Berrong on Beer - Now's the time to be drinking IPAs
September 14th, 2012
01:30 PM ET
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Nathan Berrong works at CNN's satellite desk and this is the seventh installment of his beer column. He Tweets at @nathanberrong and logs beers at Untappd. Drink up.

Certain beer styles just taste better at different times of the year. Give me a big Stout or Quadrupel in the dead of winter. I'll take a Saison or Hefeweizen on those 90+ degree summer days in Atlanta. And as college football begins and fall is on the horizon, all I want to drink are IPAs.

Beer styles tend to have hot streaks and become the must haves of the moment. Currently, sour and barrel-aged beers are all the rage, but those will someday lose their popularity and a new flash-in-the-pan style will have its moment to shine. One style though, has remained tried and true since its inception and has become the unofficial staple American craft beer: the India Pale Ale.

The IPA traces it roots back to the 1700s when British ships bound for India were stocked with beer that contained enough hops and alcohol to endure the six month journey for the crew of the boat. The large amount of hops and extra alcohol would be enough to stave off bacteria from forming in the barrels and help the beer retain a desired flavor.

The style quickly caught on and breweries began producing IPAs all over England. American brewers later adopted the style and used our indigenous hops, which have a more pronounced bitterness and robust flavor than the English varieties. The Ballantine India Pale Ale became the first widely distributed IPA in America but it was the Sierra Nevada Brewery that popularized the style as we know it today, in 1980.

The Brewer's Association recognizes 84 different beer styles but when you factor in the sub categories of those 84, you get a total of over 150 various styles. There's truly a beer style for everyone. If you're one of those "I don't like beer" people, keep trying different styles. There's bound to be one that you'll enjoy.

I'm currently enjoying the heck out of IPAs. I'm always seeking out new ones and revisiting the classics that first turned me onto the style. But talk to me next month and my beer style of the moment could very well be a Bourbon Barrel Aged Pumpkin Ale. But for now, I'm all about the IPAs. I've listed the different varieties of IPAs below, along with my favorites of each and I'd love to know yours. Let me know in the comments below.

Pale Ale
The Pale Ale is the mildest and most balanced of the hop-heavy style. Bitterness is subtle and the appearance of this beer ranges from a pale to deep golden color. ABV is relatively low, usually around 4 – 6%. This has been my favorite style as of late mainly due to the balanced flavors and drinkability of these beers. Three of my favorites are:

Three Floyds – Zombie Dust
Half Acre – Daisy Cutter
Founders – Pale Ale

The IPA is a bigger version, both in terms of hop bitterness and ABV, of the Pale Ale. It's the most popular beer style in America with over 3000 different IPAs currently in production. The bitterness of the IPA is medium to high and golden to deep copper in color. The ABV for this style is mid-range, somewhere around 6 – 8%. I'm loving these IPAs right now:

Firestone Walker – Union Jack
Green Flash – West Coast IPA
Odell – IPA

The Double (or Imperial, depending on who you ask) IPA is the style hop-heads are willing to wreck their taste buds over. Bitterness is usually out of control with many brewers pushing the limits of how many IBUs they can cram into a single beer. Alcohol is detectable in the taste of this style and the ABV can go as high as 18%. These beers are not for the faint of heart but when a brewery does it right, and balances all of the components out, like the ones below, it makes for an incredible brew.

Russian River – Pliny the Elder
The Alchemist – Heady Topper
Bell's – Hopslam

Fresh Hop
The Fresh Hop IPA is a lesser known IPA style and is being judged for the first time at this year's Great American Beer Festival a.k.a. the Olympics of beer. Brewing a Fresh Hop Ale is a tedious brewing process. The hop harvest happens once a year (right about now) towards the end of summer/beginning of fall and in order for a beer to be considered a Fresh Hop, the hops must go into the "boil" within hours of picking them off their bines. Since the majority of hops are grown out West, this means an East Coast brewery would have to ship their hops immediately and add them into the brewing process right away.

