Our editors independently research, test, and recommend the best products; you can learn more about our review process here. We may receive commissions on purchases made from our chosen links.
The IPA is craft brewing’s most popular style of beer, inspiring rabid devotion from fans who have lined up pre-dawn to purchase fresh releases and driven hours to acquire cases of canned double IPAs. But all IPAs are not alike. For craft brewers, the style is a blank slate for innovation, overseen by a single rule: use more hops than the average beer.
Some IPAs are hazier than a glass of orange juice, while others are just as juicy or citrusy. You’ll find potent double IPAs and easygoing session IPAs, as well as sweet milkshake IPAs and IPAs as red as the setting sun. To help sort through these differences, we tapped an array of experts to select the top IPAs.
Read on to learn more about the best IPA beers available.
One of America’s best-selling IPAs is the grapefruit-scented Two Hearted Ale, from Michigan’s Bell’s Brewery. It’s a great IPA, but the 7 percent ABV can be a touch too much for some beer drinkers. Luckily, Bell’s recently released the piney and citrusy Light Hearted Ale, a 110-calorie sibling that tips the scales at just 3.7 percent ABV per 12-ounce serving. “The sized-down version is retro, refreshing, crushable and 100 percent craft,” says Jeff Mello, the chief executive of Bootleg Biology, a yeast laboratory in Nashville. “Just because you're drinking more these days, it doesn’t mean your belt has to pay the price.”
Jeff O’Neill is one of America’s best IPA brewers, the mastermind behind Ithaca Beer’s legendary Flower Power. In 2016, he opened Industrial Arts in New York State’s Hudson Valley, where he’s continuing his IPA mastery with Wrench. It’s one of the region’s finest examples of the New England IPA, says Dan Lamonaca, the owner of Brooklyn’s Beer Karma, a bar and bottle shop. “As both a bar owner and beer drinker I can’t say enough good things about Wrench,” he says. “It’s bright, dank, citrus-forward, and everything you want in a New England IPA. It’s by far the best-selling beer at the shop and always has a place in my fridge at home.”
“I’m kind of old school when it comes to beers, gravitating to the tried and true,” says Rob Lightner, a founder of East Brother Beer Company. Regarding California IPAs, he digs Bear Republic’s legendary Racer 5. “In the midst of a juicy and fruity hops arms race, Racer 5 is an amazingly balanced beer, offering up a wonderful aroma—a touch of fruit, a touch of grass—and rich complex flavors.” It’s deceptively drinkable at 7.5 percent ABV and finishes with a pleasing bitterness that leaves you wanting another sip.
Picking a favorite hazy IPA is pretty tough, says Tom Acitelli, the author of Pilsner: How the Beer of Kings Changed the World. “There’s something about the bitterness that’s refreshing and the heaviness of the mouthfeel,” he says. “They’re the ultimate counter-reaction to watery macro brew. If you can find it, Heady Topper from the Alchemist in Vermont is great. If you can’t get that, get the 87 from Night Shift Brewing in the Boston area. And, if you can’t get that, Hazy Little Thing from the fabulous Sierra Nevada is available nationally and should be everyone’s fallback.”
Done right, a red IPA balances caramel sweetness with a live current of bitterness, cleaning up the palate and prepping you for another luscious sip. Ninkasi Brewing, in Eugene, Oregon, makes one of our all-time favorite versions, Dawn of the Red. It contains a quintet of American hops, including the aromatic El Dorado and Mosaic cultivars that contribute a fruity, tropical fragrance. The IPA’s year-round availability means you’ll rarely see red while seeking out a six-pack.
Lawson’s Finest Liquids has perfected a certain little magic trick: the Vermont-based brewery is able to brew double IPAs that drink as easily as session IPAs half their strength. Our favorite liquid from Lawson’s is Sip of Sunshine (8 percent ABV), a bright-drinking double IPA sold by the 16-ounce can. Take your time sipping the Sunshine and unpack its multilayered flavors, floral and citrusy, pungent and heady, with a tropical buffet of passion fruit and guava. The beer never shies away from bitterness, but it doesn’t piledrive your palate into submission. It’s the platonic ideal of a modern IPA.
New Belgium built its name on its Fat Tire amber ale, one of the brewing industry’s most influential beers. Then in 2017, New Belgium launched the hugely popular Voodoo Ranger series of IPAs, which now includes a brawny imperial IPA and Juicy Haze. The widely available unfiltered IPA is a balancing act of fruit-juice sweetness and bitterness, with oats and wheat creating a smooth swallow and trademark cloudy hue. When you drink, think of ripe pineapples, sun-ripened lemons, and good times on a Florida beach.
Lightner is also a big fan of Deschutes Brewery’s Fresh Haze, which might be a dead ringer for orange juice. “Balance is what this beer does best, offering up a load of orange citrus notes on the nose, a sweet drinkability in the flavor, and a clean snap of a finish that is underscored by a subtle lingering bitterness.” Lightner adds that this beer is an “excellent example” of the citrusy IPA style.
If you’re hankering for hops but not booze, sprint toward Athletic Brewing’s Run Wild IPA. The brewery, based in Connecticut and San Diego, has cracked the code on creating alcohol-free beers that deliver big flavor and fragrance without the buzz. Made with a proprietary brewing process, Run Wild matches a malt-focused body to five American-grown hops. It has a profile of pine needles and grapefruit zest that's backed up by a sensible amount of bitterness. You can also order Run Wild directly from the brewery, ensuring that every six-pack is guaranteed fresh.
Why Trust The Spruce Eats?
Joshua M. Bernstein, the author of this piece, knows beer. He's penned five books on the subject, as well as articles for The New York Times, Wine Enthusiast, Men’s Journal, and Imbibe. He interviewed four beer experts for this article.