December 16, 2009

My Top 10 IPAs

The other day a friend challenged me to name my favorite IPA (and he's written about his top ten faves, too). In his defense, I'm sure he meant it as a question rather than a challenge, but it's so hard for me to pick my favorite that it feels like a challenge.

After much thought and some scientific calculations of ratings based on aroma, appearance, and taste (okay, kidding about that last part) I've come up with my list of my 10 favorites. I'll caveat it by saying that I obviously haven't tried every IPA out there (yet). And also, some of these may be double IPAs or whatever other category they fall in to, but I'm simplifying it - if it has IPA somewhere in the name or description, it counts. If I've written a review of it, I'm simply going to link to that. If not, I'll give a brief overview - and then thoroughly review it another time. Hey, if it's on the list, it should be on the blog.

10. Victory HopDevil
I've written about the Yakima Twilight, but not the HopDevil. This was one of the first hoppy beers I had, and I can still remember how much I enjoyed it. Victory Brewing is in Downingtown, PA and they produce some fantastic beers. The HopDevil uses American hops and German malts, producing a balanced taste that's not too overly bitter. It has a 6.7% ABV, making it easy to enjoy more than one.

9. Founders Centennial IPA
Hmm, I've written about the Founders Reds Rye, but not the Centennial IPA. I wonder if I've written about any of my favorite IPAs? (Kidding.) This is a really drinkable IPA - even though it does have a 7.2% ABV. It's not overly bitter (even though I enjoy that), but still has the nice hoppy flavor that I so love.

8. Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA
This is the beer I credit with turning me on to craft beer. And I've actually written about it! You can read my review here.

7. Stone IPA
Wait for it - I've written about the Stone Cali-Belgique IPA, but not the IPA. Wow. This is an eye-opening exercise. I apparently need to do a lot more writing! Anyway, the Stone IPA has a big hop presence, in the aroma, taste and bitterness. This is not an IPA for those that don't like their beers bitter - the hops will get you! But if you do like them, make sure you try this. 6.9% ABV. That makes it almost sessionable!

6. Bell's Two Hearted Ale
Um, right. So, I've written about the Bell's Oberon, but not the Bell's Two Hearted. I'm embarrassed for myself at this point. The Two Hearted is a good beer for hop heads. It's definitely got a hoppy bite to it, but it's balanced well with the malt. It's on the stronger side - 7.1% ABV, but still very drinkable.

5. Green Flash West Coast IPA
Another fave that I've actually reviewed! Green Flash is a fantastic brewery in San Diego, CA. You can read my review of the beer here.

4. Ballast Point Big Eye IPA
I've not only reviewed this beer here, I've sung it's praises to people near and far. It's a great beer that is a must-try for hop heads.

3. Weyerbacher Double Simcoe IPA
I thought the trend was bucked, friends, but (for what I know is the last time) I have to admit that I've written about the Weyerbacher Winter Ale but not the Double Simcoe. Sigh. The Double Simcoe is fantastic. It's brewed using only Simcoe hops, which are known for their low "harshness" levels, allowing brewers to use a lot without creating a harsh-tasting beer. It comes in at 9% ABV, but is so flavorful you'll likely want more than one.

2. Russian River Pliny the Elder
Can't say enough good things about Pliny the Elder. It was one of the first beers I reviewed, and you can read it here. Piney, hoppy deliciousness in a glass.

1. Ballast Point Sculpin
All my internal battling about my favorite IPA has landed me here - the Ballast Point Sculpin. It's just amazing. As I wrote in my review, which you can read here, I'd live in a bottle of this beer if I could. Everything about it is just that good.

Whew, I'm thirsty! Writing about all this fabulousness has me questioning how long I'm going to be able to hold out on a drink today.

But tell me - what do you think of my list? What IPA do you think I'm missing? As I mentioned, I know there are a number of IPAs waiting for me to try them, so let me know your favorites that aren't listed. Doesn't necessarily mean I haven't tried them, but I'd like to hear.


  1. Your intro was much more elegant than mine. I haven't heard of a lot of these, but I'm very curious to try them.

    But... the 60 minute and not the 90 minute? That's interesting.

