324 of the Best IPAs, Blind-Tasted and Ranked

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324 of the Best IPAs, Blind-Tasted and Ranked

For our companion piece and final conclusions on the style after blind-tasting 324 of these beers, read today’s The State of IPA: Hazy, Juicy, Sludgy and Confused.

How do you introduce the largest blind tasting that Paste has ever conducted? I suppose the answer is “with a little context.”

We have blind-tasted IPAs (that’s “single IPA”) three times, at Paste. The first time was in 2015, and the 116 beers we received then seemed like a staggering, unfathomable figure. It was equally true in 2016 when we blind-tasted IPAs again and received a whopping 247 entrants. And it’s true once again here in 2018, with 324 of them—not far behind the 408 entries (also a record) at the Great American Beer Festival last year. Every time we do this, it seems like the previous mark will be impossible to surpass. Each time, we’re wrong.

The main reason why is the enduring, seemingly ever-strengthening popularity of India pale ale with American drinkers. As the beer geek market has matured, IPA has changed and matured along with it, branching off into numerous offshoots like capillaries splitting from an artery. Since the last time we did this tasting, trends have come and gone, and the pace of adaptation in the market has seemingly only accelerated. Even organizations that are resistant to change, such as the Brewers Association, have had to officially recognize some of these changes such as the normalization of hazy IPAs by stating that 2018’s GABF competition will for the first time divide the IPA field into “hazy” and “non-hazy” camps.

In fact, the question of “What is India pale ale today?” has simply become too onerous and multifaceted to tackle adequately during the introduction of this piece. Thus, allow me to redirect you to our companion piece, The State of IPA: Hazy, Juicy, Sludgy and Confused. In it, I’ve tried to capture the distilled perspective one gains about a modern American beer style while blind-tasting 324 of them over the course of 17 days. Suffice to say, we have some strong opinions, positive and negative, about where IPA is headed.

Some of those opinions will be reflected in the beers you see in the ranked portion of this tasting. Read on, and find out.

A Note on Beer Acquisition

As in most of our blind tastings at Paste, the vast majority of these IPAs were sent directly to the office by the breweries that choose to participate, with additional beers acquired by us via locally available purchases and the occasional trade. We always do our best to reach out to breweries we’re aware of that make exemplary versions of particular styles, but things always do slip through the cracks. We apologize for a few significant omissions that we couldn’t acquire, either due to seasonality or market shortages. There will never be a “perfect” tasting lineup, much as we continue to try.

A Note on Beer Freshness

Obviously, when it comes to tasting IPAs, freshness is a factor that looms large, so allow me to address it directly here. Throughout the many days of preliminary tasting, we attempted to drink daily heats of beer that corresponded roughly to when each beer reached the Paste office. It’s by no means a perfect system, but it’s what we have.

Before the finals tasting, we also reached out to all of the breweries in the top 25 to inform them that their beer had made the finals, and offered them an opportunity to send in fresh beer if they chose to do so for the final.

Rules and Procedure

— This is a tasting of IPAs, largely determined by how the breweries chose to label their products. All beers had to be labeled as “IPA” in some capacity. When in doubt, we simply allow a brewery’s marketing to define a beer’s style, and expect them to stick to the designation they’ve chosen.

— There was a strict limit of 8% ABV on submissions. All beers under 8% ABV were accepted. All beers of 8% ABV or above were not. Beers labeled as “DIPA” were accepted if their ABV was still under 8%.

— All types of adjuncts and flavorings were allowed. Fruited IPAs, brettanomyces IPAs, etc.

— There was a limit of only two entries per brewery. The beers were separated into daily blind tastings that approximated a sample size of the entire field.

— Tasters included professional beer writers, brewery owners, brewmasters and beer reps. Awesome, style-appropriate glassware is from Spiegelau.

— Beers were judged completely blind by how enjoyable they were as individual experiences and given scores of 1-100, which were then averaged. Entries were judged by how much we enjoyed them for whatever reason, not by how well they fit any kind of preconceived style guidelines. As such, this is not a BJCP-style tasting.