Because of the high cost and work involved, many breweries largely ignore this style and instead opt for dried whole cone hops or hop pellets. Fresh Hop beers run the gamut in color, bitterness, and ABV, with the only true requirement being the use of, well, fresh hops. This year's Fresh Hop Ales should be hitting the market soon and if you can get your hands on one of these, do it, the aroma and clean taste of the hops is unlike any other style. Here are three breweries that do it exceptionally well:

Great Divide – Fresh Hop
Sierra Nevada – Northern Hemisphere Harvest
Deschutes – Fresh Hop Mirror Pond

Black IPA
The newest style of the IPA bunch is the Black IPA. As the name suggests, this is an IPA that is dark to black in appearance but still has a very hop-centered aroma and taste. Much like the Fresh Hop IPAs, ABV and bitterness vary with roasted malts being the only distinguishable requirement of the beer. Some Black IPAs can taste a little burnt or too roasty, but when done correctly, it's a unique and delicious beer. I personally love:

Victory – Yakima Glory
21st Amendment – Back in Black
Clown Shoes – Hoppy Feet 1.5

Peace and happy drinking, and share your favorites in the comments below.

Previously - You say you want a canvolution?

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soundoff (228 Responses)
  1. Herman the Kid

    Imperial IPA from Epic Brewing has to be the best IPA I've ever tasted.

    September 20, 2012 at 11:05 am |
  2. Brian

    Chainbreaker from Deschutes Brewery is one that I've found to have a great, complex flavor. Its a white IPA with corriander. Great drinkability!

    September 18, 2012 at 2:02 pm |
  3. Primal 4 Life

    No mention of Stone, this guy has no credibility. Ruination is the absolute best IPA on the planet, period.

    September 18, 2012 at 1:16 pm |
    • Odell???

      ah yes, Stone IPA is one of the great ones. I believe the brewmaster of the now defunct Oasis brewery is responsible for Stone.

      September 18, 2012 at 1:22 pm |
    • CaknDiwBGeek

      Chill, beer dude, most of us beer geeks worthy of the name could name 5 to 10 very worthy examples in those category. The writer was just mentioning what he is drinking at the moment.

      September 19, 2012 at 10:32 am |
  4. Odell???

    Don't know about the other two, but Odell??? Come on. Having spent much time in neighboring Boulder, I am well acquainted with Odell brewery (located right up the road). Although not a terrible IPA, it certainly does not rival Anderson Valley's IPA. Odell is a 90 pound weakling going up against this heavy hitter IPA.

    September 18, 2012 at 12:31 pm |
  5. Racer5

    Almost forget, absolutely the best IPA's out there are Surly Furious and Abbrasive.

    September 18, 2012 at 11:05 am |
  6. Racer5

    Boulevard Single Wide IPA and Double Wide IPA are great.

    September 18, 2012 at 11:04 am |
  7. Jacques

    If you're in the Twin Cities area, Steel Toe's Size 7 can't be beat. An assertive blast of citrus with some pine and resin right behind it, balancing some nice alcoholic warmth. The malt ties the whole thing together like The Dude's rug.

    Another fave is Bell's Two-Hearted Ale.

    September 18, 2012 at 10:55 am |
  8. psych2005

    You mentioned a great Founder's beer, but missed their triple IPA Devil Dancer. It's basically liquid hops, and an amazing beer. High ABV, great aroma, and it will knock your socks off!

    September 18, 2012 at 10:24 am |
  9. CBC

    Nice article– one really popular form of IPA also worth mentioning (sort of like the brief black IPA blurb at the end) would be the Rye IPA! There are so many awesome examples being brewed:

    Founder's Red's RyePA
    Shmaltz Bittersweet Lenny's RIPA
    Three Floyds Rye Da Tiger/ Rye Da Lightning
    Great Lakes Rye of the Tiger
    Sierra Nevada Ruthless Rye
    New Holland Rye Hatter

    September 18, 2012 at 1:50 am |
  10. rizzo

    It's ALWAYS a good time for IPA:)

    September 17, 2012 at 11:31 am |
  11. ohioan

    I'm not a huge fan of really hoppy beers but I do enjoy Three Floyd's Zombie Dust. I tend to gravitate more to the wheat beers of summer, Marzen styles in early fall, and in winter I enjoy stouts and porters.

    September 17, 2012 at 10:51 am |
  12. JohnBoy

    1. Ranger IPA
    2. Abita Jockamo IPA
    3. Stone IPA
    4. SN Pale Ale
    5. Southern Tier IPA
    6. My homebrew :)

    All good brews!! The order could depend on the given month. If only we got them all in Canada :( My homebrew helps fill the gap!

    September 17, 2012 at 9:59 am |
  13. Will

    Knee Deep Simtra is a really great Triple IPA that is a must try. As far as Stone goes, I recently had double dry hopped (I think they used columbus hops) Ruination at a local pub and it was absolutely delicious.

