With more than 150 officially recognized beer styles, the global domination of Big Beer’s macro lagers, and the tidal wave of hard seltzer, the IPA’s domination over American craft beer drinkers’ palates is truly iconic. Once an obscure and quirky push from small brewers onto curious beer drinkers bored with American light lager, IPA — and its many sub-styles, such as the now-ubiquitous New England-style IPA or hazy IPA — is craft beer’s success story.

The level of success for each of these beers is constantly in flux. What we considered the best one year will undoubtedly change the next. Similarly, so too will the cultural significance and economic impact of each IPA on this list. In some cases, even the beer’s recipe, packaging, hop charging technique or grist will make a subtle shift that changes its trajectory for the better — or worse.  The following beers have all impacted the beer industry, community, and us in some significant way in the past year and potentially those preceding it. More importantly, these are the IPAs we expect to affect craft beer’s future.

These are the 25 Most Important IPAs right now, ranked by the VinePair staff.

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25. Pipeworks Ninja Vs. Unicorn
Chicago
ABV: 8%

Pipeworks Ninja Vs. Unicorn is one of the Most Important IPAs Right Now (2020)In 2015, Ninja Vs. Unicorn became the first Pipeworks beer packaged in cans — straight to 16-ounce tallboys with electrifying artwork — with a launch party to go with it. It remains the brewery’s most popular beer. This year, we found ourselves falling in love with it all over again. Perfect for crisp winter days and lazy summer afternoons alike, this boozy-but-balanced double IPA is a stellar example of the style now as much as then. By the way, ninja always wins.

24. Deschutes Fresh Squeezed
Bend, Ore.
ABV: 6.4%

Deschutes Fresh Squeezed IPA is one of the Most Important IPAs Right Now (2020)Fresh Squeezed IPA debuted as an experimental brew in 2013, and became a year-round IPA the following year. At the time, it was a hot take on hops, showcasing the “juicy,” citrusy character of Citra, Mosaic, and Nugget, as well as dialing back the malty side with pale malts. Today, it’s a symbol of resilience, and a damn tasty one at that.

23. Cerebral Brewing
Denver
ABV: 6.4%

Cerebral Brewing DDH Rare Trait Double IPA is one of the Most Important IPAs Right Now (2020)It’s hard to pin down our favorite Cerebral beer each year. Although we handed it to foeder lagers this year, that top 50 spot could easily have gone to this double-dry-hopped version of its popular Rare Trait IPA (itself a “modern classic,” according to a fellow Denver brewer). DDH Rare Trait is the one we’ve been craving since we first tasted it several months ago, which we also very much hope will not be the last.

22. Athletic Brewing Co. Free Way ‘DIPA’
Stratford, Ct.
ABV: <0.5

Athletic Brewing Free Way Non Alcoholic IPA is one of the Most Important IPAs Right Now (2020)We know it seems crazy to include a non-alcoholic double IPA as one of the most important IPAs right now — and in truth, as recently as five years ago, we didn’t think we’d be here, either. But Athletic Brewing has proven that the NA category can exist, and that it can offer astonishing quality compared to NA beers of previous years. Free Way, also one of our 50 Best Beers of 2020, stocked our fridge this year as we made our way through the indistinguishable weekdays and nights, and even weekends. Perfect for those occasions when we wanted to kick back with a beer but were really craving the ritual more than anything else — before moving on to a “real” alcoholic beer, of course — Athletic was ever-present.

21. Hudson Valley Incandenza Sour IPA
Beacon, N.Y.
ABV: 6%

Hudson Valley Incandenza Sour IPA is one of the Most Important IPAs Right Now (2020)Sour IPA? It’s possible. Citra and Mosaic hops and lactic acid give this tart little gem a lemony, fruit-forward tang, while oats, wheat, and milk sugar contribute creaminess without going full smoothie or milkshake. While availability is sparse, rest assured if you are ever looking for a sour IPA, Hudson Valley is the place to find the standard — and the bar is set higher with every batch.

20. Triple Crossing Falcon Smash
Richmond, Va.
ABV: 7%

Triple Crossing Falcon Smash is one of the Most Important IPAs Right Now (2020)Falcon Smash is a flagship IPA that reinvents itself — that’s because reinvention is built into the brand. The Virginia-brewed NEIPA is an ode to Falconer’s Flight, a proprietary hop blend (Hopunion) that includes Cascade, Centennial, Chinook, Citra, Cluster, Columbus, and Crystal hops — a.k.a. “C Hops” — along with rotating varieties from Hopunion’s experimental toolshed. Triple Crossing’s reputation for hop-driven experimentation gets stronger every year.

