In years gone by cold lagers and golden ales were the beers of choice for long, hot summer evenings, but more recently the sight of sun has heralded a clamour for India Pale Ales. Originally brewed to accompany British colonists on the journey to Asia, they were a little stronger than the standard beers of the day and packed a hoppier punch, perfect for quenching the thirst of the merry sailors and the Brits desperately waiting for their beer fix at the other end.
Having drifted out of fashion, fully flavoured IPAs were revived by American brewers who saw the drink as the perfect style for their refreshingly fruity hops. These days virtually every brewery includes at least one IPA within their repertoire, selecting hops from all over the world to show off their bitter craft.
Here we pick ten of the best for this year’s Indian Pale Ale summer.
1. Buxton Brewery, Axe Edge, 6.8%: £2.69 for 330ml, Beers of Europe
A globetrotting assembly of hops from Europe, America and New Zealand are kept in balance by Buxton’s brewing craftsfolk to create this outstanding ale. A lovely sweet aroma of mango, grapefruit and orange is met by searing bitterness and a slight resinous feel in the mouth. A surefire summer hit.
2. Bell’s, Two Hearted Ale, 7%: £3.70 for 355ml, Beer Gonzo
This IPA comes from a Michigan brewery that constantly features near the top of ‘world’s best brewery’ lists. Hopped exclusively with the Centennial variety it comes with orange blossom aromas and a hefty dose of spruce needle bitterness, all backed with a good malty base and punchy yeast flavours. Grab a bottle before the summer stampede begins…
3. Thornbridge, Jaipur, 5.9%: £2.55 for 500ml, Waitrose
Already a modern classic, Jaipur has gained a worldwide reputation for quality and is becoming an increasingly common sight on booze aisles and bars. The clear pale brew, topped with an innocent white head of bubbles, contains a thunderous chorus of bitter notes, robustly earthy and pine fresh. Invigorating and thirst quenching, it never fails to satisfy.
4. Marble, Dobber, 5.9%: £3.95 for 500ml, Beer Gonzo
New Zealand hops meet Mancunian brewing brilliance in this well-balanced IPA. Biscuity malts provide the background for the hop magic – fruity on the nose, lots of floral and grassy notes on the palette, and a resoundingly bitter finish.
5. Oakham Ales, Green Devil, 6%: £2.59 for 500ml, Beers of Europe
Citra is the tropical-fruit-impersonating hop that launched a thousand IPAs and Oakham Ales has squeezed every drop of flavour from it in this, Green Devil. Smooth and golden, it’s like plunging into a Caribbean fruit salad before a refreshing wave of bitter grapefruit engulfs the senses. Devilishly good.
6. Lagunitas IPA, 6.2%: £1.79 for 355ml, Tesco
Now part of the huge Heineken stable, Lagunitas is reaching similar levels of UK exposure as other illustrious American brewers Goose Island, Brookyln and Sierra Nevada. It delivers a sticky sweet grapefruit kiss followed by a huge hug of fresh citrus and pine, with enough booze to keep you cosy. A great drink for starting an American IPA love affair.
7. Nøgne Ø, India Pale Ale, 7.5%: £5.49 for 500ml, Beers of Europe
The IPA epidemic has spread to Scandinavia with the Danish Mikkeller and Swedish Omnipollo producing particularly fine examples, but it’s this mighty Norwegian bottle that bursts into our top ten. It’s a knee-weakening, boozy beast, rich in sweet malts and a good depth of bitterness. A big beer with big flavours: serve with spicy food and savour every drop.
8. Brouwerij De Molen, Vuur & Vlam, 6.2%: £2.45 for 330ml, Beer Gonzo
Translating to “fire & flame”, this is a Dutch version of an American IPA from the consistently excellent De Molen brewery. It has similar hop flavours to its American counterparts but with some additional orange zestiness and spiky yeast notes. A fine integration of US and Euro styles.
9. BrewDog, Punk IPA, 5.6%: £1.79 for 330ml, Tesco
BrewDog inspires and irritates in almost equal measure but there’s little denying it makes great beer. Punk IPA, as the bottle proudly boasts, is a “post-modern classic” bristling with citrusy hops that pack a moreishly bitter bite. Worth the hype.
10. Magic Rock, Cannonball, 7.4%: £3.20 for 330ml, Beer Merchants
For those who appreciate the snap of a ring pull releasing fresh hop aromas, Magic Rock’s cans of Cannonball are hard to beat. A big whiff of the tropics is accompanied by crisp citrus and pine flavours, while a rugged bitterness intensifies with every swig. A great choice for the BBQ brigade.
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