My first introduction to IPAs was at St. Arnold Brewery in Houston, TX. They make an extremely hoppy brew called "Elissa" and, at first, I was put off by its bitterness. However, over time, I grew to love it and it soon became my favorite selection from the brewery. Since then I grab an IPA whenever I can.
I would like to know what IPAs other members prefer so that I can expand my selection.
I don't remember my first IPA, but the first IPA worth remembering was Stone's Ruination IPA. At the time it was a little too much for me, but things change. IPA is not my favorite style, but if I had to pick a favorite IPA it would be Dogfish Head's 90 minute. If you really want a treat, try their 120 minute (definitely not a session beer with that ABV). Funny thing is, I still have yet to try their 60 minute.
I've tried the 60-minute, but was not real impressed. It had some citrus hints to the flavor that I usually find in wheat styles and didn't have the "bite" that I like in my IPAs. Still, I was unaware of the 90- and 120-minute versions and will have to try them out.
There is a local brew that has gotten a lot of attention lately. Odell Brewing of Fort Collins Colorado makes their Odell IPA. It won gold for best IPA at the 2007 GABF and the 2008 World Beer Cup. This small brewery may not distribute widely but they make some darn good beers.
As for imperials, I must admit that the Dogfish 90-minute IPA really was responsible for turning me onto IPA's in the first place. It's wonderful.
Well, I love IPA's, but I love Double IPA's more like DFH 90, Bell's Hop Slam and Stone Runiation as well as sorta IPA's Bear Republic Hop Rod Rye (favorite beer period.) I too can not remember my first IPA, :-(. In general I think west coast brewers are much better at making IPA's, but but my favorite and always in my fridge IPA is Bell's 2 Hearted. Crisp, citrus-y but with some malt behind it. Pale Ales of any variety are so much better when Centennial hops are used as the finishing hops.
The 90 min is far superior to the 60, in my opinion. If you can get the rare spring release of DFH Burton Baton do it, it's the 90 and an old ale mixed fermented in oak. tasty.
My favorites IPAs are Bell's Two-Hearted Ale, Stone's IPA and Surly's Furious (and their Wet that I got to try last night is up there now too).
My favorite Imperial IPAs are Dogfish Head's 90 Minute IPA, Two Brothers Hop Juice, Southern Tier's Un*Earthly and Stone's Ruination (with an honorable mention to Lagunita's A Little Sumpin' Extra Ale).
I have a few bottles of Dogfish Head's 120 but have been saving them...
My favorite bottled IPAs in no particular order are Snake Dog, Hop Devil, Southern Tier, Dogfish Head 60 and 90, Ithaca's Flower Power, Magic Hat, Bridgeport and others that I don't recall. (Having a Sr. moment) On tap I like all of the above plus an excellent IPA in the Sacket's Harbor Brewpub, Sacket's Harbor, NY. The Hilton Head (SC) Brewery also has a decent one. I find that the double and imperial IPAs are a little over the top for my aging taste buds (I'm 69) although I wouldn't turn one down. Has anyone noticed that some beer (Sierra Nevada Pale Ale in particular) tastes a lot better bottled than on tap? I think they have "dumbed it down" for the heathens. It was much better out of the tap 8 or 9 years ago.
I just brewed my first real IPA based on Russian River's Hopfather (which I don't think they make anymore). Anyway, it should be ready to drink in about a week and a half, but the taste from my hydrometer flask at bottling was encouraging.
I'm partial to BR's Racer 5, but Piny the Elder is currently my favorite.