Sculpin IPA beer

Sculpin IPA beer (Photo by Ballast Point)

The world of craft brewing has seen an explosion of creativity and flavor innovation, and some of the best IPA beers showcase this craftsmanship. These India Pale Ales are celebrated for their bold, hop-forward profiles that deliver a symphony of aromatic and bitter notes. With a spectrum of flavors ranging from citrusy and tropical to piney and resinous, the best IPAs offer a diverse and satisfying range of experiences for beer enthusiasts.

So, why do people love sipping on IPAs so much? For many reasons, you can expect a refreshing and invigorating drinking experience, captivating the senses with each sip. Plus, the bitterness derived from the abundant hops lends IPA beers a unique and satisfying bite, which appeals to those seeking a more robust and flavorful beer. IPA beers often possess a higher alcohol content, adding a delightful warmth to the overall experience. With their depth of flavors, intense hop presence, and higher alcohol content, IPA beers offer a truly remarkable and captivating beer-drinking experience for enthusiasts and adventurers alike.

Drinking beer (to a certain extent) could even be beneficial to your health! A new study conducted by the Italian Ministry of University and Research found that hops, which give many varieties of beer their bitter flavor, are also capable of preventing harmful proteins from clumping together in the brain. Researchers examined four common varieties of hops using a similar method brewers use to create beer. During their experiments, they discovered that the extracts had antioxidant properties and were able to block amyloid beta proteins from clumping around nerve cells.

IPAs – the very word conjures up images of bold bitterness, citrusy explosions, and frothy headstands. But what goes into crafting these hoppy icons? Buckle up, beer lovers, as we delve into the fascinating world of IPA brewing, separating hype from holy grail and guiding you towards your perfect pint.

What is an IPA?

Here is a breakdown of what makes India Pale Ales distinct in the world of beer:

  • Malt: The base layer, providing fermentable sugars and body. Pale malts dominate for a light, crisp canvas, while some brewers might add caramel or crystal malts for a touch of sweetness.
  • Hops: The undisputed stars, their oils imbue IPAs with bitterness, aroma, and flavor. From citrusy Cascade to piney Chinook, the hop varieties and timing of their addition (during boiling, dry hopping, etc.) create an infinite spectrum of hoppy delights.
  • Yeast: The invisible magician, converting sugars into alcohol and CO2. Ale yeasts, like S-05 or US-05, are the usual suspects, producing clean fermentation and fruity esters that can complement the hops.

The IPA Brewing Process:

  1. Mashing: Grains and hot water mingle, releasing sugars for fermentation.
  2. Boiling: Hops unleash their magic, bitterness infusing the wort (unfermented beer).
  3. Fermentation: Yeast devours sugars, producing alcohol and CO2, shaping the beer’s character.
  4. Dry Hopping: Hops dance again, infusing the finished beer with intense aroma and flavor.
  5. Conditioning: Time allows flavors to meld and CO2 to naturally carbonate.

IPA Styles:

  • American IPA: The OG, bursting with citrusy, tropical fruit notes and assertive bitterness. Think grapefruit, mango, and a lingering pine finish.
  • New England IPA: Hazy, juicy, and bursting with citrus and stone fruit. Low bitterness and a creamy mouthfeel make these hazy wonders dangerously drinkable.
  • West Coast IPA: Crisp, clean, and resinously bitter. Pine, grapefruit, and a bone-dry finish define this classic style.

If you’re already a fan of IPAs, or if you’re just looking to try something new, this list is a great starting point. StudyFinds has compiled a list of some of the top recommendations for the best IPAs across 10 expert sites. Already have a favorite drink of your own? Let us know which one in the comments below! 

Ballast Point Sculpin' IPA
Ballast Point Sculpin’ IPA (Photo by Paul Hanaoka on Unsplash)

The List: Best IPAs, According to Experts

1. Ballast Point Brewing Company Sculpin

This beer became an instant hit ever since it was debuted at a local watering hole by three home-brewers. Ballast Point has since stuck to its practice of making well-balanced drinks, even when other West Coast breweries have been making bitter-focused beers. According to Hop Culture, “With hops that added a ton of bright tropical fruit and aromas of pine and orange, ‘the brightness of Sculpin matched the sun in San Diego.’”

Sculpin is named after a spiny, unattractive fish that yields delicious flavor. This beer is much the same, with a bitter hop punch in tandem with refreshing tropical, fruity notes. “Sculpin IPA has proven so popular that Ballast Point now offers variations with grapefruit, habanero and coffee,“ writes GAYOT.

Delish writes: “Ballast Point’s Sculpin IPA uses hops at five separate stages during the brewing process. ‘This IPA has great apricot and citrus flavors, refreshing taste, and is an all round great summer beverage,’ said Andrew Court, executive chef at The InterContinental Chicago Magnificent Mile.”

2. Alpine Beer Co. Nelson IPA

Alpine Beer Co.’s Nelson IPA is a very classic hoppy IPA. It is named after Nelson Sauvin, a hop varietal from New Zealand. It pours bright orange with a thick white foam, and stands at 7 percent ABV. “It has a slight natural haziness and drinks light and bright with tropical notes,” says Delish.

The pine and fruity hop notes of the beer are balanced by the smoothness of European rye malts and the aroma of orange peel and citrus. “Super refreshing on a hot summer day,” adds Chron.