    I love that Nathan mentioned black IPA's. This has got to be a favorite beer style of mine as I love stouts and I love hops and the union of bitterness and roasted malt produces a great flavor. Check out Coronado Brewing Company's Black Sails and Port Brewing's Tarantulas 2.1

    September 16, 2012 at 9:51 pm |
  14. Charlie Bravo

    Stone Ruination. Hops, hops, and more hops.

    September 16, 2012 at 4:19 am |
  15. bill

    Stash IPA by Independence Brewery in Austin TX – best IPA I've had yet. Love them all.

    September 15, 2012 at 8:57 pm |
  16. Denis

    From Maine – Shipyard's Monkey Fist IPA is very good – will have to try the Sierra – hope it's fresh.

    September 15, 2012 at 5:01 pm |
  17. Norm

    Well someone's been listening to The Beerists Podcast...

    Come on CNN, ya can at least reference them without stealing all their material.

    September 15, 2012 at 12:40 pm |
    • Nathan Berrong

      Hi Norm. I've never listened to the Beerists Podcast before. The only podcasts I listen to are WTF, Comedy Bang Bang, and NPR. I think it's awesome there was apparently some overlap, though! Just curious, what were the similarities?

      September 16, 2012 at 2:05 pm |
  18. dirtydozen

    My hometown brewery makes the best IPA – Mad Anthony Brewing Company in Fort Wayne, IN. I've tasted quite a few. Not just being a homer. If you're traveling in northern IN it's well worth your money.

    September 15, 2012 at 12:39 pm |
  19. Greg

    Patrick is right, southern tier2x is great. I work for a beer distributor in charlotte, nc. We carry that one as well as Abita jockamo. Both are great IPA's.

    Great article, thanks, Nathan.

    September 15, 2012 at 11:57 am |
  20. wesleyclifford

    Dogfish Head's 90 Minute IPA is the #1 beer in the world, according to a survey I did earlier this year of myself.

    But seriously, it's a really good IPA.

    September 15, 2012 at 11:45 am |
    • J420

      Hear, hear... The 60 minute, nothing special... the 120 minute, virtually undrinkable... but DFH 90 minute is my favorite beer of all time.

      September 25, 2012 at 2:45 pm |
  21. Sue

    Get to Greensboro Vt for some of Hill Farmstead Brews. Amazing! Edward is a favorite!

    September 15, 2012 at 10:44 am |
  22. Jeff

    Wow... a CNN article where the comments section isn't filled with hateful attacks. Maybe the beer crowd should be in charge of the world... it'd sure be a lot more fun.

    September 15, 2012 at 10:44 am |
    • Nathan Berrong

      Beer brings people together!

      September 17, 2012 at 8:24 pm |
  23. babs

    Sierra Nevada's Celebration Ale is what I wait for each year. Also Tall Grass Oasis is outstanding.

    September 15, 2012 at 10:20 am |
  24. Patrick Mahoney

    If you are ever in this neck of the woods (Central New York) , you have got to try the 2X IPA from the Southern Tier Brewing co. It is a real treat.

    September 15, 2012 at 10:15 am |
    • emeline

      Patrick, We see Southern Tier in Atlanta! I love the iniquity and unearthly!

      IPA is a beer style that is best when it's fresh, so don't concern yourself too much with seeking Pliny or Heady Topper if you can't get them FRESH. Find your local brewery, and I can almost guarantee they make a unique and awesome IPA that will taste great because it's fresh! When I lived in Redlands, CA, I couldn't get enough of Hangar 24's IPA and Double IPA. Drink local, my friends!

      September 18, 2012 at 8:22 am |
  25. SOB Mark

    You can find some great IPA's and Oktober beers on sale at SaveOnBrew DOT com!

    September 15, 2012 at 8:54 am |
  26. Rachel Cho

    Cask strength IPA – Noble Ale Work's in Anaheim, CA. Their Knight Challenger Cask Strength IPA

    September 15, 2012 at 8:51 am |
  27. JCallaway

    Most IPA to my palate tastes like a lemon rind about to turn. But I just tried Abita's Jockamo. That was the juice. A beer that redefines for me what the style could be.

    September 15, 2012 at 7:22 am |
  28. Stax

    Oh, if only everyone could taste Heady Topper. Great mention of a deserving beer.