The Field: IPAs #324-81

Paste has conducted a whole lot of blind tastings over the years, but never have we organized one where so much great beer—and so many great breweries—ended up in The Field, rather than the ranked portion of the list. That’s just what happens when you end up with 324 entries, but it also speaks toward the need for consistency in beer. There are breweries that ended up in the top 25 final and can also be found here in The Field, as well as breweries that produced multiple beers that almost made the ranked portion, but fell just short.

In general, we tasted a lot of great IPAs in this tasting, but we also tasted a whole lot of bad beer as well. Especially among the hazy subset of IPAs, it was frequently impossible to know what to expect until we stuck our noses into the glass. Some were juicy, bright and welcoming, with balanced sweetness, fruit flavors and “greener” impressions that work together in harmony. Others were sludgy catastrophes that seemingly had more yeast and hop particulate in suspension than they did water. As this substyle has come to dominate the hype cycle as far as IPAs are concerned, there has been a definite tendency for some breweries to get caught up in it to their detriment—stuck in a loop of creating progressively more and more absurdly overhopped IPAs until the result tastes like a puddle of grass clippings and yard waste. We tasted far too many beers of that nature.

Still, simply looking at the names of breweries in The Field, you know there must be a lot of quality here. There are beers here from all the following: The Alchemist, Bale Breaker, Boneyard, Burial, Cerebral, Creature Comforts, Firestone Walker, Fremont, Half Acre, Knee Deep, Night Shift, Noble, Oskar Blues, Societe, Surly, Trillium, Wicked Weed and so many more. On any given day, we’d be thrilled to drink an IPA from one of those places. And yet, when less than a sixth of the entries can make the rankings, things get tough.

As always, the beers listed below in The Field are simply listed alphabetically, which means they’re not ranked. I repeat: These beers are not ranked.

