10 best IPAs
The pale ale hype train is showing no signs of slowing. We've picked out the new beers and breweries leading the way
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The IPA is one of the most popular beer styles around. As a result of its mass appeal, and breweries’ desire to innovate and experiment, the IPA has become a beacon of beer fashion: Changing and evolving styles at a rate that can be hard to keep up with.
To reflect this, we’ve been diligently drinking our way through some of the newest IPAs in the current scene to come up with this list of beers. Some of them follow the latest trend, started on America’s west coast, for creating hazy, juicy beers by ramming the booze with hops at the back end of the process – and even boosting the juice factor with the addition of fresh fruit. We’ve also included higher and lower strength IPAs, often referred to as DIPAs (the extra boozy Double IPA) and SIPAs (an easier-drinking Session IPA).
The IPA style has also drifted into other grain territories, including wheat IPAs and the heavily roasted, oxymoronic dark IPA (Spey Valley’s Spey’s Hopper is an example well worth trying).
Many of these IPAs are now produced as limited editions, to be snapped up before the brewery rolls out more experiments with different hops or by collaborating with other breweries (Cloudwater, Magic Rock and Burning Sky all produce special IPAs that are worthy of investigation). We’ve also stretched the “new” category to include a few established beers from overseas that have only recently been made available to the British drinking public.
If you’re one of the many IPA fans, then give these beers a whirl to find what style suits you best – then check back next year for even more IPA innovations…
1. Brewski Barbarian IPA, 6%: £3.99 for 330ml, Beer Hawk
This Swedish Brewski booze comes in a stubby bottle wrapped with one of the worst beer packaging designs you’ll see – but don’t judge a beer by its label. Pop the cap and you’ll be greeted with elegant, inviting aromas of tropical hops that hint of pleasures to come. Barbarian pours hazy with a strong head of froth – its viscous mouthfeel backed by bold, tropical notes of grapefruit and ripe mango, with a light, biscuity malt base. The smooth, tongue-tingling, lactose-formed finish is up there with the very finest Belgian beers. Impressive stuff indeed.
2. Kona Brewing Company Hanalei Island IPA, 4.5%: £2.25 for 355ml, Beer Merchants
Say aloha to a Hawaiian hop homage with this mouth-watering tropical fruit salad from the folks at Kona. There’s a subtle waft of passion fruit on opening but this doesn’t prepare you for the fruity taste explosion that awaits. Grapefruit, guava and mango all scream for attention, while the long hoppy bitterness rides you home on the crest of a wave.
3. Siphon Brewing Damme Nation, 7%: £3.80 for 330ml, Beer Merchants
Siphon is a new brewery trying to give IPAs a leg up in its native Belgian market. This bottle is billed as an American-style IPA but it has a lovely rich and creamy malt body that the Belgians excel at, with prominent caramel sweetness and a delicately perfumed yeast. The dry hopping has infused the beer with citrus and tropical fruits, while bitter orange and resinous pine complete the profile – moderately bitter by American standards; intense for the Belgians.
4. Trzech Kumpli Pan Ipani, 6%: £5.10 for 500ml, Hop Burns & Black
Here’s a great example of how the beer scene has moved on from a choice of mostly brown bitter or fizzy lager. We have a golden wheat IPA that’s brewed in Poland and is thicker and murkier than a heavy Warsaw smog. This brave new beer has mango aromas which become peachier on the palette, with the smooth, gloopy liquid developing a refreshing crispness when glugged thanks to the wheat’s lighter touches, a tight fizz and zingy bitterness. Slosh this into your glass and celebrate the evolving world of beer.
5. Kew Brewery Join the Kew, 5.9%: £2.80 for 330ml, Hop Burns & Black
Kew Brewery will be a name that’s new to a lot of beer drinkers, but we’re big fans of its booze and reckon wider recognition is now due. Join the Kew was first brewed in 2016 to celebrate the brewery’s first birthday but has recently joined its core range and, like all Kew beers, can boast an all-British line up of ingredients. The five hop varieties – UK Cascade, UK Chinook, Endeavour, Minstrel and Olicana – give it some citrussy notes akin to its American counterparts, but it’s also loaded with currant and bitter berry flavours that you rarely encounter in other IPAs. The bitterness becomes stronger and more herbal at the finish, lingering long enough to pierce through subsequent sips, building to a crescendo as you empty the glass.
6. Sierra Nevada Tropical Torpedo, 6.7%: £3.39 for 355ml, Beers of Europe
Starting out in 1979, California’s Sierra Nevada is credited with being one of the breweries that kick-started the global craft beer scene, showing off the full-flavoured American hops that now inhabit so many beers. Tropical Torpedo is its latest IPA and has an emphasis on tropically flavoured hops, with Citra, Mosaic, El Dorado and Comet creating a storm of passion fruit and citrus aromas and flavours. But it’s also resolutely bitter (Amarillo is the hop doing most of this work), with a fresh, grassy undercurrent and a dry, leafy bitter surge to finish. A welcome addition to the Sierra Nevada range.
7. Garage Beer Co. Soup IPA, 6%: £5 for 440ml, Beer Merchants
Behind the cartoonish can livery is a glorious ode to citra and mosaic – brewed to perfection by Barcelona’s ultra-talented Garage Beer Co. True to its name, Soup pours like a can of Baxter’s – hazy and funky (but thankfully minus the vegetable chunks) and produces a fine, creamy head with bags of green hop aromas on the nose. Expect palate-pleasing bursts of mango, peach and zesty orange, underpinned with a subtle malty base. Delicioso.
8. Hardywood VIPA, 5.2%: £3.05 for 355ml, Ales by Mail
Richmond, Virginia’s Hardywood is one of a number of American breweries expanding their market to the UK. VIPA (Virginia Pale Ale – see what they did?) was launched a year ago and is now available to UK customers, who are in for a treat from the all-Virginian hops and barley that make up this brew. It’s another tropically focussed ale but less of a juice bomb than some of the hazier beers in this list. “Light” and “fresh” are words that spring to mind – there’s more of a lemony edge to the hops and a crispness to the malt, with resin and straw bitterness at the finish. As autumn kicks in, this is the kind of refreshing beer you need to psychologically help you extend the summer mood for a little bit longer.
9. Vibrant Forest Brewery Kaleidoscope, 6.5%: £3.19 for 330ml bottle, Beer Hawk
This British take on a West Coast IPA springs from Lymington’s Vibrant Forest micro-brewery, and fans of punchy, hop-happy beers should hunt this one down at all costs. This booze has been dry-hopped to within an inch of its life, and grips your taste buds in a hoppy headlock from the get-go. Hazy, viscous mouthfuls of grapefruit bitterness build into a rousing hoppy crescendo, ending with a deliciously dry, piney finish.
10. Bellfield Brewery Lawless Village IPA, 4.5%: £29.40 for 12 x 330ml, Amazon
Edinburgh’s Bellfield Brewery first started brewing in 2015 and, although this beer has been around since early 2016, it has only just started to reach the attention of the wider public and follows another relatively new development in the beer world: Like all of the brewery’s products, it’s gluten-free. It’s a product that should appeal beyond the gluten-free category, though, with a fuller body than most such beers we’ve sampled. It also has bags of flavour, with a bit of sweetness and a good amount of hopping that provide both a rustic earthiness and fresher fruitiness. At 4.5%, it’s at the sessionable end of the IPA spectrum and has already been scooping up some prestigious brewing awards.
The Verdict: IPAs
Looking for a hazy IPA full of juicy flavours? Then we suggest a can of Brewski’s Barbarian is the place to start… until the next IPA trend comes along.
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