On Wednesday, Paste magazine posted the results of a truly Herculean and heroic undertaking. In “Blind Tasting 116 of the Best American IPAs: We Have a Winner,” Jim Vorel and his hardy group of judges dared to “bruise [their] palates over the course of weeks with a metric ton of hop bitterness.” The list [and Thursday’s notes on the Providence Phoenix] inspired us to dig into the Bottles & Cans archive for these words, which ran in the August 1, 2014 issue in advance of the fourth annual IPA Day. We asked our beer industry pals to choose their current and all-time favorite IPAs [and double/imperial hop bomb] that are available in RI, and the best Rhody-made IPA [a few replies were slightly tweaked]. Bracketed numbers have been added to beers that made the Paste top 50. [And we didn’t ask our panel if any of their choices have changed in the past eight months; if so, they’ll let you know in the Comments section at the bottom of the post.]
DAVE CUMMINGS, SALES MANAGER, CRAFT BEER GUILD OF RHODE ISLAND
Choosing your favorite IPA is like choosing your favorite child — it’s neither possible nor fair. For me, it always depends on the mood and the situation. Only have time for one, and looking for a bitter IPA? That one has to be Smuttynose’s Finestkind IPA. It just crushes your taste buds with great flavor and bitterness. For an all-night IPA, Firestone Walker’s Union Jack [#9] is hard to beat for a great-tasting, citrus-filled IPA. At 7.5% ABV, it will sneak up on you, but the flavor and balance is tough to beat.
For a double IPA, I like Deviant Dale’s from Oskar Blues — it’s not listed as a double, but I think it is. It comes in a big can — 16 ounces, it’s 8% ABV, it’s hoppy. What’s not to like?
Favorite RI IPA: I’m very impressed with Proclamation’s Tendril. I look forward to seeing that one in cans or bottles.
BRIAN OAKLEY, GENERAL MANAGER, JULIAN’S, PROVIDENCE
For an all-time fave in the straight IPA category, I have to say Smuttynose’s Finestkind. They recently tweaked their recipe and it is drinking better than ever.
If I was going to pick a double or imperial IPA I would certainly say Dogfish Head’s 90 Minute or any of the Stone Enjoy By series…and though it is not technically an imperial IPA, Dogfish Head’s Burton Baton, which is a hybrid style that blends an imperial IPA and an English-style Old Ale and ages it on oak, is one of my absolute faves.
Keeping it local is awesome: I love Foolproof’s Backyahd, but nothing can taste better than Decadence when it is on at Trinity Brewhouse.
LARRY BROWN, RI WRITER @ YANKEE BREW NEWS
I’ve been doing “research” into IPAs for several years and decided to let my purchasing patterns do the voting. When I see Maine Beer Company’s Lunch [#2], I buy Maine Beer Company’s Lunch. Ballast Point’s Sculpin [#20] runs a close second. Victory’s Dirt Wolf also does some damage to my bank statements.
On the local front, I enjoy elements of all of the RI IPAs, but Proclamation’s Tendril is the one I order most.
KRISTIE MARTIN & ASHLEIGH BENNETT, TWO GIRLS, ONE BEER AND AUTHORS OF RHODE ISLAND BEER: OCEAN STATE HISTORY ON TAP
ASHLEIGH: My favorite RI-made IPA is Trinity IPA. Not only is it the flavor of this beer, but it’s the experiences that go with it. It makes me think of the first time I tried it, hanging out at the Hot Club with some friends on a sultry summer afternoon. One of my go-to bottled IPAs.
My favorite IPA is Firestone Walker’s Union Jack [#9]. This is a West Coast-style IPA, and while it’s bursting with hints of citrus and pineapple-scented hops, it’s balanced by sweet malty goodness.