    September 15, 2012 at 7:17 am |
    • Will

      Heady Topper is one that I've been attempting to try. Being that The Alchemist are such a small time craft brewery in Vermont makes that really hard haha. It kind of reminds me of the way Alpine Brewing Co. does things here in San Diego. Their Bad Boy is one of the best DIPA I've ever tasted (it is definitely up there with Pliny) and they do not ship it, do not brew it on a regular basis, and do not bottle it. Basically you can only get it from their brewery in a growler or a pint from the tap.

      September 16, 2012 at 10:00 pm |
  29. Dukester72

    Bell's Two Hearted Ale for me

    September 15, 2012 at 6:45 am |
    • Phia

      I will second that motion, absolutely!

      September 15, 2012 at 11:57 am |
    • dirtydozen

      Agreed – lighter than most IPA's, but a perfectly balanced flavor. Near perfection. Bell's is the best brewery in the U.S.

      September 15, 2012 at 12:41 pm |
    • worstbeerblogever

      I agree! Bell's Two Hearted or Ballast Point Sculpin are two of my favorite IPAs

      September 15, 2012 at 6:15 pm |
    • CBC

      THE standby for my hop fix, and one of the beers that converted me to craft! I'm grateful to live in MI, for the fact that fresh Two Heart is on tap everywhere.

      September 18, 2012 at 1:53 am |
  30. 22XY

    Sorry, Fall = Oktoberfest

    September 15, 2012 at 6:39 am |
  31. jeff bojangles

    Classical Columbian cocaine used to be the main staple for those going out for a night on the town...but now many varieties have sprung up!

    Many people dont like cocaine often because of the taste you get during the drip, well I have news for you! There are a multitude of different varieties available now and if you keep sniffing your are bound to find one you like!

    Get a stuffy nose in the fall...?...You can always smoke and inject it too! Great for those with colds or allergies!
    My personal favorite lately has been the Peruvian flake cocaine. It has a shiny appearence with an almost purple tint....the powder tends to clump together, but once it succesfully goes down your nose you are in for a real treat!

    I encourage everyone to try these new varieties, and if you are a newcomer or switching over from beer you are in for a suprise. Cocaine is only mentally addicting, not physically addictive like alcohol. Also it has been shown to increase intelligence.

    Make sure for the winter season you get a hold of the "Pablo powder" or "Mexican snowflake" variety so you too can indeed have the "White Christmas"!

    September 15, 2012 at 6:12 am |
    • ipaman

      Can you at least try and spell the country correctly if you are going to be an jerk? It's Colombia.

      September 17, 2012 at 2:40 pm |
    • Odell???

      jeff bojangles: I hope for the sake of anyone around you that you are just a kid waiting to grow up.

      September 18, 2012 at 1:28 pm |
  32. Graphite Jones

    Sierra Nevada Pale Ale is my standard, daily beer.

    Also currently enjoying Abita Jockamo IPA.

    September 15, 2012 at 5:12 am |
  33. TampaMel

    OMG an article that didn't mention the election. It is going to take me about an hour to get over this. Thanks Nathan

    September 15, 2012 at 3:56 am |
  34. TravisL12

    First CNN article I can absolutely 100% agree with. IPA is the only beer.

    September 15, 2012 at 3:48 am |
  35. Octavio

    Gotta love a nice ! IPA or Stout!

    screw bud light and all that poop

    September 15, 2012 at 3:16 am |
  36. Bob Boise

    So what does IPA stand for?

    September 15, 2012 at 3:07 am |
    • Octavio

      Indian Pale Ale

      September 15, 2012 at 3:15 am |
      • theultimatefool

        Sorry to nitpick, but i

        September 15, 2012 at 10:53 am |
      • theultimatefool

        Excuse the earlier post, I accidentally hit post! What I was trying to say was that IPA actually stands for "India" Pale Ale, as it was the East India Trading Company that originated the style. Now if only I could figure out how to use a computer...

        September 15, 2012 at 10:58 am |
  37. tim

    Just got back from Bend, OR a few weeks ago and had the most amazing brown ale. 10 Barrel Brewery's Oregon Brown. I normally dislike browns but this was amazing. They loaded up the hops which is not the norm yet it still had the earthy taste of a brown. I'm still thinking about it.

    September 15, 2012 at 2:57 am |
    • honeybooboo

      you should try Stone's collaboration "TBA"–it's also a hoppy, brown ale. the type of thing I wish every Stone IPA (ie, every Stone beer) would taste like :D

      September 15, 2012 at 3:36 am |
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