Ah, the IPA. Hoppy, bitter, intense – like a soulful rabbit. As is the case with wheat beers, opinions of this great beer category are usually pretty polarized. You either love that hop bite, or you scrunch up your nose in disgust. Look, it’s understandable that an onslaught of hop drama can be too much for some people, especially if you’re looking to pair beer with mild food. But what if we were to tell you that IPAs don’t have to be hop-bombs that are so aggressive they make you reach for a glass of water and plead with the brewing gods for mercy? What if were to tell you that IPAs can be remarkably palatable, easy, and food-friendly?
If you’ve had some unfortunate experiences with out of whack, over the top IPAs, don’t worry. We’re here to convince you that actually, you do like IPAs, you just prefer them on the gentler side. While there’s nothing wrong with an ass-kicking beer, if you’re an IPA skeptic we recommend you sip a moderate, balanced brew. Here are nine of the chillest to get you started.
Let’s start with something historic. This IPA has been around since ’95, and twenty years later it still rocks. While you’ll get plenty of hops on the finish, what we love about Lagunitas IPA is the refreshing citrus, the toasted bread palate, and the dash of floral invitation. The body is on the thinner side, which makes Lagunitas easy to gulp without needing a cleansing sip of water. This is the IPA you pour for all of your friends at a gathering because no one will argue about it.
So, besides having an animal themed label that we adore, Grapefruit Sculpin – the twist on Ballast Point’s regular Sculpin IPA, is delicious. Now, this beer is no shandy. In fact, it’s dry as can be. But the addition of grapefruit will ease any IPA hater into the realm of the hop lover. As we mentioned, there’s very little sweetness, but the fruit essence gives this beer the appeal of an unsweetened Arnold Palmer.
This IPA is named as such because it has more than sixty hop additions and is boiled for sixty minutes. While Dogfish Head also makes a 90 Minute and a 120 Minute IPA, their 60 Minute IPA is far lower in alcohol and hop intensity. At 6% ABV, this IPA is close to being sessionable while still being full-flavored. This beer has a nice malty nose, which gives way to a grassy palate with a hint of butter, tropical fruit, and earth. The hoppiness is there, but you won’t drown in it.
4. Ithaca Beer Co. Flower Power IPA BEST OVERALL
Have you ever taken someone to your childhood home, looked your mom in the eye, then said with conviction, ‘this is the one?’ Well, that’s the feeling you’ll get when you try this IPA. You didn’t think you could love an IPA? This one is here to change your mind. An intoxicating nose of honey and elderflower seduce you into a sip of this remarkably food friendly beer. You’ll taste bread pudding, dried fruit, and of course, flowers. The mouthfeel is creamy and luscious. Get ready to fall in love.
This is a bit of hybrid beer, because it has typical IPA characteristics (grapefruit, hops), but it’s also made with plenty of wheat, giving it the spicy appeal of a witbier. This is a very mild beer, so we’d recommend drinking it solo instead of alongside a heaping plate of food. As Braven is a startup brewery, this guy is only available in New York, but the brewery is looking to expand distribution soon.
Solid, bright, and canned (oh, yeah), Westbrook IPA has all the makings of a good time. The nose is a mix of farm fresh fruit and pine, a very intriguing combination. Like 60 Minute IPA, there’s a hint of heavier, more tropical fruits, including pineapple. Lemon, honey, and hops mingle nicely, never vying to K.O. one another. Plus, the crisp body makes this a great food beer. Pair it with lighter barbecue fare like seafood or poultry. This is what your yoga teacher meant when she said “achieve balance.”
All hail to California. Wine ain’t the only good thing in Sonoma, it’s also home to this delightful IPA. Brewed with barley and wheat, this IPA is one of the hoppier on this list, but it doesn’t overwhelm you with the pungent sweetness that a lot of IPAs fall prey to. Pine and citrus on the nose give way to an even-keeled IPA that boasts just a hint of malt, like fresh bread crumbs sprinkled over tangy lemon curd. The finish is a little spicy, perfect when you need a kick in the pants.
A supreme combination of herbs, caramel sweetness, and ripe fruit, Jai Alai packs complexity into every sip. Unlike some of the IPAs on this list, the body is heavier, a bit similar to an oaked Chardonnay. The hops introduce themselves on the palate, but they won’t assault your tongue. The malt-forward flavors express themselves beautifully, with a smidge of enjoyable oiliness. This is a beer that can stand up to steak, not because of a particularly sharp flavor, but a great textural feel. Plus, two more points for being in a can.
This beautiful beer has a fragrant, fluffy head (go beer foam) and a vibrant amber color, so it’s definitely a showstopper when it comes to laying out a beautiful spread at a dinner party. This beer is bitter, but it’s not hopped beyond all belief, so you can still enjoy it without wondering ‘oh God, when will this be over.’ In fact, you’ll probably love every sip. Toasted aromas preface an earthy palate, and the finish is warm but still crisp. We also like Bell’s Kalamazoo Stout (which pairs well with Oreos).