I've had countless IPAs since, including doubles, triples, imperials, wet-hopped, belgian, etc etc. The downside is I'm not really sure what an IPA is any more, but I know when I've got a good one. Here are some of the highlights of my year of IPA lust. I've no doubt omitted some I liked more than these, but these ones stand out as I type this post.
#10 Black Oak - Ten Bitter Years
The enjoyment I got from this one might be due to a convergence of factors, including stumbling across Chancey Smith's in London, meeting barman extraordinaire Milos Kral, and finally getting a drink after a brutal flight schedule. Ten Bitter Years is Black Oak's 10th anniversary beer, brewed to the discerning tastes of BO president Ken Woods. The one I tried had been aged a few months, and was bursting with mellow apricots and lavender. There is a really complicated hop character to this beer: rich but not overpowering. This is a sipper and should be nurtured until warm in the hand.
#9 Phillips - Hop Circle IPA
#8 Avery - Maharaja Imperial IPA
Avery brews "big artful beers" and this 10% brute is as big as they come. A dirty, almost filthy, orange colour, with a slug of tangerine hops and an estery smell that really works. This isn't a zingy, fresh IPA — but one of those sweetish, heavy ones that really wallows in the mouth. Intensely aromatic and excoriating, very recommended.
#7 Anderson Valley - 20th Anniversary Imperial IPA
#6 Driftwood - Sartori Harvest IPA 2009
This beer really sold me on wet-hopped IPAs, and I have been trying (unsuccessfully) to replicate this experience ever since. The balance of pine and orange was exceptional in this release, but what really got me was a near-medicinal camphor zing that made it the most mysterious IPA I've ever had.
#5 Paddock Wood - Loki
#4 Central City - Red Racer
Enough has been said about this beer already. It is currently BC's finest IPA, and it is deservedly hyped-to-all-hell on beer review sites. At the Great Canadian Beer Festival I tried a casked imperial version which was also sublime, but nothing really beats the tropical gorgeousness of regular Red Racer. A great beer.
#3 Moylans - Hopsickle
Garrett Oliver of Brooklyn Brewery to quip: “It’s a fairly idiotic pursuit, like a chef saying, ‘This is the saltiest dish.’ Anyone can toss hops in a pot, but can you make it beautiful?” Well, after 4-5 bottles of this stuff, I truly believe it IS beautiful. The "hop-bomb" dismissal slung around by the IPA-backlash brigade is a reverse snobbery that detracts from how damn good some of these hop-heavy beers really are. Hopsickle is a distillation of hops, which, curiously, shares an almost identical flavour profile to Brew Dog's oneupmanship vessel Sink the Bismark (the 41% IPA to end all IPAs). Drink this beer last. (I used FrothyHead's image because, well, it's way cooler than my picture)
#2 Southern Tier - Unearthly Imperial IPA
This beer leaves me giddy. At 11%, that's hardly surprising. Unearthly is a devastatingly hoppy beer, but in that deep, stewed grapefruit kind of way that makes a beer truly sexy. Pretty sweet, thick, and soupy. Loads of herbal, peppery stuff is going on in this beer. I recently tried the Oak-Aged and it's a distraction — the original is much better. This beer should be served after an hour out of the fridge and allowed to warm fully before you finish it. A lesson in hops.
#1 Pelican Brewpub - India Pelican Ale
It isn't imperial, particularly hoppy, rare, or distinguished in any way other than being the most perfectly balanced IPA I have enjoyed to date. This beer is like listening to a well recorded band on some expensive hi-fi equipment: every element of it is clearly discernable and accessible to the taste. The beer has an intensely bready aroma, with equal measures of pine and citrus hops. The taste has an almost soap-like mineral backbone to it that I think is what allows all the other flavours to express themselves so clearly. There is mildly warm sweetness, a very substantial bitterness, and a little spice — all three of which fade at the same rate through the aftertaste, leaving a tiny trace of salt that has you reaching immediately for another sip, another glass, another bottle, and another trip to the bank to get the $9 you need to buy one here in Victoria. Dammit.
Moylans - Moylander Double IPA
Edit: Phillips - Nine Donkeys of the Hopocalypse