KRISTIE: My favorite RI-made IPA is Tendril from Proclamation Ale, with big tangerine and piney deliciousness, but kept in check by a solid malt backbone. As for an IPA that you can pick up in Rhode Island, though only on precious occasions, my favorite is Maine Beer Company’s Lunch [#2] — it’s like squeezing a fresh grapefruit. I’m in love with anything from MBC. All their beers are clean, fresh, and well-executed.
DIANE ASCENCAO, OWNER, MADEIRA LIQUORS, PROVIDENCE
I love IPAs, they are by far my favorite type of beer! And how lucky we are to be living in the heyday of IPA! My all-time favorite is Sierra Nevada’s Torpedo [#43]. I love its big bold flavor, the citrus, the piney, herbal character, and it finishes with the right amount of bite. It’s just a gem of a IPA! My second pick is Smuttynose’s Finestkind — it’s hoppy, crisp, and just plain delicious! Third is Green Flash Brewing’s Green Bullet; it’s a more complex IPA with citrus flavors and undertones of pine and floral hops. There is also a very clean sweet malt flavor at the end.
My homegrown favorite is Foolproof’s Backyahd. I love its hoppy and citrusy taste. It’s a very easy-drinking IPA and my go-to recommendation for customers first trying an IPA.
SAM GLYNN , OWNER/OPERATOR, CHOMP KITCHEN AND DRINKS
IPAs are, without a doubt, my favorite style of craft beer. How could one not like the complexity of a great IPA with the notes of citrus, pine, or resin? A great IPA doesn’t have to have a huge ABV or IBU, but one with a well-rounded nose, flavor, and finish leaves you feeling refreshed, not feeling buzzed after two sips. Lagunitas IPA [#35] is my favorite beer. Its West Coast hops and nice malt backbone balance the beer and makes it a winner for anyone who tries it. At 6.2% ABV and only 42 IBUs, mixed with the right amount of citrus/resin, it’s a home run for me — just what you want from a well-rounded IPA.
CHUCK BORKOSKI, VICE-PRESIDENT/GENERAL MANAGER, ELEVATED SPIRITS
Aaaarghh . . . hands down my favorite IPA is Heavy Seas’s Loose Cannon [#7]. On tap, in a 12-ounce bottle, or its cask version dispensed from a beer engine, nothing satisfies my craving for hops like Loose Cannon. Another great alternative for IPA lovers is Wachusett’s Celebration of IPA mix pack of 12-ounce cans: Wachusett Light; Larry, a heavyweight, packing 85 IBUs and 8.5% ABV; their original “purple” IPA; and the West Coast-inspired Green Monsta. It’s an outstanding collection of hoppy greatness!
DAVE WITHAM, PRESIDENT/BREWMASTER, PROCLAMATION ALE CO.
IPA: Firestone Walker’s Union Jack [#9]. Imperial: Firestone Walker’s Double Jack. Both beers are balanced but have a great hop nose and flavor.
SEAN ROBINSON, CRAFT BEER MANAGER, C&C DISTRIBUTOR
My favorite IPA is Stone IPA. This West Coast-style IPA packs a nice hop punch and has the perfect combination of great citrus flavors and bitterness. I find myself gravitating back to this even when there are a number of special release IPAs available in the market.
My recent go-to double IPA is Victory’s Dirt Wolf. Great aroma and perfectly balanced. I really enjoy the flavors of all of the hops in this beer (Citra, Simcoe, Chinook, and Mosaic) and at 8.7%, it drinks nicely at such a reasonable ABV.
TROY CABRAL, CRAFT BEER MANAGER, HIGH SPIRITS, PROVIDENCE
Current favorite: Long Trail’s Limbo. It has a tropical nose, earthy hop profile, and a juicy, well-rounded flavor. It’s blazed a trail for new IPAs to follow. Limbo-ness is next to godliness.
Favorite local/double IPA: Revival’s Double Black IPA. How much flavor can you pack into a beer? Revival Double Black accepts the challenge and sets the bar. So dark. So malty. So delicious. This is one that never disappoints.