Raleigh Beer Week: Which IPA is Your Favorite?
By Dathan Kazsuk
With Raleigh Beer Week upon us, I thought it would be a fun time to ponder the following question. What would I consider the best IPA in my hometown of Raleigh to be?
When you think of Raleigh and its IPAs, it doesn’t get the same attention as other regional metros. We all know here in North Carolina that the Asheville-area gets most of the recognition for its breweries. With places like Green Man, Burial, Hi-Wire, Highland, Twin Leaf – who’s to blame them.
Even Charlotte gets more publicity with its up-and-rising breweries such as Heist, Sugar Creek, Wooden Robot, Legion and Sycamore. And that’s not even counting their big names.
I recall earlier this year I got a Facebook instant message from a local-area brewery owner. “You know the Triangle kicked ass at the U.S. Open Championship.” Which was indeed true. Triangle-area breweries won a total of 13 medals in the 2017 competition, with Raleigh’s own Lynnwood Brewing Concern winning a total of 3 medals. Other locals who won included White Street Brewing, Lonerider, Mystery, Crank Arm, Oak & Dagger, Fortnight and Fullsteam (three of those call Raleigh home).
With that all said, it seems like the Triangle still feels like the Rodney Dangerfield of the Southeast – not getting any respect. Maybe that will change soon. Breweries such as Cary’s Bond Brothers Beer Company, Raleigh’s Brewery Bhavana and Durham’s Fullsteam with its White Lilly have been getting good reviews for their hoppy and hazy IPAs, similar to the New England Style, which is the biggest crazy in the beer world today.
So, I set out to find my favorite IPA here in town with only two stipulations. 1) The beer must come from a Raleigh brewery. 2) All beers must be 8 percent ABV or under, and will not include sessions or black IPAs – but could include DIPAs, if kept at 8 percent or under. This list will be compiled by what each brewery had on draft when I arrived. I understand that a brewery may be out of their favorite IPA, but that’s the risk I'm taking. Please keep in mind, I wasn't able to visit every Raleigh brewery in a short period of time, and this is only my opinion on each beer.
And remember, your opinion may differ slightly from mine. Let’s begin!
10. Raleigh Brewing Company’s House of Clay Rye IPA ABV – 7.1 percent Points: 70
I was surprised to see that RBC didn’t have any IPAs on draft other than House of Clay – one of its year-round beers. It was pretty bitter on draft, but still an easy drink, and not very hoppy. The beer has a nice nose and it had a nice golden hue inside the glass. I’m typically not a fan of rye-style beers, but this one was pretty good.
09. Gizmo Brew Works' Palisade Wasp IPA ABV – 6.8 percent Points: 70
This beer has some nice floral hop characteristics to it – and drinks like a Session IPA, but at 6.8 percent – it is not. The beer had some hints of tangerine and apricot masked inside the bitterness and dry, clean finish. This would be a good summer IPA to have poolside. Seems light, but after a few of these you won't mind the annoying loud kids splashing around you.
08. Lincoln Brewing and Distillery’s Burnside .54 Rosemary Basil IPA ABV – 7.3 percent Points: 75
The taste of basil in this beer might fool the unpolished beer-drinkers taste buds. You can smell and taste the basil in this IPA, but the flavor of the hops tends to mask the harshness of the basil, leaving just that little subtle aftertaste on your tongue. Remember, this is an IPA, you don’t want it too hopped up on one single herb. This was a refreshing drink – a lot better than the Cannonball IPA which was also on draft.
07. Lonerider's Addie's Revenge IPA ABV – 6.6 percent Points: 75
This is your typical IPA. A lot of citrus hops make up the nose of this beer with a nice golden-color to round it out. Made with pale Vienna and crystal malts, this is one of those easy drinking IPAs that you can down two or three in a sitting – which was made apparent by the guys sitting beside me talking politics and downing this beer like it was water. Worth a try. I also had the Hop'em High DIPA, but at 8.6 percent it was just slightly out of the running.
06. Big Boss Brewing Company's Blood Orange High Roller IPA ABV – 6.75 percent Points: 75
A little less than a year ago, this paired well in an IPA showdown we did at home. Holding its own with breweries such as Wicked Weed and Burial. Back then we all loved the subtle hints of the blood orange taste in this IPA, but during this last sample for this blog, the citrus of the orange just wasn't there. But High Roller is still a pretty solid IPA around town. The IPA is still a good one, just didn't have what I was looking for this time.
05. Neuse River Brewing Company's Caleb's High Noon Imperial IPA ABV – 7.8 percent Points: 80
This was one of the first beers I've had when Neuse River opened up several years ago, and it's still one of my go to beers when I visit to this date. This beer is a nice golden/copper color and has nice aromas of sweet caramel malts. The bitterness of Caleb's does seem to linger around for a while – which might not be appealing to everyone. But I like it just fine.
04. Compass Rose’s Tidal Break IPA ABV – 7 percent Points: 80
I must have gotten spoiled by the true New England IPAs I’ve tasted. This beer is coined as that, but I wasn’t really getting the taste or hazy appearance I typically see when I crack open a can of something up north. However, don’t let that fool you – this was, even though it was pretty clear in color, a tasty beer. I got a little more lemons on the nose than grapefruit, which I usually get with my New England Style IPAs.
03. Lynnwood Brewing Concern's Hop on Top
ABV – 7 percent
One of my go to IPAs when at any one of Lynnwood's locations. I'm a fan of the West Coast-style IPA – maybe it's because I still consider California my true home. From the golden/orange color to the rich, foamy head, and the dank aromas of hops and citrus put this beer near the top of my list. The grapefruit I inhale before each drink is an added bonus.
02. Trophy Brewing’s Whoa-saic Double IPA
ABV – 8 percent
The citrus/fruit notes were strong with this one. The Double IPA was brewed with Maris Otter, wheat and oats. A lot of DIPAs are a little more malt-forward, but I didn’t find that the case with this beer. It drank like a pale ale, i.e. not a heavy beer as most DIPAs – so it was easy drinking – enough for two pints!
01. Brewery Bhavana's Grove DIPA
ABV – 8 percent
Hands down my favorite IPA of this adventure. This was the closest beer to a classic New England-style IPA – hazy, juicy and all around delicious. The smell of pineapple and mango on the nose and a pithy finish, made this very enjoyable. As you can see with my top two IPA beers, the higher the ABV, the better they seem to rank in my book.