19. Cigar City Jai Alai IPA
Tampa, Fla.
ABV: 7.5%

Cigar City Jai Alai IPA is one of the Most Important IPAs Right Now (2020)Cigar City Brewing launched in 2009, and sold to the CANarchy Craft Brewers Collective in 2016. By 2018, Cigar City Jai Alai IPA was the top-selling 6-pack of canned craft beers at major grocery stores in the U.S., solidifying the tropical IPA as one of our 50 best Beers of the Year, and Cigar City as one of the most important breweries of the decade. Years before it reached newsworthy accolades such as these, Jai Alai amassed fans around the world, including resident beer lovers at VinePair. Now squarely situated in a new decade on the cusp of 2021, Jai Alai shows promising signs of growth: Dollar sales of Jai Alai increased more than 40 percent in 2019. Beyond that, it remains the Florida-made IPA we daydream about drinking by the pitcher under an umbrella in the sand. Riffs on the classic include White Oak Jai Alai and Spanish Cedar Jai Alai.

18. Dogfish Head 60 Minute
Milton, Del.
ABV: 6%

Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA is one of the Most Important IPAs Right Now (2020)It’s indisputable that 2020 has been an “off-centered” year but one thing that consistently kept us centered was 60 Minute. With its continually hopped balance of citrus and herbal flavors, strong malt backbone, and relatively sessionable 6 percent ABV, 60 Minute is still impressing us. Call it Covid-induced grocery store stocking up, tastebuds getting nostalgic, or the fact that our mom keeps a sixer of it in the fridge all summer, but we definitely drank a lot of 60 Minute this year. Also be on the lookout for Hazy O! – exclamation point theirs, not ours – an oat-packed addition to the DFH lineup set to launch in January 2021.

17. Firestone Walker Double Jack
Paso Robles, Calif.
ABV: 9.5%

Firestone Walker Double Jack is one of the Most Important IPAs Right Now (2020)The power of social media shone through many beer-filled glasses this year, but as one VinePair staffer aptly noted, “people are freaking out that Double Jack is back.” Indeed, “bring back Double Jack” became a rallying cry on the brewery’s social media accounts since this beer was discontinued in 2016. The imperial version of the original Union Jack, itself widely known as one of the first definitively West Coast IPAs, was that beloved. After a brief reintroduction last fall, it’s back in the year-round lineup, and better than ever. (FWIW, it should probably be called “Triple Jack,” but anyway, who’s counting?)

16. Russian River Pliny the Elder
Santa Rosa, Calif.
ABV: 8%

Russian River Pliny the Elder is one of the Most Important IPAs Right Now (2020)Respecting your elders is easy when it’s Pliny: No matter how much time passes (almost 21 years, as of this writing) or how many IPA styles fly in and out of fashion (remember brut IPA?), reverent beer drinkers can’t seem to get enough of this West Coast legend. Our only problem with Pliny is how infrequently we get to drink it in NYC. DM us for our mailing address.

15. Bell’s Brewery Two Hearted Ale
Comstock, Mich.
ABV: 7%

Bell's Brewery Two Hearted Ale is one of the Most Important IPAs Right Now (2020)Bell’s Brewery has released its fair share of IPAS since its founding in 1985. This includes the Official Haze, its year-round, wheat-based take on the hazy IPA; and Light Hearted Ale, its January 2020 answer to low-alc, low-cal beer-seekers. And yet, try as they might to win over new palates with fresh takes on trends, Two Hearted Ale consistently commands a national following. The grapefruit-and-pine-flavored ale — not even branded as an IPA when it was released in 1997 — is made with only Centennial hops, making it an all-around American classic.

14. WeldWerks Brewing Co. Juicy Bits
Greeley, Colo.
ABV: 6.7%

WeldWerks Juicy Bits is one of the Most Important IPAs Right Now (2020)Often imitated, and occasionally recreated by WeldWerks, Juicy Bits is the New England IPA of the Southwest. It’s the orange juice with pulp of IPAs, packing Mosaic, Citra, and El Dorado hops into its feather-soft, smoothie-like mouthfeel. It’s also available in stores like Whole Foods on the West Coast, which to us East Coasters is basically like saying the tooth fairy is real.

