Since imperial IPAs were born, hop-heads have had a sadomasochistic obsession with palate-wrecking, tongue-scraping bitter beer. Huge hop flavor and high IBUs wrestle the tongue to fatigue in no time. Today, breweries you know, from Deschutes to Sam Adams, are crafting IPAs and imperials like you’ve never seen before, squeezing super-charged grapefruit, pine and tropical fruit flavors from hops, but leaving that big bitterness behind. Smoother, creamier, more sophisticated IPAs are on the rise, and might be the new crown jewels of hoppy beer. Get these six, and taste the future.
Alaskan Hopothermia: Cushiony malts stave off this imperial IPA’s bitterness, creating an insanely long sip headlined by brilliant orange, sweet grass and pungent cattiness.
Fat Heads Hop JuJu: This imperial IPA—a 2013 GABF gold medalist—finally hit shelves this year. Its fluid bready malts temper the hop bite and stage an extraordinary palate of tangerine and mango fruit, punchy onion and pine.
Deschutes Fresh Squeezed IPA: The first ultracreamy IPA to catch our attention (it was one of our Top 25 Beers of 2013), this new year-rounder’s sweet, bready malt base supports stunningly vivid mango, pineapple and orange juice flavors—it’s dripping in delicious, fruity hops.
Samuel Adams Rebel IPA: Though Boston Beer’s tackled white, red and black versions, it took almost 30 years for the brewery to release a “West Coast” IPA—and it’s worth the wait. Classic shimmery orange and grapefruit color a not-so-classic velvety swallow that’s as docile and smooth as they come.
Great Lakes Chillwave Double IPA: An initial bitter burst kneels to rich bready malts that float a focused blend of green onions, guava and juicy orange across the tongue. It’s one of the easiest, breeziest tropical imperial IPAs you’ll sip this year.
Mother’s Doozy!: Savor this imperial IPA’s sweet, doughy malts as they lift up big, bouncy pineapple, grapefruit and sticky pine hop notes off the tongue and steer them through a smooth swallow. Too bad it’s a spring-only release!