Year-Round Hoppy IPAs For Cold Winter Months
Much like the sky at 6 PM in the middle of winter, beers in the winter tend to be dark and cold. This doesn’t mean that every beer available in the colder months must be this way though. While there’s a huge variety of darker beers available that range in taste from bitter to sweet to weird and wild, you’ll also find an abundance of hoppy IPAs, too. Fresh, crisp, and with a healthy dose of bitterness these IPAs do their own job of pushing the winter blues away and bring with them thoughts of warmer months.
To help you see how amazing a great IPA can be in the wintertime, we worked with our friends at Frank B. Fuhrer Wholesale to come up with a list of some of the best IPAs you can get. While these aren’t exactly what’s known as a Winter IPA, these beers are available all year so the ones you start liking when it’s cold out will still be available when things warm up. These standards of the hophead’s world are each uniquely bitter and all are very different from one another, making your choice simple: get one of each and call it a winter.
21st Amendment Brewery – Brew Free or Die IPA
Since 2000 San Francisco-based 21st Amendment Brewery has been producing some of the best beers in the country. The brewery is named after one of our favorite amendments, the one that allowed the US to drink once again after the tough years of Prohibition. The guys at 21st Amendment decided they wanted to do things a little differently than the rest of the craft breweries that were opening their doors and from day one every beer they produced was canned instead of bottled.
The can helps to protect the beer from oxygen that can seep around a cap and most importantly it keeps light from striking the beer, which causes a beer to skunk and a flavorful hop profile to be squashed. Cans cost less to ship, get cold quicker, and store in our fridge more easily.
21st Amendment’s featured year-round IPA is a perfect example of a west coast IPA in every way. Brew Free or Die IPA is a 7% ABV American IPA that’s brewed with two-row Pale malt with Munich and Light Crystal to give the final beer some serious character. Columbus hops are used for bittering, and Cascade and Centennial hops are used to finish the beer out and give it that amazing west coast IPA profile you love. Brew Free or Die IPA is 21st Amendment’s best-selling beer for a very good reason, and all it takes is one to see what we’re talking about.
Brooklyn Brewery – East IPA
When it comes to IPAs, there are two main categories: American and English. Generally each is brewed with hops and malts from their respective countries and for the most part, American IPAs tend to be hugely bitter with a ton of hop character while English IPAs tend to be more balanced and focused on the malt with enough hops present to even things out.
Brooklyn Brewery out of, you guessed it, Brooklyn, New York didn’t like this exacting split and decided to do something about it. Their 6.9% ABV East IPA is a combination of American and English IPAs with a definite favoring to the English side. Brooklyn combines American hops like Centennial and Willamette with British beauties East Kent Golding and Northdown to give you a beer that’s firm with its bitterness but still clean, drinkable and perfect for pairing.
Church Brew Works – Thunderhop IPA
So what happens when a church stops being a church? Well, you can go the 21 Jump Street route and turn it into a secret base for your undercover police force, or you can make it into one of the most interesting breweries you’ll find anywhere.
The Church Brew Works, located on Liberty Avenue just up from the main street of Lawrenceville makes some pretty great beer in an environment that’s amazing to see. With beer brewed on the now defunct pulpit to a confessional that now houses their liquor, The Church Brew Works is a site to behold for sure.
One of the most popular year-round beers from Church is their Thunderhop IPA. This beer that draws it’s name and logo from another type of god Zeus is something the God of Thunder would be proud to share a name with. Thunderhop features intense bitterness with a slight malty backbone. Far from balanced, this hugely hoppy 6.5% ABV beer uses nearly 3 pounds of Australian Galaxy and American Chinook per barrel, which means you’ll get a heavy dose of pine, citrus, and earthy aromas and flavors.
Deschutes Brewery – Fresh Squeezed IPA
If only it were as easy as squeezing hops to get an IPA out we’d all have hop fields in our back yards. While it’s definitely not as easy as squeezing an orange for orange juice, Deschutes Brewery’s Fresh Squeezed IPA tastes like that’s exactly how it was made.
Finally available year-round, this IPA from the Oregon brewer features a distinct citrus profile that’s thanks to the Citra, Mosaic, and Nugget hops that are used in the brewing process. These three hops combined give Fresh Squeezed that fresh off the bine taste and profile that makes it refreshing, no matter what the temperature is outside.
Coming in at 6.4% ABV, Fresh Squeezed IPA has just enough alcohol to make you nice and warm but is low enough to allow you to have a few.
Deschutes Brewery was founded all the way back in 1988 when craft brewing was just known as making great beer and the popularity of craft beer we have today wasn’t even a dream. Since then Deschutes has been making some of the best beer in the country using fresh ingredients and a dedication to great craft beer.
Flying Dog Brewery – Raging Bitch IPA
If you’re a sucker for a good story then the founding of Flying Dog Brewery is one you need to know. Founded in 1990 by George Stranahan in Aspen, Colorado, the Flying Dog Brewpub took it’s name from an expedition Stranahan took in 1983 to climb the famous and deadly K2 in the Himalayas. The entire party returned unharmed and upon enjoying a drink at their hotel he saw a painting with what looked like a flying dog in it. This story stuck with George and when it came time to found his brewpub he realized there couldn’t be a better name or story to go behind it.
