPA
3. Sierra Nevada Hoptimum
4. Rogue Brutal IPA
5. Golden Road Heal The Bay IPA
6. Stone Ruination

As any beer lover will tell you and my story is no different: these are always subject to change and constantly revolving. Dogfish Head and Bear Republic have been with me the longest. Rogue is a good solid IPA and I am constantly impressed with what they put out. Heal The Bay is from one of my favorite breweries but also the beer is very smooth and citrus-y. It isnt too overpowering at all. Hoptimum is just crazy hoppy but the floral notes I pick up from it remind me why Sierra Nevada is amazing. And lastly, The Stone. Stone Brewery really means one thing: “Hops”. Stone does everything balls to the wall. Their single mission is hops. Try an Arrogant Bastard. They don’t even try to cover up the hop flavor.

Interested in hearing YOUR Top 6 Beers and any thoughts you have on them. Please, post below!

Thats it for now… next blog article: “Bro, this beer is 15%….”

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9 thoughts on “Top 6 IPA’s – and a bit of beer history.

    • You know, I havent had the chance to do a side by side of Ruination and Enjoy By. Believe it or not, Enjoy By isn’t readily available West of the Mississippi – despite Stone’s San Diego location. I think they brew it mostly for the Eastern states as a sort of exclusive item. I’ve seen it on tap on occasion but I’ve never been able to do a true side by side. I suppose another trip to the brewery is needed.

      But, on the topic of Stone – if you ever get a chance to take the tour – DO IT! It’s $3, you get a souvenier 5-ouncer, and they fill it up with 4 or 5 different beers, lightest to darkest. Pale Ale, Ruination, Arrogant Bastard and usually a specialty they have. Last time I was there it was the w00tstout. I also got a growler of Stone’s Imperial Hefeweizen… Stone is mostly an IPA and Stout company but WOW! I don’t know why this wasn’t/isn’t bottled. It was more banana-bread than banana bread beers. Fantastic!

  1. I’d love to visit the Stone Brewery, I will be sure to if I ever get the chance. I had no idea Stone made a Hefeweizen. I was able to visit the Russian River and Rogue Brewpubs this past summer. Russian River was great just because they make fantastic beer and for me its impossible to get anywhere else. Rogue was good (and I had visited a couple of times when I lived in Oregon) but the beer selection was not so different from what I can buy around here.

    It makes some sense that Stone does the Enjoy by for the East, because freshness is so important for an IPA. We did a blind taste test of 10 IPAs that I posted over on my blog site (maybe you already checked it out) including some “west coast” IPAs made here in Ohio and some actually made on the west coast (Racer 5, Stone Enjoy By, Alesmith IPA), and with the exception of Enjoy by, the Ohio beers outperformed the West Coast entries. I’m sure a part of that was the fact that the Ohio beers were fresher. There were a few beers that we wanted to put in the contest, like Sculpin IPA by Ballast Point (also brewed in San Diego) where we couldn’t find fresh enough beer to bother with (at $14.99 per six pack you don’t want to be drinking 8 month old beer). I notice you don’t have Sculpin on your list, nor West Coast IPA by Green Flash IPA, which is one I’ve always liked a lot. Have you tried fresh Sculpin and if so what did you think?

    To see the full results of our experiment go to

    http://patspints.com/category/opinions-surveys-and-taste-tests/

    The first two rounds are summarized in normal blog posts, while the final round is captured in six short videos. Maybe you should try a blind taste test with all of the great IPAs you can get out there. It was pretty fun. IPAs are pretty hard on the palate so if you can break it up over multiple tasting sessions that’s probably ideal.

    • I’m actually quite impressed with a lot of the beers coming out of your region. Penn has a lot of great stuff, too. I’ll definitely out your blog post on it. I usually am updating from my iPad and videos take some time to get around to with the on-the-go nature. (I usually pull up a few text blogs when I have Wifi so I can read them when I am in a situation without Wifi).

      As far as Green Flash and Sculpin. Several of my friends swear by Sculpin. I haven’t had it since they brought it from glass to 12oz cans this past year, but I hear that increased the freshness. As you know, the jury is still out on Cans vs. Dark bottles. My local brewery here, Golden Road releases everything in cans. Some are great(the Kolsch in particular), some I feel like I lose a bit(the Brown ale).

      Regarding Green Flash – they are hit and miss for me. I’ve probably had 100 IPA’s since the last time I had a Green Flash IPA though, so I’ll have to revisit it. One of these days I’ll have to do a true IPA comparison as I rarely side by side more than a few.

      I love your blind taste test concept though. That is fantastic!

      Also, Russian River. Incredibly envious of your visit – i’ve yet to go! Pliny the Younger and Damnation are pretty readily available here on tap and in bottle. RR are just true craftsman and I’m sure the stuff at the brewery made everything I’ve tried from them pale in comparison.

      Happy Beering! I’ll get to your blind test ASAP.

  2. There are lots of offerings at the RR brewpub that they don’t bottle, which is fantastic. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to spend a lot of time there. I was passing through with my family on the way up to the Redwoods so we stopped for a late lunch and I had the full sampler tray (about 16 beers I think). I could have stayed for a couple of days trying full glasses of the various beers, but I’m thankful for what I was able to do. I left with some bottles of Pliny the Elder, Blind Pig IPA, Damnation and one bottle of the wild ale Supplication. Only the Supplication is still left, but I think I might drink that one pretty soon, I’m waiting for the right day. I will say that while Pliny the Elder was very good, I preferred Blind Pig to Pliny. I read online last month that there was a day where the brewpub actually ran completely out of bottles of beer to sell. Everything there is done to the highest quality or not at all.

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  4. Pingback: Stone Brewing Company – Ruination IPA | Humulus Lupulus Maximus

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