13. Hop Butcher for the World Neon Green Relish
Darien, Ill.
ABV: 7.5%

Hop Butcher for the World Neon Green Relsih is one of the Most Important IPAs Right Now (2020)Neon Green Relish evolves with every sip, sniff, and sampling session. Zesty and herbal like a G&T with bergamot or lime, then dank as a wheel of brie before going back to fruity berry notes, it’s somewhere between a pickle and a danish. It’s exactly this bewildering, and beguiling, character that has hop-obsessed beer drinkers hooked on Hop Butcher. The Illinois brewery’s constantly changing range of thick, juicy hazies is for those who like their flavors extreme.

12. Alchemist Brewing Company Heady Topper
Stowe, Vt.
ABV: 8%

The Alchemist Heady Topper is one of the Most Important IPAs Right Now (2020)Heady Topper is a legend, albeit a relatively young one — achieving cult status soon after its 2003 (!) release. Nearly two decades later, it’s still turning heads — with even some of our own team trying the beer for the first time this year (and loving the results). To their defense, they went all the way to Vermont to try it, even though they didn’t have to. Once only available at the brewpub in Stowe, Heady Topper and other Alchemist beers such as the similarly flavored and beloved Focal Banger are now available in retail stores in various states.

11. Lagunitas IPA
Petaluma, Calif.
ABV: 6.2%

Lagunitas IPA is one of the Most Important IPAs Right Now (2020)Yes, we know it’s owned by Heineken. But if we’re in a bind, and the only tap handles in sight resemble red, white, or blue Big Beers or an orange-billed goose, Lagunitas is the macro IPA we choose every time. There’s consistency in its quality that is as dependable as it is hoppy, and its recognizable hop character serves us a solid dose of nostalgia, too. With good reason this is the nation’s top-selling IPA.

10. Lawson’s Finest Liquids Sip of Sunshine
Waitsfield, Vt.
ABV: 8%

Lawson's Finest Liquids Sip of Sunshine is one of the Most Important IPAs Right Now (2020)Every time we think we might be “over” Sip of Sunshine, we try it again and feel stupid for doubting ourselves. This is a New England IPA that both set the standard for and has nothing to do with the NEIPA of today. It’s golden orange, and cloudy but not opaque like OJ. It has huge citrus fruit on the nose, and an unapologetically bitter pith on the palate and lingering finish. In retrospect, it is the Northeast West Coast IPA that you didn’t know you needed to try again, but we highly recommend you do.

9. Hill Farmstead Susan
Greensboro, Vt.
ABV: 6

Hill Farmstead Susan is one of the Most Important IPAs Right Now (2020)In September, Hill Farmstead’s Susan became available in cans for the first time since debuting on draft in 2012. This beer has history: First of all, it’s named for founder Shaun Hill’s great aunt (sister of his grandfather Edward, whose legacy is also honored in Hill Farmstead’s “Ancestral” series). It’s also the original Riwaka IPA — Hill went to great lengths to source this unusual varietal back then, and nearly a decade later, it’s all the rage. While we’ve sipped Susan on many sunny occasions in vessels spanning shaker pints to tulips, and in later days Tekus, we’ve not yet had the pleasure of grasping the dewy periwinkle you can see pictured here. In Susan as in life, there is always something to look forward to.

8. Maine Beer Co. Lunch
Freeport, Me.
ABV: 7%

Maine Beer Co. Lunch is one of the Most Important IPAs Right Now (2020)Lunch is a whale — literally — that gave this coveted IPA its name after Maine Beer Co. “adopted” it through the marine non-profit Allied Whale. It’s also a “whale” in the beer-geeky sense, meaning it’s a rarity to spot for the majority of beer lovers. But for those of us lucky enough to live in the Northeast (or have a generous pen pal), Maine Beer Co. Lunch is a year-round reminder of how utterly delicate and balanced an IPA can be. The gimmick-free beer is both malt- and hop-driven, with slightly cooked Carapils and Caramel malts and red wheat complemented by Amarillo, Centennial, and Simcoe hops. While its big sibling Dinner is delicious, and we’re always game for Another One, it’s Lunch that holds a sacred and habitual space in our hearts.

7. Toppling Goliath King Sue
Decorah, Iowa
ABV: 7.8%

Toppling Goliath King Sue is one of the Most Important IPAs Right Now (2020)Roaring with hop flavor, King Sue is packed with pineapple and citrus notes and bold bitterness. Craft beer lovers flocked to Toppling Goliath by the thousands for a taste — or a trunk full — of this hazy double IPA in years past. If its perpetual popularity is any indication, we expect this excitement to return in-person someday soon. King Sue cannot be dethroned, not even by Covid.

