IPA Wednesday: 10 Fresh Imperial IPAs To Try Right Now

You go up to the bar and order an IPA. You're not specific, but you know you want one thing: hops. For the next six weeks we'll be exploring India Pale Ales at Food Republic, and we're kicking it off in extreme and regal fashion with Imperial IPAs.

IPAs: the style that send beer geeks, especially hop-heads, into a frenzy. Imperials are an extreme take on the IPA style which cranks up the hops and alcohol to twice the amount (or more!) These hoppy monsters generally have a huge malt and hop profile, and know no end to their bitterness.

The style has grown increasingly popular in the last few years as breweries try to outdo each other in extremes. While the style started on the West Coast, with now-classic examples of fruity hop bombs like Russian River Brewing's Pliny The Elder, new Imperial notables have popped up across the country. Some of the best have held their own for years, like The Alchemist's Heady Topper, Bell's Brewery's Hopslam, Surly's Abrasive Ale and Three Floyds' Dreadnaught IPA. If you're looking for something fresh, you're in luck. In the last three years, many newer breweries have nailed the style, too! Here are 10 of our favorite new classic Imperial IPAs to try:

  1. Hill Farmstead Brewery: Ephraim

Not many new breweries have earned more immediate praise and success than Hill Farmstead. If you are lucky enough to obtain a growler from the brewery in Greensboro Bend, Vermont, one sip of Ephraim is all you need to experience hop heaven. An incredible 280 Theoretical IBUs (more on IBU measurement here) give this 10.5% Imperial IPA a huge citrus hop bite, but there's enough malt to provide balance. An experience not to miss.

  • Lawson's Finest Liquids: Double Sunshine IPA
  • A roadtrip is only fun with multiple stops, so if you're planning one to Hill Farmstead (or maybe The Alchemist) you need to hit Lawson's Finest Liquids in Warren, Vermont, too. Double Sunshine explodes with citrus and tropical hops with dominant pineapple and mango flavors. An excellent malt balance makes this 8% ABV brew extremely drinkable, too.

  • Knee Deep Brewing Company: Simtra
  • A huge beer by any standards, this 10.1% ABV Triple IPA from Knee Deep in Lincoln, CA has an astounding 131 IBU's of hoppy goodness. Citra and Simcoe hops give it a fruity hop aroma, and lots of malt balance it to perfection. You'll taste mango, grapefruit and some pineapple. Even for the high ABV, it's remarkably drinkable.

  • Boneyard Beer Company: Hop Venom
  • Bend, Oregon's Boneyard remarkably used revived second-hand equipment to start one of the most hop-forward breweries in the country. This double IPA has bite at 8.9% ABV and 80 IBUs, but it's far more floral than bitter and has a big malt flavor to balance things out. This is a tap-only release, so now's a perfect time to plan a trip!

  • Kern River Brewing Company: Citra Double IPA
  • A small brewery from an even smaller town: Kernville, the Southern Californian town that Kern River Brewing Company calls home has just 2,000 residents. But they should all be proud of KRBC and Citra Double IPA, possibly the best use of Citra hops yet. It's a refreshingly fruity imperial IPA with massive pineapple, mango and grapefruit flavor from the hops. There's very little bitterness to be found and at 8%, it's one you can get used to drinking, if only it wasn't so damn hard to find.

  • Stone Brewing Company: Enjoy By IPA
  • Stone certainly takes quality seriously: they regularly buy back products that sit on the shelf for too long. But the Enjoy By IPA series takes freshness to an extreme, naming each beer by the enjoy-by date. Huge citrus and floral hops make this 9.4% dangerously drinkable. The series has actually gotten better with each release; their eighth is due to be enjoyed by July 4th, so hoard them for your party!

  • Pipeworks Brewing Company: Citra Ninja
  • Pipeworks from Chicago made our list of 10 breweries about to blow up in 2013, and they continue to impress with every release. While there are a few hoppy "Ninjas" on Pipeworks lineup (there's a trend of Ninjas and Unicorns in their releases, who are apparently at war with each other?), this one is hands-down the best. It boasts a big citrus aroma and a taste to match, there's lots of tropical fruit here like orange, pineapple and even some melon. It's quite bitter, too. At 9.5%, this Ninja can certainly kick some some ass.

  • Toppling Goliath Brewing Company: Sosus
  • While many IPAs turn to a variety of hops to enhance both aroma and taste, Toppling Goliath from Decorah, Iowa used just one in Sosus: the Mosaic hop. You're hit with huge tropical hops, some weed and some pine. But the bitterness is low — just a touch of malt makes Sosus extremely drinkable. This brew is all you need to be convinced Mosiac hops will be the next big thing, but as far as we're concerned, Toppling Goliath is already there.

  • Three Floyds Brewing Company: Permanent Funeral
  • Munster, Indiana's Three Floyds already have a huge reputation for badass beers, from their Dark Lord Imperial Stout to their incredible Zombie Dust American Pale Ale. Permanent Funeral, a collaborative double IPA with the grindcore band Pig Destroyer, can certainly be added to the list of Three Floyds' best beers. At 10.5% ABV and 100 IBUs, Permanent Funeral doesn't mess around. It's aggressively hopped with lots of citrus, pineapple and resin. Listen to Pig Destroyer while drinking for maximum effect.

  • AleWerks Brewing Company: Bitter Valentine
  • Williamsburg, VA's "only microbrewery," AleWerks turns out some of the finest beer in the South, and this double one might be their best. Part of the Brewers' Choice series, don't be surprised if Bitter Valentine makes you think you're drinking a West Coast IPA, thanks to Pacific Northwest hops and sweet malt. Really huge tropical hop flavor with hints of orange and mango, and no overwhelming bitterness. A Bitter Valentine for sure, but one that's easy to fall in love with.

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