Able Seedhouse + Brewery First Light
Adelbert’s Brewery Travelin’ Man
Against the Grain Pile Face
Alaskan Brewing Co. Juneau Juice
Alaskan Brewing Co. Smash Galaxy
The Alchemist Focal Banger
Alesmith IPA
Ale Asylum Velveteen Habit
Aurora Ale and Lager Co. So Damn Thirsty
Austin Beerworks Fire Eagle IPA
Avery Brewing Co. Go Play IPA
Avery Brewing Co. IPA
Back East Brewing Co. Ice Cream Man
Back East Brewing Co. Intergalactic Lupulinary
Baere Brewing Co. C3(i)PA
Baere Brewing Co. Totes Redux
Bale Breaker Brewing Co. Leota Mae
Bale Breaker Brewing Co. Topcutter
Banded Oak Brewing Co. American IPA
Barley Brown’s Pallet Jack IPA
Beachwood Amalgamator
Beachwood Citraholic
Bear Republic Hop Shovel
Bear Republic Racer 5
Bell’s Two Hearted
Bhramari Brewing Co. City Gold
Bhramari Brewing Co. Lorelai
BlackStack Brewing Thunder Lizard
Black Shirt Brewing Co. After Party
Black Shirt Brewing Co. Frontman
Blue Ghost Brewing Co. Grapefruit IPA
Blue Ghost Brewing Co. Mango IPA
Blue Pants Brewery Hop Bursted IPA
Boneyard Beer Co. Hop-A-Wheelie
Bond Bros Beer Co. Local IPA
Bootstrap Brewing Insane Rush IPA
Brewery Vivant Hop Field
Brewery Vivant Secret Rituals
Burial Beer Co. Hawkbill
Burlington Beer Co. Single Hop Simcoe
Burlington Beer Co. Uncanny Valley
Call to Arms Brewing Co. Do You Even Juice, Bro?
Cape May Brewing Co. Follow the Gull
Capital Brewery Mutiny IPA
Central Waters Brewing Co. Caught in the Rain
Central Waters Brewing Co. Rift
Cerebral Brewing Rare Trait
Cigar City Jai Alai
Cinderlands Beer Co. Check the Gate
Cinderlands Beer Co. Test Piece: Galaxy
ColdFire Brewing Cumulus
Collective Arts Brewing Ransack the Universe
Common Roots Brewing Co. Good Fortune
Commonwealth Brewing Co. Old School/New Skool
Comrade Brewing Co. More Dodge Less Ram
Comrade Brewing Co. Superpower
Connecticut Valley Brewing A Fantastic Voyage
COOP Ale Works F5
COOP Ale Works Fly Me Away
Creature Comforts Brewing Co. Galactic Space Circus
Crooked Stave IPA
D9 Brewing Co. Cryogenic
D9 Brewing Co. Hakuna Matata
Dark Horse Brewing Co. Crooked Tree
Dark Horse Brewing Co. Smells Like a Safety Meeting
Deep River Brewing Co. Chowdah
Deep River Brewing Co. Mango Tango Foxtrot
Dogfish Head Flesh and Blood
Dogfish Head Lupu-Luau
Drake’s Brewing Co. Brightside Brut IPA
Dry Dock Brewing Co. Hop Abomination
Dry Dock Brewing Co. IPA
DuClaw Brewing Co. Enjoy Your Time Away
Due South Brewing Co. Category 3
18th Street Brewery Here Comes the Reaper
18th Street Brewery The Simple SIPA
Elevation Beer Co. Anniversary IPA
Elevation Beer Co. First Cast
El Segundo Brewing Co. Cerveza Fresca
Epic Brewing Co. Lupulin Burst
Eventide Brewing The A
Fiction Beer Co. Don’t Tame the Wild
Fiction Beer Co. Madame Psychosis
Fieldwork Brewing Co. Broken Heroes
Figueroa Mountain Brewing Co. Crosstown Traffic
Firestone Walker Luponic Distortion #10
Foley Bros. Brewing Big Bang
Founders Centennial IPA
4-Hands Brewing Co. Divided Sky Rye IPA
4-Hands Brewing Co. Incarnation
4 Noses Brewing Orange Velvet
4 Noses Brewing Whimsy
Fremont Brewing Co. Lush IPA
Fulton Beer 300
Fulton Beer Sweet Child of Vine
GoodLife Brewing Descender IPA
Good Nature Brewing Blight Buster
Good People Brewing Co. Hitchhiker
Good People Brewing Co. IPA
Golden Road Point the Way IPA
Green Bench Brewing Co. Sunshine City
Green Cheek Beer Co. Wave Goodbye
Green Man Brewery Tart ‘n Hazy
Green Man Brewery Trickster
Grimm Artisanal Ales Magnetic Compass
Half Acre Beer Co. Vallejo
Hardywood Park Craft Brewery Tropication
Hardywood Park Craft Brewery VIPA
Henniker Brewing Co. Hop Slinger
Henniker Brewing Co. Wait a Minute
Hermitage Brewing Co. Strata
Highland Brewing Co. AVL IPA
Hi-Wire Brewing Hi-Pitch Mosaic IPA
Hops & Grain Brewery Bales of Haze
Hops & Grain Brewery Pellets & Powder
Humulus Project Prodigious
Ipswich Ale Brewery Route 101
Knee Deep Brewing Breaking Bud
Knee Deep Brewing Slow Mo
