8 Wildly Popular, Big-Name IPAs, Blind Tasted And Ranked » Cypher9ja

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When it comes to American beer, there’s no beating a classic, slightly bitter, hoppy, refreshing IPA. Sure, we’ve seen a rise in lagers, pilsners, and other lighter beers in recent years (not to mention to surge in RTDs and hard seltzers among classic beer drinkers), but the IPA’s popularity remains a constant. West Coast, East Coast, New England-style, milkshake, double, triple, and everything in between — it’s difficult to beat the appeal of a well-made IPA.

In a sea of IPAs, a few big-name, wildly popular IPAs stand above the rest. I’m talking about names like Stone, Ballast Point, Alesmith, Lagunitas, and others. But, of these wildly popular IPAs, which one is actually the most flavorful? Well, I have a simple way to find that answer: The classic blind taste test.

Once again, I grabbed eight well-known, popular IPAs and I blindly nosed and tasted each. Then, I ranked them based on overall flavor and appeal. Keep reading to see how everything turned out.

PART I – The Lineup

Lagunitas IPA
Night Shift Santilli
Alpine Nelson
Alesmith IPA
Ballast Point Sculpin
Stone IPA
Bell’s Two Hearted
Cigar City Jai Alai

PART II – The Taste

Taste 1

IPA Taste 1Christopher Osburn

Tasting Notes:

Aromas of toasted malts, wet grass, grapefruit, tangerine, lemon, floral, earthy, herbal hops start everything off right. The palate continues this trend with more toasted malts, tangerine, grapefruit, pineapple, tropical fruits, and a nice kick of piney, dank hops at the finish. The ending is bitter but pleasant.

Taste 2

IPA Taste 2Christopher Osburn

Tasting Notes:

On the nose, I found sweet malts, grapefruit, tangerine, and pine needles. The palate has some cereal grains, grapefruit, mango, tangerine, and a ton of dank pine. The downfall is that the finish is so aggressively bitter and hoppy that it takes away from the rest of the fruity flavors.

Taste 3

IPA Taste 3Christopher Osburn

Tasting Notes:

Complex aromas of wet grass, pineapple, ripe berries, orange peels, and pine needles greeted my nose before my first sip. The palate is citrus-forward with lemongrass, tangerine, and grapefruit starting everything off before moving on to mango, passionfruit, ripe berries, light malts, and a forest of lightly bitter pine needles at the finish.

Taste 4

IPA Taste 4Christopher Osburn

Tasting Notes:

Caramel malts, wet grass, grapefruit, pineapple, tangerine, lemon, and resinous pine make up a very memorable nose. The palate begins with toasted malts and freshly-baked bread before evolving into honeydew melon, peach, grapefruit, orange peels, and eventually more lightly bitter pine needles.

Taste 5

IPA Taste 5Christopher Osburn

Tasting Notes:

The nose is rather generic with some caramel malts, light citrus, and pine. The palate is all bready malts, citrus peels, and a wallop of dank, resinous, very bitter hops. It’s an in-your-face IPA. But overall lacks a ton of substance.

Taste 6

IPA Taste 6Christopher Osburn

Tasting Notes:

Caramelized pineapple, honeydew melon, tangerine, grapefruit, and lightly piney hops make up a memorable nose. The taste follows suit with candied orange peels, caramel malts, ripe pineapple, mango, grapefruit, and a slightly bitter, hoppy, dry finish.

Taste 7

IPA Taste 7Christopher Osburn

Tasting Notes:

Freshly baked bread, tangerine, grapefruit, pineapple, and dank, herbal hops are highlighted on the nose. The palate is loaded with wet grass, more bready malts, caramelized pineapple, grapefruit, lemon, orange peel, and fairly bitter, floral hops at the finish.

Taste 8

IPA Taste 8Christopher Osburn

Tasting Notes:

Caramel malts, ripe pineapple, mango, grapefruit, wet grass, orange peels, and bright, floral pine greeted me before my first sip. Drinking it revealed notes of caramel, bready malts, ripe peach, grapefruit, pineapple, tangerine, and pleasantly bitter, dank pine.

PART III – The Ranking

8) Lagunitas IPA (Taste 5)

Lagunitas IPALagunitas

ABV: 6.2%

Average Price: $11 for a six-pack

The Beer:

If you’re an IPA drinker, there’s a good chance you’ve had a Lagunitas IPA or two over the years. Brewed with Caramel malt as well as Centennial, Chinook, Cascade, and Simcoe hops, it’s known for its mix of sweetness with a bitter finish.

