The Irish Pale Ale is a Spartan class of the beer world, with the strongest flavors, the highest alcohol percentages across, and, disappointingly, the least skinny of most beers. In a world of Miller Lites and flavor conservative Coronas, the IPA, a drink concentrated with fermented hops is the perfect refreshment for someone looking to hit that buzz in one bottle.
What if I were to say, though, that as strong as the Indian Pale Ale family can get to be (Averaging 5-7.5% ABV give or take), the American breweries have doubled down on their devotion to getting boldness and getting hammered and have concocted an enhanced IPA, a ‘roided out Spartan beverage? You’d likely shout at me, words on a screen, “What and where are these drinks!”
The American IPA, or the Imperial, is an India Pale Ale that has double the hops content, more herbal and citric flavor, and an alcohol percentage somewhere at 8-10% per drink. These beverages run the gamut of sharp, rich, luscious flavors in their copper and golden waters.
Here are 5 of some of the best and most notable IPAs on the market today.
PLINY THE YOUNGER
ABV: 10.25% ABV
Brewery: Russian River Brewing Company
It’s an interesting thing to bring up here that a Symposium, in Ancient Greece, was when a bunch of older educated white men would get together, drink an absurd amount and then idly chat about philosophy and culture. Pliny the Younger, the namesake of this brew, was one of those famous Greeks, but primarily a lawyer and statesman, and now a Triple IPA with a complex hoppy flavor. It balances its smoothness, several different hops, and even aromatic hints of pine. It has a lower bitterness than its predecessor, the Pliny the Elder brew, but has far more alcohol content and punch in its flavor. It has a very limited availability, mostly available to select pubs and does not circulate for individual sale much.
THREE FLOYDS DREADNAUGHT IMPERIAL IPA
ABV: 9.25% ABV
Brewery: Three Floyds Brewing Company
A “salvo” is a word derived from old French to describe the initial rapport of artillery fire or other simultaneous fire, expectedly creating a huge noise. But, the word can also be used to describe your first sip, that plunge across the threshold, of this dulcet brew. The first explosive noise out the bottleneck, the combination of all those flavors firing at once, is actually a smooth hum of mango, peach, and citrus hops, obliterating in that fell swoop all desire for any other hophead and leaves with this ghostly finish, notable but without the faintest hint that you even just drank alcohol. It’s like a possession. This Indiana brewery, unfortunately, only provides this fantastic brew at their in-house pub and does not provide it to go or for delivery.
ABV: 10% ABV
Brewery: Bell’s Brewery
We couldn’t maintain a list of just location exclusive beers, so widely available to the public through purchase and on draft is Bell’s Brewery response to the Imperial question: a 6 barrel revolver of an amber-colored flavor-bomb. By six barrels, I mean to say that the artisans at this Michigan-based brewery have a complex hopping schedule involving six of the Northwest’s most flavorful hop varietals to create this odiferous scherzo of pungent grapefruit, stone fruit and florals. This brew is distributed in cans and bottles and has a shelf life of 6 months, although the questions arises as to why you would even humor waiting more than a month to get that frothy cream head snug all around your mouth. You separate the tryst of you and this beer, for a moment, to breath, and you have to think to yourself, “is that honey?” And, boy oh boy, is it.
ALCHEMIST HEADY TOPPER
ABV: 8% ABV
Certainly the weakest in terms of alcohol content and intensity on this list, but by no means can that suggest that this beverage is lacking in its capacity to stand with the others. The Heady Topper by the Vermont based The Alchemist is a classical Imperial IPA, made with fresh hops and fruits exclusively at the Waterbury, VT brewery. With its golden, dark yellow color, you can see swimming in its flavor the notes of caramel, citrus, wet, tropical flavors, slightly nutty-sweet flavor of malt. They entice you. It is nuanced, yet intense, but not so intense as to stop your sipping at a brief peck. If you want to go for the deep trance of the flavor, the back-throat kick of hops won’t stop you. Unfortunately, although the brewery does distribute, it does not do so over a 25 mile radius and you may as well visit the brewery to take a tour and buy their flagship IPA there. Availability is limited, though.
ABV: 8.6% ABV
Brewery: Tree House Brewing Company
For those of us who enjoy softer palates, the more tropical or at least tangy refreshing flavors of more tropical beverages, there is a winner in Very Hazy for you. An extension of the already popular “Haze”, which is also a Double IPA, but less potent and more filled with passionfruit and orange details. Very Hazy puts those flavors to the backside with strong grapefruit presence, an alcohol content of 8.6% to give it that potency worth its taste, and a smooth blend of punch-your-tongue tropical flavors and citrus throughout the glug. Tree House Brewing Company is located out in Monson, Massachussets, their brews are only available through the brewery itself, and even then are available on seasonal rotation.