6. Great Notion Super Ripe
Portland, Ore.
ABV: 9%

Great Notion Super Ripe is one of the Most Important IPAs Right Now (2020)Opened on New Year’s Day in 2016, Great Notion earned fast fans in fellow brewers for its fresh yet consistent take on the hazy IPA. Ripe led the (hop) charge, inspiring a continuing line of variants and iterations. Super Ripe dropped onto our radar in 2018, and we regularly recall its double-take-worthy decadent tropical fruit aroma, as well as its ultra-juicy flavor and mouthfeel. While the original Ripe lets Citra shine in all its trendsetting glory, Super Ripe adds a second dimension – and a second DDH addition of Vic Secret.

5. New Belgium Voodoo Ranger Imperial IPA
Fort Collins, Colo.
ABV: 9%

New Belgium Voodoo Ranger Imperial IPA is one of the Most Important IPAs Right Now (2020)The growth rate of New Belgium’s Voodoo Ranger Imperial IPA, particularly for a double IPA, is, as one VinePair staffer says, “bonkers.” Even after the brewery sold to Japanese global brewer Kirin, and the subsequent controversies involving Kirin’s connection to ongoing genocide in Myanmar, Voodoo Ranger continuously strolls onto and skitters off of supermarket shelves with unlikely swagger — to the tune of 85 percent growth in dollar sales in 2019. It’s among the top five best-selling IPAs on the market right now, and considering the size and scale of the brewery’s distribution — and its hefty 9 percent ABV — it’s clear this beer is potent for a growing number of American  beer consumers.

4. Trillium Brewing Company Congress Street
Canton, Mass.
ABV: 7%

Trillium Congress Street is one of the Most Important IPAs Right Now (2020)Congress Street put Trillium on the map — or maybe it was Trillium that put Congress Street on the map? — when the New England brewery opened in Boston’s Fort Point neighborhood in 2013. An early example of the craft beer culture defining NEIPA, which lives up to the hype, Congress Street IPA showcases Galaxy hops, bringing pine, melon, citrus, and tropical fruit flavors together with a light touch of malt character in a silky, smooth texture.

3. Other Half HDHC Dense
Brooklyn
ABV: 6.5%

Other Half HDHC Dense is one of the Most Important IPAs Right Now (2020)HDHC has only been around for a minute, but Dense is the best high-density, hop-charged (HDHC) IPA we’ve tasted this year. The acronym may not reach “DDH” status, or even be as relevant, but it still showcases that Other Half is always a few steps (and hops) ahead with both brewing techniques and marketing. While it was inventing new hop-related terms and marketable acronyms, Other Half has also been busy opening two new locations this year: Domino Park in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, and Washington, D.C. This, in addition to its Finger Lakes location in upstate New York and its Gowanus, Brooklyn HQ means Other Half is dominating the hop game from four different zip codes.

2. Tree House Julius
Charlton, Mass.
ABV: 6.8%

Tree House Julius is one of the Most Important IPAs Right Now (2020)Most flagship IPAs don’t look or taste like Julius. Like the orange-gold sun peeking over the horizon, this ultimate juicy IPA is both archetypal and endlessly exciting, counting fans around the world and more ISOs than one could possibly track in this lifetime. There are countless variations, adding all manner of tropical fruits to mirror the beer’s prevalent peach, passionfruit, and mango aromas and flavors; as well as even more aggressively hopped iterations such as the imperial King Julius, and the triply juicy JJJULIUSSS! originally brewed for the brand’s third anniversary.

1. Sierra Nevada Hazy Little Thing
Chico, Calif.
ABV: 6.7%

Sierra Nevada Hazy Little Thing is one of the Most Important IPAs Right Now (2020)Hazy Little Thing may never have the thick, smoothie-like texture of small-scale hazies like Julius. It doesn’t need to. Hazy Little Thing turned out to be not so little at all: After topping our 50 Best Beers list of 2018, it went on to become an affordable, ubiquitous, and well-respected hazy IPA that can be found anywhere from a beer geek’s fridge stash to the beer aisle in Walmart. While hype-addicted haze bros are arguing over the Tree Houses and Trilliums of the beer world, brewers all over are pulling their hair out trying to figure out how Sierra Nevada does it.

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