Kros Strain Brewing Fairy Nectar
Lagunitas IPA
Lake Placid Craft Brewing Co. Big Slide
Left Hand Brewing Left Hand IPA
Lift Bridge Brewery Hop Dish IPA
Long Trail Brewing Co. Limbo IPA
MadTree Brewing Entropic Theory
MadTree Brewing Heroes
Mantra Brewing Saffron IPA
Maui Brewing Co. Big Swell IPA
Mill Creek Brewing Co. Transcendent
Mill Creek Brewing Co. Woodshed
Monday Night Brewing I’m Suuuper Cereal
Nebraska Brewing Co. IPA
Nebraska Brewing Co. Mosaic IPA
New Belgium Juicy Haze IPA
New Belgium Voodoo Ranger IPA
New Oberpfalz Brewing Hopwagen
New Realm Brewing Co. Hoplandia
Night Shift Brewing Santilli
Ninkasi Brewing Co. Prismatic
Ninkasi Brewing Co. Total Domination
Noble Ale Works I Love It
NoDa Brewing Co. Dreamsicle IPA
NoDa Brewing Co. Hop, Drop ‘n Roll
NOLA Brewing Flippy Floppy
Odell Brewing Co. IPA
One World Brewing Claussen Paradise
Oskar Blues Fugli
Oskar Blues IPA
Otter Creek Free Flow IPA
Our Mutual Friend Brewing Co. Time’s Arrow
Perennial Artisan Ales Lascaux
Perrin Brewing Co. 98 Problems
Perrin Brewing Co. North South
pFriem Family Brewers Down Under IPA
pFriem Family Brewers IPA
Port City Brewing Integral
Port City Brewing Monumental
Proof Brewing Co. La La Land
Red Brick Brewing Hoplanta
Redhook Brewery Rye Segall
Red Hare Brewing Soft J
Reformation Brewery Nolan
Reformation Brewery Oren
Relic Brewing Co. Leaf Storm
Relic Brewing Co. The Lee Shore
Resident Culture Brewing Co. Free Skate
Revolution Brewing Anti-Hero IPA
Rhinegeist Brewery Streaker
Rhinegeist Brewery Truth
River North Brewery Colorado IPA
Roadhouse Brewing Co. Mountain Jam Vol. 1
Roadhouse Brewing Co. Wilson
Rockyard Brewing Co. Hopalypto
Rogue Ales Combat Wombat
Rogue Ales 5-Hop IPA
Saint Arnold Brewing Co. Art Car IPA
Saint Arnold Brewing Co. Not a Collaboration
SanTan Brewing Co. Strata Blaster
Saranac Mosaic IPA
Saranac Tropical Storm
Schlafly A-IPA
Scofflaw Brewing Co. Basement
Scofflaw Brewing Co. Hooligan
Second Self Beer Co. Triforce
Seventh Son Brewing Co. Gleen
Seventh Son Brewing Co. The Scientist
The Shed Brewery Mountain IPA
Short’s Huma Lupa Licious
Short’s Psychedelic Cat Grass
Sibling Revelry Brewery Dew Brew
Sibling Revelry Brewery IPA
Sierra Nevada Hazy Little Thing
Sierra Nevada Torpedo
Silver City Brewery Sun Glitter
Sixpoint Brewery Smoothie
Sixpoint Brewery Fruit Smoothie
Sly Fox Brewing Co. Vulpulin IPA
Smartmouth Brewing Co. The Circle
Smartmouth Brewing Co. Prototype
Smog City Brewing IPA
Societe Brewing Co. The Publican
Societe Brewing Co. The Pupil
Speakeasy Big Daddy IPA
Squatters IPA
Starr Hill Brewery Menage ‘a VA
Starr Hill Brewery New England IPA
Stone Brewing Scorpion Bowl
Stone Brewing Tangerine Express
Surly Brewing Co. Furious
Surly Brewing Co. Todd the Axe Man
Swamp Head Brewery Big Nose
Swamp Head Brewery Han Slow Mo
SweetWater Brewing Co. IPA
SweetWater Brewing Co. Triple Tail
Telluride Brewing Co. Tempter IPA
3 Sheeps Brewing Co. Waterslides
Three Taverns Brewery Rowdy and Proud
Track 7 Brewing Co. Panic
Track 7 Brewing Co. Sukahop
Trillium Brewing Co. A Street IPA
Triple C Brewing Co. 3C IPA
Triptych Brewing Attenuation: Look It Up
Triptych Brewing Join the Circus
21st Amendment Brewery Brew Free! or Die
21st Amendment Brewery Brew Free! or Die Blood Orange
Two Roads Brewing Co. Honeyspot Road IPA
Uinta Brewing Grapefruit Hop Nosh
Uinta Brewing West Coast IPA
Upland Brewing Co. Dragonfly
Urban Artifact Post Card
Urban South Brewery Holy Roller
Variant Brewing Co. Atmosphere
Wasatch Ghostrider White IPA
Westbrook Brewing Co. Rinse/Repeat
Wicked Weed Brewing Astronomical
Wild Heaven Beer Wise Blood IPA
Wormtown Brewery Ales for ALS
Wormtown Brewery Be Hoppy
Worthy Brewing Co. IPA
Worthy Brewing Co. Strata IPA
Wren House Brewing Co. Phoenix Lights
Yellowhammer Brewing Cheating Heart IPA
Yellowhammer Brewing Mosaic Coyote

Next: The Finals! IPAs #80-1

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