Ale To the Chief: IPA Reviews

For our inaugural National Beer Panel reviews, we asked panelists to taste IPAs (India pale ales). These reviews include brief tasting notes, ratings and information about ABV and IBUs. All beers should be widely available (for sale in at least three major metro markets).

If you’re a retail or on-premise beer professional who would like to learn more about participating in our panel, please contact associate editor Kyle Swartz at 203-855-8499 ext. 225 or kswartz@specialtyim.com

FIVE STARS

(94) DirtWolf Double IPA (Victory Brewing Co., Downingtown, PA) 8.7% ABV. Based on smell and appearance alone, few beers match the piney allure of the hazy orange DirtWolf. Grapefruit and spice notes pepper the palate initially, but the finish tends to be a bit too bitter and dry. Watch out, as DirtWolf can sneak up on you quickly at 8.7% ABV.

(94) Monkeynaut IPA (Straight to Ale, Huntsville, AL) 7.25% BV. Malty citrus flavored with a mid-to-heavy hop taste. Soft mouthfeel and well balanced.

(94) Myrcenary IPA (Odell Brewing Co., Fort Collins, CO) 9.3% ABV, 70 IBUs. The beer has a creamy and hazy sunset appearance. A nice variety of aromas, like a bag of Starbursts candy, melon, tangerine and pineapple. Taste is well balanced with Citra hops and light malt. Very easy to indulge, considering the ABV. The four-pack price (about $10) may seem high for first-timers, but it’s worth it.

(94) New Glarus Scream Double IPA (New Glarus Brewing Co., New Glarus, WI) 9% ABV. Pours a golden-straw color, with one finger of head, and jolts from the glass with juicy tangerine aromas. Palate is creamy with a variety of citrus fruits, crisp. English malt backbone and moderate residual hop bitterness. This beer is terrifically balanced given the 9% ABV.

FOUR STARS

(92) Hop Hunter IPA (Sierra Nevada Brewing Co., Chico, CA) 6% ABV, 60 IBUs. The appearance is pale orange with a fresh and floral nose. Quite inviting. Nothing unique about the head. The taste has a definite creamy citrus follow-through. Lush on the tongue, but not heavy. A sessionable beer. Aftertaste is fairly clean, doesn’t linger too long.

(92) Peak Organic IPA (Peak Organic Brewing Co., Portland, ME) 7.1% ABV. Golden color poured to a half-inch head. Aroma is not overpowering, and there is smoothness to the taste. Easy going down. Hoppy flavor comes at the finish. The sneakiness of the alcohol content is a reflection of the smoothness. IBUs in the 40s.

(92) Summit Unchained Hop Silo Double IPA (Summit Brewing Co., St. Paul, MN) 8.3% ABV. A nose full of citrus-and-pine-hop accents jumps out of the glass as you pour. Color is a rich bronze, backed up by a sweet, malty body. Rich malt flavors balance out the 101 IBUs very well.

(91) Drake’s Hopocalypse Double IPA (Drakes Brewing Co., San Leandro, CA) 9.3% ABV, 100-plus IBUs. A sweet and extremely bitter beer. Pours a clear gold with hues of orange and a small, white head. Pine, mango and orange peel aroma and taste with a biscuit quality. Oily mouthfeel with prickly carbonation makes for a deceptively smooth and fruity IPA.

(91) Yard’s Brewing Co. RyeIPA (Philadelphia) 6.2% ABV, 55 IBUs. Pours dark amber, with a full head that dissipates quickly. Medium-intensity aroma of spice and citrus. Medium intensity on the palate. Medium­- to full-bodied texture that has a bit of creaminess, notes of citrus, spice and pine—well balanced. Unique overall, a very good beer.

(90) Great Lakes Commodore Perry IPA (Great Lakes Brewing Co., Cleveland, OH) 7.5% ABV. Quietly one of the best bang-for-your-buck IPAs on the market, a three-time Gold Medal winner in the World Beer Championships. The Commodore isn’t flashy, but this medium-bodied brew carries a slightly sweet malt that leads into a dry, citric and tropical fruit finish.

(90) Nerd Alert Pseudo Pilsner (Monday Night Brewing, Atlanta) 5.2% ABV. Light amber color with a light, soft mouthfeel. Lower IBU with a nice citrus taste. Low bitter and a wild Belgium finish.

(89) Hop Nosh IPA (Uinta Brewing Co., Salt Lake City, UT) 7.3% ABV, 82 IBUs. Pours a cloudy amber color, leaving about an inch of white head. Smells of earthy malt with hints of lemon and pine hops. Hops come forward with this beer, hitting the palate with that resiny pine bitterness and hints of grapefruit. Overall, a delicious IPA at a nice value.

(88) Easy Jack IPA (Firestone Walker Brewing Co., Paso Robles, CA) ABV: 4.5%, IBUs: 35-40. Pours a light golden color with a thin white head. Nice balance between malt and hop bitterness. With a low ABV and light feel, this will make for a great summer beer.