3. Bell’s Two Hearted Ale

With its zesty fizz and delicious citrus flavor, this beer has been a staple in the Mid-Western brew scene since the ’90s. It is 7 percent ABV and brewed with 100 percent Centennial hops. Bison Brew explains “Pouring a hazy golden orange, this beer is bitter, piney, citrusy, and floral.”

The crystal malt flavor helps balance the strong citrus buzz and makes this beer suitable to be paired with any dish or to accompany any occasion. “It has a delicious citrus flavor—almost like you expressed orange zest into the bottle,” says Sporked.

According to Delish, “It has 160 five-star reviews for it’s ‘full flavor and nice hop balance.’ Plus the brewery says it’s ‘well suited for Hemingway-esque trips to the Upper Peninsula.'”

4. Pliny the Elder

This double IPA is often hard to find and is named after the ancient Roman naturalist “Pliny the Elder,” who first studied the hop plant. Men’s Journal reports “if you can get your hands on the Elder, a world of well-balanced malt, hop, and citrus is sure to be a mouth-watering experience you won’t soon forget.”

Russian River Brewing in Santa Rosa, California keeps supply tight to ensure that all beers out on the market are fresh. This IPA is piney, bitter, and resinous but still smooth. “The beauty of Pliny the Elder lies in how balanced and drinkable it is,” explains Cool Material.

GAYOT tells the tale: “This cloudy, copper-hued, well-balanced beer is crafted with Amarillo, Centennial, CTZ and Simcoe hops and has an enticing aroma, reminiscent of a pine forest. Pliny the Elder succumbed in heroic fashion while rescuing friends during the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in 79 A.D.; you can now drink like a hero with Russian River’s iconic IPA.”

5. Sierra Nevada Hazy Little Thing

Total Wine & More mentions “Juicy hops and silky malt meet in this fruit forward IPA with modest bitterness and a smooth finish.” This IPA is unfiltered and unprocessed and goes straight from the tanks into the cans. The beer dry-hopped with Citra, Comet, Simcoe, El Dorado, and Mosaic hops.

Hazy Little Thing is a staple that you might have seen at most grocery or liquor stores, and is a solid pick for those looking for a well-balanced IPA that still packs a punch. This edition is Sierra Nevada Brewery’s most popular seller. “It is served straight from the tank without much filtration to give its silky texture and flavorful fruity notes,” adds Homebrew Academy.

“‘It is a great IPA with lots of flavor. [It’s] consistent, not too bitter, not too juicy, just right.’ Some may call it the goldilocks of IPAs,” mentions Delish.

Finding Your Perfect Pint:

  • Explore: Don’t be afraid to venture beyond popular brands. Local breweries often brew hidden gems.
  • Ask: Your local brewery staff are passionate experts. Ask about their IPAs, brewing process, and hop choices.
  • Taste: Start with classic styles like American IPAs. As your palate evolves, venture into hazies, West Coast marvels, and more.

Remember: The “best” IPA is subjective. Embrace the diversity, experiment, and discover your own hoppy haven.

Bonus Tip: Pair your IPA with food! Cheeses, spicy dishes, and grilled meats can create a symphony of flavor.

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Note: This article was not paid for nor sponsored. StudyFinds is not connected to nor partnered with any of the brands mentioned and receives no compensation for its recommendations. This post may contain affiliate links.

About Elsa Lee

Elsa is a freelance journalist, copywriter, and marketer based out of the Los Angeles area. She has been writing for 7 years.

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StudyFinds publishes digestible, agenda-free, transparent research summaries that are intended to inform the reader as well as stir civil, educated debate. We do not agree nor disagree with any of the studies we post, rather, we encourage our readers to debate the veracity of the findings themselves. All articles published on StudyFinds are vetted by our editors prior to publication and include links back to the source or corresponding journal article, if possible.

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  1. H says:

    Well not sure I agree with any of your selections but it is very subjective in any event

    Just had a Pliney The Elder and it would not make my personal top 25 but again, so subjective!

  2. Supr says:

    This is the IPA list for people who don’t what they are talking about. It should be called 5 IPAs people have heard of because they are mass marketed by multinational corporations. (Aside from pliny which is ok.)

  3. Jim says:

    All this list is is a Top 40 list of best selling mass produced craft beers. Nothing of any substance or accuracy in this article.

  4. Paul Lauver says:

    If I can find it within 3 months of packaging Jai Alai by Cigar City is a fave. I loved Ruthless Rye by Sierra Nevada, glad they are bringing it back in a variety pack 🍻❤️

  5. Tom says:

    Where are the non-fruity IPA’s? This list is closer to a favorite New England style IPA list.

  6. Dave says:

    Some of these comments are absurd. These are the top recommended. If someone who has not developed a pallet for IOAs is asking me, I’m not recommending Heady Topper. I’m recommending something more accessable.

    There are plenty of places where several of these are either unattainable, or sitting on a shelf for 4 months. Unless you live in CA, NV or PA, your not getting Pliney and as noted above, I’ll take Blind Pig from RR, over that.

  7. Jeff Linsted says:

    How or why would you pick a favorite list?? Ridiculous. So many beers out there & who are these experts? I’ve had plenty of beer in my day & am planning on many more. Pretty sure that makes me an expert. BTW. We rule the craft beer world in Iowa!!

  8. Ward Tisdale says:

    Have you tried Electric Jellyfish by Austin’s Pinthouse Pizza? My personal favorite ever.