One of every three craft beers sold today is an IPA, having displaced “seasonals” as North America’s leading-selling style a couple of years ago. For most of the new millennium, IPAs have been the most contested category at the Great American Beer Festival and the style that has inspired the most innovation and experimentation among brewers. Listed here are the Top 40 most popular IPAs ranked by alcohol content, with original gravities and IBUs where available.
|Top 40 American IPAs|
|Deviant Dale’s||Oskar Blues||85||8.0%|
|Hop Rod Rye||Bear Republic||1074||80||8.0%|
|Head Hunter||Fat Head’s||17.0||87||7.5%|
|Jai Alai||Cigar City||17.0||70||7.5%|
|Racer 5||Bear Republic||1072.0||75||7.5%|
|75 Minute||Dogfish Head||7.5%|
|Loose Cannon||Heavy Seas||45||7.25%|
|Big Eye||Ballast Point||84||7.0%|
|Union Jace||Firestone Walker||60||7.0%|
|Celebration Ale||Sierra Nevada||16.0||65||6.8%|
|Blind Pig||Russian River||1058||6.1%|
|Latitude 48||Samuel Adams||55||6.0%|
|60 Minute||Dogfish Head||60||6.0%|
|Goose IPA||Goose Island||1062||55||5.9%|
|* expressed as degrees Plato or as specific gravity|
Many of the IPAs at the lower end of the list, such as 6.2% Lagunitas IPA (1995), 5.9% Harpoon IPA (1993), and 5.9% Anchor Liberty Ale (1975), were first brewed before the 1995 Supreme Court decision (Rubin v. Coors) that struck down a 60-year prohibition on labeling alcohol contents of beer. From that point on, ABVs of IPAs began to inch higher. In particular, the 5.9% IPAs hark back to the days when most Southern and many Midwestern states imposed 6.0% ceilings on beers of any style. Conceding one-third of your potential market by brewing a stronger beer is no way to build a national brand.
The most popular IPA strength today is 7.0%—a sort of sweet spot where flavor and drinkability are in perfect balance. This is where you’ll find such classics as Sculpin, Two Hearted, Lunch, and Duet. Some brewers, though, push the envelope to 7.5%, the unofficial boundary between single IPAs and double, or imperial strength, IPAs. That extra half percent of alcohol, flavor, and hop goodness helps explain why Jai Alai, Perpetual, and Head Hunter are such consistent sellers.
Not surprisingly, beers from Oskar Blues and Bear Republic top the list with 8.0% ABVs—a level most drinkers associate with double IPAs. After all, these are the same guys that brought you Dale’s Pale Ale—which at 6.5%, drinks more like an IPA—and Racer 5, whose 7.5% strength and gold medal at the 1999 Great American Beer Festival forced organizers to split the IPA category into a milder “English-style” division and one for the increasingly popular and stronger “American-style IPAs.”
Nearly a decade ago, Stone Brewing cofounder Greg Koch told me “there’s nothing India about IPAs anymore.” For sure, contemporary brewers use the term rather loosely to describe virtually any hoppy beer. But hey, if you brewed it, you can call it whatever the hell you want.