    Nice job here and again, much more elegant. I added a link to it on mine!


  2. Thanks! Just edited mine and included a link back to yours.

    I do like the 90 minute, but like the 60 minute more. So that's why that one got included. Or maybe I just need to try the 90 minute again. Either way, good stuff!

    Thanks for asking me the question. It made me really think about this!

  3. Quite welcome.

    For someone who loves the hop I find it really weird that you like the 60 minute over the 90 minute. The 60 minute isn't as exciting to me, especially when grouped with some of these others.

    I hear a lot of talk about the Pliny's but I can't seem to find any down here.

    How do you feel about good ole Sierra Nevada? Have you had the Torpedo?

  4. I don't know - I guess some of my love for the 60 minute is nostalgia. I also think it's good for someone who's not quite as in to the hops as I am, while still being a really solid hoppy beer.

    I have had, and do love, the Torpedo. I just like some of these others a bit better. That would probably be #11 or 12.

    And actually, I was surprised the Pale Ale made it on your list. I think it's a good beer - but a good Pale Ale, not IPA. Definitely a lot less hoppy than many of the others on your list (all of which I've not had, but now want to try!).

  5. Love love love Sculpin :-) Great list Helene!

  6. Thanks Rita! It was fun writing it, even if it did make me realize how few of my faves I've actually reviewed.

  7. stone ruination, yards ipa, and bear republics racer 5 are among my top 10. racer and yards being go tos...the stone regular ipa is a go to as well.

    i love the doubles tho...pliny the elder is god's gift. unrelated but related...oskar blues gordon is amazing...and troegs nugget nectar (wtf is an imperial amber?) are actually my 3 fave beers.

    had an amazing double ipa at southwark 3 months back but cannot remember which one (was not the double trouble).

    nice list...thx...i will now go on a hunt for the ballast point.

  8. Hi Helene,
    We met a few weeks ago at Tria and just saw your special mention on DailyCandy.
    Maybe see you tonight at the Tap for the beerlass/ipa girl event?
    Otherwise, let's do friends on FB - I couldn't find you because there are many Helene Roper's, but I believe there's only one me ;)
    Yvonne Appeltans

  9. So proud that I've tried most of your list (including Pliny's which I THINK I tried at the Grey Lodge, if I remember correctly)! I love the Ballast Point IPA but had never heard of the Sculpin. Glad I stumbled upon your blog, thanks for the tip!


  10. Charlotte - you will not be sorry when you find the Ballast Point! I know they have some cases of the Big Eye at Bella Vista Beer Distributor. Check out - not all are up-to-date, but that might help you track it down (Sculpin is even harder to find than Big Eye). I like the beers you mentioned, too, especially the Bear Republic. It was hard to narrow it down to 10. That (along with the Sierra Nevada Torpedo) just missed the cut.

    Yvonne - hi! I will friend you on FB, but yes, I'm going to the Tap tonight. So I'll definitely see you there.

    Colleen - Yeah, as I mentioned above, Sculpin is a bit harder to find. Glad you like the blog! If you try a beer you love (doesn't have to be an IPA) let me know. I'm always up for trying new things!

  11. I think the list should be changed from 10 to 20, just to be able to accomodate some other fantastic brews. That being said, I can't really disagree with a single one of your top 10's like you were reading my mind. Now you have me craving hops at 11:30am :)

  12. I think I even agree with the order, choice by choice.

  13. Great beer minds think alike, Stephen! I definitely have a couple that just barely missed making the top 10, so maybe I could have done 15. I actually had the Southern Tier IPA for the first time the other night and loved it. That might fall somewhere on my list. I knew it would evolve as I tried new beers.

  14. Very strong list. Like you Hop Devil was one of my first real hoppy beers. I'm still a big fan. Glad to see Sculpin and Pliny at the top. My taste buds put the Elder over the Sculpin but it is close. If you haven't already, try Bear Republic Racer 5? It's very list worthy!

  15. I have had - and love - the Racer 5. I think I said in an earlier comment that it just missed making the top 10. Seriously, with so many good IPAs out there it was hard to narrow it down.
    Have you had Pliny the Younger? I want to try that one so badly!