The Hophead Chronicles
This week we continue our survey of India Pale Ales by heading down the Eastern seaboard to check out the offerings of New York state breweries.
Although New York brewers aren't following a single set of guidelines for their IPAs, most of the best examples we tried showcased pungent American hops often used in their West Coast cousins. The balance of creamy malt and piney, citrusy hops is important, but these beers should lean toward hops.
We tried 14 different IPAs from the Empire State. Have you tried these beers? Which New York-brewed IPA is your favorite?
Serious Beer Ratings
5/5 Mindblowing; a new favorite 4/5 Awesome, stock up on this 3/5 Around average for the style 2/5 There are probably better options 1/5 No, thanks, I'll have water.
Ithaca Beer Co. Flower Power IPA Ithaca, 7.5% ABV Flower Power's aroma is loaded with peaches, apricot, pineapple, and floral notes. Ithaca uses five separate additions of six different hops to create an incredibly complex American hop profile. It's aggressively bitter and not quite balanced by the beer's underlying sweetness, but it's definitely not off-putting. In our opinion, this is one of the best IPAs on the East Coast (or anywhere else, for that matter). 4.75/5
Sixpoint Craft Ales Bengali Tiger Brooklyn, 6.7% ABV This beer packs a very dank and resiny hop punch. It's balanced nicely with bready malts and a bit of caramel character. Bright citrus hop bitterness makes this crisp and refreshing. Bengali Tiger was the driest IPA we tried. Pair it with a Vindaloo. 4.5/5
Kelso of Brooklyn IPA Brooklyn, 6.0% ABV Kelso's choice of Nelson Sauvin, a New Zealand-grown hop that imparts a delicately floral white wine character, makes this beer stand out among some of the other citrus- and pine-laden American IPAs we tried. There's still plenty of juicy hop character here, but it's presented with a balanced bitterness on top of toasty malt. 4/5
Empire Brewing Co. IPA Syracuse, 7.2% ABV Pine resin, grapefruit peel, and fruity hops play off a toasty malt aroma. This American IPA packs big piney and spicy hop flavor that's balanced by a light caramel malt sweetness. Finishes with a firm and lasting bitterness. 4/5
Southampton India Pale Ale Southampton, 6.1% ABV Rich with caramel malts and floral and citrus hops. Southampton's IPA is a self-described cross between an assertive West Coast IPA and a more traditional English IPA. The malt balances the grapefruit and apricot hop character measure for measure. Full flavored without being overwhelming. Southampton created an IPA for people who don't think they need to choose one side of the pond for their hop fix. 4/5
Southern Tier IPA Lakewood, 7.3% ABV We smelled Juicy Fruit gum, floral hops, fresh-cut pineapple, and other tropical fruit along with grainy malts. This tasty gold pour is very well rounded and balanced with moderate bitterness and a soft finish. For a beer of this gravity, it's deceptively sessionable. 4/5
Great South Bay Brewery Massive IPA Bay Shore, 6.8% ABV Very drinkable, with aromas of tropical fruit and caramel. Bready malt flavor and a cotton candy sweetness lie beneath a long-lasting, balanced bitterness. There's an ample dose of citrus peel on the finish. 3.75/5
Brooklyn East India Pale Ale Brooklyn, 6.9% ABV We picked up aromas of spicy hops, apricot, leather, and caramel. Rich British pale malt provides a counterpoint to the beer's moderate bitterness. Midpalate, the hop flavor strikes an almost savory note. This would be great with a cheeseburger. It's another example of an IPA that takes cues from both the American and English styles, but this one more closely resembles the latter. 3.75/5
Blue Point Brewing Co. Hoptical Illusion Patchogue, 6.8% ABVThis relatively mild IPA pours a medium gold. It smells of oranges, grass, and toffee. Caramel malts offset the beer's moderate bitterness. It's light-bodied and finishes crisp and clean. 3.25/5
Keegan Ales Hurricane Kitty Kingston Earthy and citrus hop aroma and flavor are more restrained than we'd expected up front, but the citrus becomes more prominent in the finish. The malt aroma is also a bit muted, but caramel comes through toward the end of the sip. A bit rough-edged and bitter. Highly carbonated. 3.25/5
Fire Island Beer Co. Red Wagon IPA Ocean Beach, 7.0% ABV Pours a cloudy amber. Malt is a bit dominant in the aroma along with floral hops. Dried fruit continues throughout and lingers in the back of the mouth. It's pretty bitter, but didn't have quite the full hop flavor of other examples we tried. 3/5
Saranac Brewery/Matt Brewing Co. IPA Utica, 5.8% ABV Cascade hops provide this golden beer's grapefruit character. Some of us thought this beer could've been a bit more full—there were elements of a classic American IPA, but not quite enough of them. 2.75/5
Butternuts Beer & Ale Snapperhead IPA Garratsville, 6.3% ABV Snapperhead was definitely the maltiest IPA we tried. Sweet, bready aromas give way to sticky apricots. Overall we thought it was a bit thick and the hops could've been brighter. 2.75/5
Lake Placid Pub & Brewery IPA Lake Placid, 6.8% ABV This deep copper IPA has a prominent malt aroma along with a bit of fruity must. Hop flavor is muted with moderate bitterness. It was a bit thin compared with other IPAs we tried, and finished a bit tart and sharp. 2.5/5
Disclosure: All beers except those from Ithaca, Keegan, and Lake Placid were provided as samples for review.