Most Americans don’t need an excuse to drink an IPA, so National IPA Day (which is today; it’s all right if you didn’t get us a gift yet) is sort of like any other Thursday. But if you’re looking to expand your hop horizons a bit on this occasion, single-hop IPAs might be the way to do it.
What are they? Most IPAs, double IPAs and pale ales are brewed with a blend of hops; single-hop IPAs are brewed with only one variety. Think of hop varieties like wine grapes; each has its own characteristics, so a blend produces a range of aromas and flavors. When brewers choose just one kind of hop, the beer will showcase its particular flavors, aromas and bitterness level.
Why try them? Once you know you like hop-forward beers, single-hop IPAs offer a chance to really study up on the range of the style. Some hop varieties are piney and grassy; others are minty and woody; still others are citrusy or tropical. Once you find a hop variety you like, you can seek out beers that throw it into the spotlight (or learn to avoid the hop varieties you don’t care for).
4 bottles to look for:
Karl Strauss Mosaic Session Ale: One of the session IPAs we’ve really been enjoying this summer, this 5.5 percent-er makes use of the relatively new hop Mosaic. It opens with green onion and lime zest aromas, with more citrusy and even pineapple flavors on the sip. This beer won a GABF bronze last year, so clearly we’re not the only ones into it.
Double Mountain Cluster: Cluster hops are generally considered the result of Old World hops brought to America and (probably accidentally) crossbred with other hops here. It’s one of the older varieties of American hops, and is generally used in darker styles like porters, stouts and barleywines. That’s why it’s interesting to see it used in Double Mountain’s IPA, which is floral on the palate with a distinct dryness to the sip. Bitterness is balanced well by cereal-like malts, making this a comparatively drinkable single-hop beer.
Terrapin Hop Selection (Ella): Terrapin announced the Hop Selection series earlier this year, beginning with this IPA first released in March. Each iteration in the series will feature a new hop variety; the first installment was Australian variety Ella. Ella is related to Galaxy, and is primarily prized for its hand in a beer’s aroma. Here, it lends mango and tropical flower scents, with a light spiciness that arrives on the sip. Australian and New Zealand hops are the latest tools in brewers’ arsenals, so best to get familiar with Ella and her pals.
Hermitage Hallertau Blanc: Hermitage also debuted a single-hop IPA series that currently has more than a dozen beers to its name, so seek out the current offerings if you want a comprehensive taste of the hop rainbow. We’re especially enamored of Hallertau Blanc, named for the German variety that debuted in 2012. Though it’s grown in Germany, this bold hop offers aromas and flavors one would expect from an American variety: berry fruitiness, grapefruit and onion skin sweetness flowing underneath.