Only suckers buy IPAs in bottles these days. Or purchase them from a supermarket. After all, they could be *gasp* a week old, and no longer “fresh." I’m kidding—somewhat. But it’s hard to ignore that many of today’s most coveted IPAs are generally being packaged in 16-ounce “pounder” cans sold exclusively from their breweries, a day-old in freshness, and usually in highly-limited quantities that necessitate queueing up, sometimes for hours.
The Alchemist’s Heady Topper started this trend in the early 2010s, and while it’s still an iconic beer, it’s become a little passé amongst the cognoscenti. I wrote a “What Will Be the Next Heady Topper?” piece back in 2014 that’s almost obsolete these days, even if many of the beers I highlighted are still around, and still darn good. Back then there were only a dozen canned IPAs, almost none of them limited. But now it seems like everyone is cashing in on the brew of the moment, with 4-packs of these featured IPAs usually sell for $15-$20.
It should be noted the vast majority of these ballyhooed beers are what is known as “New England-style” IPAs, lacking in much bitterness, dry-hopped to oblivion to produce an insanely fragrant aroma, soft in carbonation and thus crushable like a glass of orange juice, and about as hazy as some pulpy fresh-squeezed too. It's best to drink them immediately in order to truly understand their greatness. Which is one reason why cans work so well for the packaging—not only are they lighter for carrying in bulk, but they also prevent UV light penetration and oxidation. If you notice a brewery hashtagging #hazefordays or #juicy upon announcing a new beer release, you’re probably destined to stand in a line for awhile if you want to nab a case of that sweet, sweet nectar.
Of course nowadays, it’s less about specific beers and more about specific breweries. If today’s hottest hop-mongers—most of them indeed based in the northeast—have a canned IPA release, most folks don’t even need to be told what is being released. They will still set their alarms for early in the a.m., grab a lawn chair and cooler bag, and head to the brewery parking lot. The canned, New England-style IPA is the beer geek’s strongest currency of the moment, which is why most of them find it worthwhile to max out their “limits” (usually a case or two per beer). At the least, you can trade the beer to some other sucker if you end up not being a fan of it.
Yes, there are still plenty of great bottled IPAs, even ones getting wide distribution to retail spots in all 50 states—but unfortunately, those “shelf turds” simply don’t get bearded nerds excited these days. The following breweries are the ones releasing the canned IPAs that are truly causing a commotion.