Flying Dog made their move to their current home in Frederick, Maryland in 2008 and since then has been producing some of the best beer available. One last interesting piece of the Flying Dog story is the label artwork. Stranahan was good friends with the Hunter Thompson, the author and Gonzo journalist as well as Thompson’s friend and artist Ralph Steadman. The artwork for Flying Dog labels may be thought of as an interpretation or imitation of his artwork, but in actuality Steadman has created the artwork for each Flying Dog label.
Just like their story and the artwork applied to each can and bottle, if you’re looking for something different in the world of IPAs, then we’ve got just the dog for you. Raging Bitch is a combination of an American IPA and a Belgian pale ale that works amazingly well.
Starting on the American side of things, Flying Dog uses Warrior, Columbus, and Amarillo hops for a strong hop profile and bitterness. This combined with the Caramel malt that they use for a specialty malt gives the beer a hefty profile and medium mouthfeel that helps to support the huge 8.3% ABV.
As for the Belgian side, strong Belgian yeast is used to give the beer a unique funk that can only come from the Belgians. When you pour this beer expect to see a big fluffy head of white foam and a cloudy complexion. Bitter, fruity, and a little funky, Raging Bitch is always interesting from the order to the last sip.
Left Hand Brewing – 400 Pound Monkey
If you like your IPAs a little more balanced, then the wildly named 400 Pound Monkey is perfect for you. This beer from Left Hand Brewing is an English-style IPA that comes in at 6.8% ABV and features an earthy, herbal hop profile that’s balanced out with bready malt.
The brewers at Left Hand use Magnum, Boadicea, and Sovereign hops to make 400 Pound Monkey a beer that’s less a hop bomb and more a medley of flavors that give their thanks to the small cone-shaped flowers. Pale 2-row, Crystal, and Munich malts as well as malted wheat give this beer a medium body and mouthfeel that make the tastes stand out all that much more.
Long Trail Brewing Company – Limbo Double IPA
By now you probably think everything that can be done to make an IPA unique has been done. There’s black IPAs, white IPAs, Belgian IPAs, and even Lambic IPAs (not common, but they exist) out there, making the IPA a pretty tried and true style.
While there’s a lot that’s already been done and just about every hop that’s been used, there’s always room for something new. Take for example Limbo IPA from Long Trail Brewing Company. Limbo is new in two ways. First, it’s made using a brand new breed of hops coming from Australia and the Pacific Northwest and second, it started it’s life on Long Trail’s Pilot Facility brewery.
This beer is hugely bitter and nicely warming at 7.6% ABV. Limbo has a great floral and resiny hop aroma with a little caramel from the malt hiding in there as well. On first taste you’ll notice some roasted malts and a floral hop presence that finishes with a nice dose of bitterness.
Rogue Brewing – Brutal IPA
Listed as a non-traditional IPA, this big citrusy beer uses Alluvial hops right from their own Rogue Farms, Brutal IPA is actually a somewhat misnamed beer. While there is definitely a healthy dose of bitterness in Brutal, the beer is actually pretty well balanced with 2-row, Carawheat, and C15 malts as well as Dare and Risk malts from the Rogue farms. These give the beer a medium body and help to balance out the citrus hop flavors to leave you with an amazing beer that’s far from brutal, in a very good way.
Brutal is described as a cross between a Very Extra Special Bitter and an American IPA, giving the beer a robust and complex taste that’s bitter, full of hop aroma and flavor, and all around great. Brutal is a great beer for dabblers in the hop world as well as full-blown hopheads alike, just don’t let the name scare you.
Southern Tier Brewing Company – 2XIPA
When people think about beers that are great for colder months, two things come to mind: dark and strong. While 2XIPA from Southern Tier in Lakewood, New York might not be dark, it makes up for that in it’s 8.2% ABV.
2XIPA is one seriously bitter beer but because of this, the brewers at Southern Tier made it with an extra-strong malt backbone so it can easily stand up against the citrus and piney hops that come along with the bitterness.
This beer features four different types of hops and two types of malt for a medium body and a flavor that shouts grapefruit, bitter lemon, and a slightly sweet bread. To help stave off the cold, this beer is best drank at about 45-50*, so you don’t have to hold onto an icy glass while enjoying it.
Yards Brewing – IPA
Our last IPA in this list of year-round IPAs that are great for the winter months comes by the way of Philadelphia. Yards Brewing believes that the home of modern brewing, England, still makes amazing styles of beer and as such should still be consumed. While hugely hoppy and big beers from the west coast are great, sometimes a well-balanced IPA that follows the traditions of our British beer ancestors is a good thing.
While far from a traditional English IPA, Yard’s version uses malts from England along with Chinook and Amarillo hops from the US, this beer comes in at a surprising 7% ABV and is both robust as well as balanced, giving it a truly unique flavor.
Yards IPA is slightly fruity, very aromatic, and bitter enough to match the slightly higher alcohol content. Launched all the way back in 1998, this beer is one that will be around for quite some time.
Each of these IPAs are available year-round in bottles and on draft and are proudly distributed in the Pittsburgh area by Frank B. Fuhrer Wholesale.