(87) Gubna Imperial IPA (Oskar Blues Brewery, Longmont, CO) The IPA has an alternating recipe—this batch is 10% ABV with more than 100 IBUs. Pours a deep gold color with minimal head and nice white lacing. Smells extremely sweet, with notes of pineapple and candied oranges. Taste is similar to the smell. Very thick and oily, but better than the last batch.

(87) Lakefront IPA (Lakefront Brewery, Milwaukee, WI) 6.9% ABV. This is an entry-level IPA that features subtle hop aromas, a solid malt core and some residual hop bitterness. At 44 IBUs, a great beer for those looking to transition to hoppy beers and not be overwhelmed. It’s also a great match for food.

(87) Soul Style IPA (Green Flash Brewing Co., San Diego) 6.5% ABV, IBUs: 75. Pours a medium head with a light, orange-yellow color. Malt-forward finishing, with a strong hop assertiveness. Simcoe, Citra and Cascade hops lend pine resin and tropical fruit flavors.

(86) Lucky U IPA (Breckenridge Brewing, Denver, CO) 6.2% ABV, 68 IBUs. Pours smooth with a creamy, white head. Tremendous hoppy aroma—a real IPA nose. The hops are very forward, lingering on the tongue, yet still some maltiness and a nice balance. A good IPA for those just starting to get into the style.

(86) Rogue Brutal IPA (Rogue Ales, Newport, OR) 46 IBUs, 5.8% ABV. A solid IPA with a focus on citrus flavors and aromas from Alluvial Hops. Medium bodied with a bright copper color. Just enough structure to let the hops be the star of the show. Very approachable.

(86) Samuel Adams Rebel RouserStyle Double IPA (Boston Beer Co., Jamaica Plain, MA) 8.4% ABV, 85 IBUs. The beer pours dark pale, light amber, with a thin head that dissipates very quickly. Low-intensity aroma, almost sweet, with notes of malt, biscuit and citrus zest. Medium intensity on the palate. Sweet malt gets followed by strong citrus hops that carry over to the bitter finish. An enjoyable beer overall.

(86) Victory Beer Anniversary 19 Style Session IPA (Victory Brewing Co., Downingtown, PA) 4.5% ABV, 40 IBUs. Pours pale yellow with a medium head. Has a medium-intensity aroma, notes of malt, biscuit, grass and citrus, with medium intensity on the palate. The malt flavor gives way to strong bitterness that lingers on the finish. The light malt body doesn’t stand up well to the intense bitterness—it’s a bit unbalanced. But all and all, this is an enjoyable session beer.

THREE STARS

(85) Singapore IPA (Saugatuck Brewing Co., Douglas, MI) 7% ABV, 72 IBUs. The head holds very well off the pour, with a deep amber color to the beer itself. A balanced aroma and flavor. This is a malt-lovers IPA hearkening back to the traditional British IPAs, yet not without a hop profile.

(84) Otter Creek Black IPA (Middlebury, VT) 6.3% ABV. Dark rich malty color of a porter with the distinct hoppy aroma of an IPA. Poured to an inch of foamy head and foam resonated on the glass during consumption. Strong distinct taste of black licorice that lingered long after finishing. IBU bitterness in the 50s.

(81) Fire Rock Pale Ale (Kona Brewing Co., Kailua Kona, HI) 6% ABV. It has a dark amber color and a crisp mouthfeel. A hoppy hit, then a malty finish. This beer is “strong” in the sense that the flavor carries for long time.

Reviewers’ Choice

Ballast Point’s Grapefruit Sculpin IPAScreen Shot 2015-07-08 at 11.25.24 AM

A number of panelists chose to review Grapefruit Sculpin IPA from Ballast Point Brewing Co.in San Diego (7% ABV, 70 IBUs). All gave the beer five stars, with slight differences in scores and tasting notes.

(98) Sculpin pours a beautiful golden color, forming a nice fluffy white head. Aroma is big hops and wonderful citrus and tropical fruitiness. Taste is wonderfully balanced between bitter, piney hops and an enjoyable grapefruit and mango fruit finish.

(97) Pours golden with hints of reddish orange with a steady white head. Smells of citrus, grass and honey, which are present in the taste, just like the grapefruit. There is a lighter mouthfeel.

(97) Sculpin delivers as one of the most well-balanced IPAs on the market. This light, golden beauty shines with nice citrus notes blended with a light caramel malt flavor. Smooth from start to finish.

(96) Ballast Point has long been a leader in IPAs, and this Sculpin IPA one-off is a line extension worth the hype! A citrus lover’s dream, Ballast Point has taken their world-class IPA and added fresh grapefruit.

(94) Pours an orange color with a medium head. Grapefruit aromas abundant, nice balance of bitter, tart grapefruit and floral hops. Medium mouthfeel, refreshing and highly drinkable.

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