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Ten Great IPAs for Craft Beer Lovers

Probably no beer has a more "love it" or "hate it" reaction than IPAs — India pale ales. Reactions range from a chest-thumping “more hops the better!” to “ewww, it’s so bitter, how can you stand it?”

But IPAs range more in taste than pretty much any other style of beer. There is one constant—hops. You will know this is an alcoholic drink. Think of IPAs as the gin and tonic of beer.

The name comes from colonial Britain when ale destined for troops in India was packed with extra hops so that it would still taste like something when it arrived.

And IPA beer comes by some of its bad reputation in the U.S. honestly. When they first started becoming The Thing in the craft beer craze here, far too many breweries were merely racing to get the highest IBUs (International Bitterness Units) in a bottle.  Many early IPAs were also piney tasting, and the combination made first-timers think they had been given a glass of turpentine.

Now, IPAs range from fruity to malty to dark. But the one constant is hops, and while they may taste sharp to the uninitiated, once your palate becomes accustomed, a normal beer tastes like water.

Here are ten great IPAs to watch out for. I did not name this column the 10 best for a good reason. These aren’t even my ten favorites. With the proliferation of breweries in the United States, with my home state of Michigan ranking in the Top 5, there is simply no way to taste them all. So, while some might find my list a bit Michigan-centric, I tried to limit my choice to beer that is available in much of the country.  I will also limit beer geek talk about kinds of hops and frothy finishes as much as possible.

So, if you’re wondering what to stock for your holiday party, here are 10 suggestions that make your hop-loving guests happy.

All Day IPA—Founders Brewing Co., Michigan

 

The gateway drug to IPAs is this superb “Session IPA” from Founders in Michigan. As its name suggests, it’s great for that all-day party or a long day on the beach, with its lighter flavor and lower alcohol content. Sure, if you’ve never had an IPA you will find it more bitter than what you’re used to but finish the whole thing — or two — then decide.

This is an exceptionally refreshing and tasty beer with a citrusy undertone and is a justified favorite--even for hop-heads.

Sierra Nevada Pale Ale—Sierra Nevada Brewery, California

Sierra Nevada Pale was one of the first really tasty pale ales to become a nationwide favorite and it really paved the way for IPAs to go mainstream. It’s still very popular, with a medium amount of IBUs and a refreshing aftertaste.