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Rethinking American IPAs

Even though brewers continue to question what will be the next big thing in the world of craft beer, consumers will forever return to certain classic styles: lagers and stouts, sure, but definitely India pale ales (IPAs).

For years, American IPAs have reigned supreme. The style always sees the highest number of submissions in any judging or competition, including the mother of them all, the Brewers Association’s annual Great American Beer Festival. It seems we just can’t get enough of the stuff.

Historically, the American-IPA style was driven by a “bigger means better” ethos. Hopheads clammored for more hop aroma and flavor, feverishly pushing the limits of reasonable international bittering units (IBUs).

The “it” style today is New England IPA, also known as juicy or hazy IPA.

While some might still subscribe to the theory that the more hops, the better, it seems that many brewers have taken another look at the style. Sure, American beers—especially IPAs— are still quite hoppy, but we’re increasingly searching for more refined, balanced options now that we’ve gotten over the initial hop-shock and awe.

Another key factor shaping the American IPA landscape is the release of new hop varieties. There are now about 200 hop varieties commercially available. A few decades ago, brewers across the globe only had access to about a quarter of that.

Beyond the hops, there have been some key base-style and technical shifts that have resulted in even more additions to the IPA spectrum. The “it” style today is New England IPA, also known as juicy or hazy IPA. Essentially, these are aggressively hopped, unfiltered IPAs or double/imperial IPAs that are not shy on personality and often exhibit intense fruity and/or floral characters, with a cloudy appearance.

What does this all mean for you? From session to single-hop to super hazy, there’s a bounty of new-wave IPAs just waiting for you. Happy tasting!

Two Roads Two Juicy New England Style IPA (American Double/Imperial IPA; Two Roads Brewing Company, CT); $15/16 oz 4 pack, 93 points. This unfiltered brew is made with Hallertau Blanc, Citra and Mandarina Bavaria hops. It pours a hazy golden-orange color, with a creamy white head that shows decent retention. The nose is all pink grapefruit, pineapple and mango. The medium-weight palate is remarkably smooth and plush, with more of those bright tropical-fruit tones marrying seamlessly to a light malt backbone. It’s well balanced, with a slight dank impression that flashes on the slick yet crisp finish. abv: 8.2%

Deschutes Fresh Squeezed IPA (American IPA; Deschutes Brewery, OR); $10/12 oz 6 pack, 92 points. Brewed with Citra and Mosaic hops, this IPA offers a bold hop presence throughout. As promised by the name, the golden-amber brew leads with intense fresh scents of orange juice, grapefruit, passion fruit, pineapple and papaya. The fruity dominance carries through to the juicy palate, grounded by a caramel malt core and a medium-weight feel to keep the fruitiness in check. A slightly sticky, bitter impression lands on the finish and trends longer and more intense with each sip. abv: 6.4%

Dogfish Head Liquid Truth Serum IPA (American IPA; Dogfish Head Craft Brewery, DE); $10/16 oz 4 pack, 92 points. This is four times the fun, with whole leaf, liquefied, pelletized and powdered hops in the mix. That might sound like a lot—or too much—but it all comes across as harmonious, coupling the intense hop tones with the solid malt core. The aromas lead with assertive citrus zest, peach and pineapple notes, with a bitter impression but not overly so. On the palate, the bitterness amps up, and the feel is slightly sticky, but it’s balanced by ample carbonation and a sweet caramel-malt presence. Flavors of grapefruit zest and light pine needle kiss the close. abv: 7% 

Elysian Dayglow IPA (American IPA; Elysian Brewing Company, WA); $13/12 oz 6 pack, 91 points. A clear orange-­copper color, this pours with a solid finger’s worth of frothy white head that leaves nice lacing behind with each sip. Brewed with Mosaic, El Dorado and Centennial hops, the aromas are surprisingly subdued, with medium-light scents of citrus oil, pressed white and yellow flowers and cracker malt. Medium in body, the texture is smooth and balanced, with a solid bitter bite to counter the sweet malt and tropical fruit flavors. Overall, it’s clean, well made and alarmingly easy to drink. abv: 7.4% 

10 Barrel Brewing Joe IPA (American IPA; 10 Barrel Brewing Co., OR); $11/12 oz 6 pack, 90 points. This golden brew pours with a frothy white head that sticks around and leaves nice lacing around the glass with each sip. It’s not shy on aromatics, with pronounced scents of grapefruit, orange peels and some light pine resin. The medium-bodied palate is similarly flavored, with hop-forward flavors of citrus oil and zest that come across as appropriately sticky and bitter. It’s all balanced by a solid caramel-malt core and soft sweetness that keeps the astringency in check. abv: 6.9%