Nearly four years ago, I visited San Diego on a little vacation. Beer-wise, the site I wanted to hit up most was Alpine Beer Co., then, a small, mostly-unknown brewery famous for their IPAs amongst the local cognoscenti. Way off-the-beaten path, I drove northeast through the winding roads toward the edge of the Cleveland National Forest, arriving at a brewpub that looked more like a diner than hardcore beer-drinking oasis. In fact, most of the lunchtime crowd enjoyed Diet Cokes with their “Taco Tuesday” platters. I settled in with a pint of Bad Boy, Alpine’s Columbus and Amarillo-hopped monster that was served to me looking like a milky slurry in a glass. It was the best IPA I’ve ever had in my life.
Would it still be today? I have no clue—especially not since Alpine was acquired by Green Flash; not since so many other great IPAs have hit the market in the interim; not since hazy IPAs have come to be the norm; and especially not since I haven’t even had Bad Boy of late (it is neither bottled nor canned). That’s the dilemma with IPAs and DIPAs today—there are so many great ones, so many that are almost identical in quality, that determining what’s the greatest at any given moment ain’t easy.
Besides drinking beer I enjoy watching college sports, where though there are hundreds of teams playing completely different schedules, it comes down to “experts” to rank the teams and determine who can vie for championships. I thought I would try to do the same with IPAs. To draw up a power poll, if you will, one I could update monthly or quarterly as hoppy tides changed. Yes, of course this would be a fool’s errand, a nearly-impossible task that would inherently cause certain neckbeards in the audience to send me profane threats via Facebook and Twitter (“How could u not include MBC Dinner you idiot?!”). But isn’t that what the Internet is for?
If you want to know my methodology, it’s quite simple—I asked some people I know who are in the know. There’s at least six of them, spread throughout the country—beer geeks who have swapped and traded and stood in lines and pretty much consumed (fresh!) every IPA or DIPA that currently matters. That’s it. (For what it's worth, it’s more or less the same way the college football final four was just selected.)
Here is the power poll we have built. Ask us tomorrow, and it may be different.
*For the pedantic whistleblowers, we're not saying you can literally buy all these beers this exact second in time. But we guarantee all of these will be released sometime—maybe multiple times—in 2017.