Bottom Line:

Lagunitas IPA is the kind of beer for people who enjoy aggressively bitter, piney IPAs without much else.

7) Ballast Point Sculpin (Taste 2)

Ballast Point SculpinBallast Point

ABV: 7%

Average Price: $13 for a six-pack

The Beer:

There are few West Coast IPAs more well-known and readily available than Ballast Point Sculpin. This highly-rated IPA, which gets its name from a stinging fish is hopped five different times during the brewing process. If that’s not enough stinging hops, we don’t know what to tell you.

Bottom Line:

I get why this is a popular beer among IPA fans. It’s just that for some drinkers, it’s borderline aggressive in terms of hops.

6) Stone IPA (Taste 7)

Stone IPAStone

ABV: 6.9%

Average Price: $12 for a six-pack

The Beer:

While there are a few other big names, Stone IPA might is arguably one of the most popular West Coast IPA available today. First brewed in 1997, this iconic IPA is brewed with Magnum, Chinook, Centennial, Azacca, Calypso, Ella, and Vic Secret hops and is known for its citrus-filled, piney flavor.

Bottom Line:

While Stone IPA is a little more well-balanced than some of the other IPAs that landed lower on this list. The finish is still a little too abrasively bitter for my liking.

5) Alesmith IPA (Taste 8)

Alesmith IPAAlesmith

ABV: 7.2%

Average Price: $12 for a four-pack of 16-ounce cans

The Beer:

Adding to the trend that San Diego is the center of the IPA universe is Alesmith IPA. This 7.25% ABV year-round, award-winning West Coast IPA is known for its grapefruit, tropical fruit, and pine flavors from the addition of Columbus and Citra hops.

Bottom Line:

When it comes to West Coast IPAs, some brewers tend to lean too heavily into the bitter finish. Alesmith does it right by balancing all the flavors evenly.

4) Bell’s Two Hearted (Taste 1)

Bell’s Two HeartedBell’s

ABV: 7%

Average Price: $11 for a six-pack

The Beer:

If you polled IPA fans and asked them to list their favorite everyday IPA and you’d get a ton of people who mentioned Bell’s Two Hearted. Dry hopped with 100% Centennial hops, it’s known for its bold citrus and resinous pine-filled palate.

Bottom Line:

Bell’s Two-Hearted is another example of an IPA done right. It has everything IPA fans love, but it’s the balance that makes this one memorable.

3) Alpine Nelson (Taste 6)

Alpine NelsonAlpine

ABV: 7%

Average Price: $12 for a six-pack

The Beer:

This 7% ABV IPA gets its name from Nelson Sauvin hops, the New Zealand-grown variant this beer is brewed with. This slightly hazy, tropical, piney beer also gets an added spicy kick from the addition of European rye malts.

Bottom Line:

When it comes to fruity sweetness and bitter hops with a malty backbone, it’s tough to beat Alpine Nelson.

2) Night Shift Santilli (Taste 3)

Night Shift SantilliNight Shift

ABV: 6%

Average Price: $15 for a four-pack of 16-ounce cans

The Beer:

Santilli is Night Shift’s award-winning take on the classic American IPA. Named after the street the brewery is located on, this crowd-sourced IPA is known for its crisp citrus, sweet tropical fruit, and bright, floral pine flavors.

Bottom Line:

While the bitter pine is there, this is an IPA for fans of citrus-filled and tropical fruit-forward beers. It’s a can’t-miss IPA in my book.

1) Cigar City Jai Alai (Taste 4)

Cigar City Jai AlaiCigar City

ABV: 7.5%

Average Price: $12 for a six-pack

The Beer:

This beer gets its name because of the fast-paced, violent sport popular in Tampa and other parts of Florida. This 7.5% ABV IPA pays homage to this wild game. It’s brewed with six different hops, giving it bold, citrus, and pine flavors you won’t soon forget.

Bottom Line:

When it comes to IPAs, you’d be hard-pressed to find many better-balanced IPAs. Caramel malts lead to citrus which leads to bitter pine. It’s a winner.

PART V – Final Thoughts

Some brewers make IPAs that are all flash and have no substance. I’m talking about the over-the-top, bitter pine bombs that are totally lacking any balance. The IPAs that fared well on my list managed to be as balanced as possible while also having citrus flavors, tropical fruit notes, and a nice kick of lightly bitter pine.

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