Serious Beer: Colorado IPA


The Hophead Chronicles

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Many consider Colorado to be the epicenter of the craft brewing scene. There are over a hundred craft breweries in the state, and it's the home of the Brewers Association and the Great American Beer Festival. So even though we could only get our hands on fifteen examples, we weren't surprised to taste some truly awesome IPAs and double IPAs from the Centennial State.

We can't say Colorado IPAs tend toward a single style. Some are quite dry, with emphasis on malt flavors and earthy bittering hops, while others are fruitier, with pine and even vanilla notes. The double and imperial IPAs range from big, resinous, and bright, to huge, boozy, and sweet. There's something for everybody; check out our reviews below and let us know your favorites in the comments!

Serious Beer Ratings

***** Our new favorite **** Awesome, worth remembering *** We'd consider buying this again ** There are probably better options * No, thanks, I'll have water.

Ratings are subject to personal taste.

Colorado IPAs

Odell India Pale Ale Fort Collins, 7% ABV This beer pours hazy gold and has a rich scent of ice cream, pine, and grapefruit. Up front, it's bitter and fruity, with an aromatic blast of mandarin orange, apricot, pineapple, Meyer lemon, and eucalyptus. The finish is creamy vanilla ice cream, with lingering minty resin. Excellent and refreshing, a beer I'd consider for my desert-island list. ****1/2

Bristol Brewing Compass IPA Colorado Springs, 6.7% ABV Really solid, with minty pine on the nose and a rich mouthfeel. This malty IPA has notes of broiled grapefruity and tangy apple cider, with a very clean finish. Grassy notes and oily pine branch resin come through as it's cold; as it warms up the malt starts to dominate. Serve with chips and guacamole. ****

Boulder Mojo IPA Boulder, 6.8% ABV We smelled sweet canned fruit cocktail on this beer, and as soon as we tasted it we were reminded of canned pineapple. This beer is complex and fruity, with rich caramel malt notes dominating. There's no lingering bitterness. Some of our tasters found it just too sweet, but others were big fans. ***3/4

Great Divide Titan IPA Denver, 7.1% ABV Drinkable and well balanced, with some rich malt sweetness and a hint of vanilla. This solid example of an IPA is a bit earthy and grassy, with some grapefruit notes. The finish is lingering and bitter. ***3/4

Breckenridge Lucky U IPA Breckenridge and Denver, 6.2% ABV This rich IPA has lots of malty caramel flavors, and a hint of dusty cloves. There's delicate bitterness from the apricot-and-dried-orangey hops, but you won't get a burst of lemony punch here. Some of us loved it, but the hopheads wanted more. ***1/2

Avery India Pale Ale Boulder, 6.3% ABV Bright and creamy with a lemony punch and some dry grapefruit peel bitterness, this IPA is only for those who like bitter beers. There's some nice pretzely malt and good body, but it will definitely be too harsh for beginners. ***1/2

New Belgium Ranger Fort Collins, 6.5% ABV This drinkable IPA is refreshing and light, with vegetal notes that reminded some tasters of mulch. It's super dry and clean, with piney hops and a hint of white pepper. Not terribly complex, but likeable. ***1/4

Fort Collins Rocky Mountain IPA Fort Collins, 6.2% ABV Though it has rich orange and brown sugar scents, this isn't a sweet beer—in fact, it's aggressively dry and bitter. We tasted mostly grapefruit peel, pine, and a hint of black tea. It's a bit like chewing on bitter sage leaves. It's possible that richer malt flavors would lend balance to this beer, which is certainly not friendly for beginners. ***

Golden City Brewery Evolution IPA Golden, 7.1% ABV With an appealing scent of orange and ginger ale, this beer has some nice rich vanilla ice cream and tangerine flavors, with a bit of eucalyptus. It's malt-focused, and reminded some tasters of dry toast. We wished for a bit more bright hop pop and a touch more carbonation. ***

Left Hand 400 Pound Monkey Longmont, 6.6% ABV Left Hand makes a lot of great beers, but this one is not our favorite. It's earthy, with flavors that reminded us of Cheerios and quinine. There's a hint of apricot and tea, popcorn and crispy bacon in this very dry beer. If you're looking for fresh, bright hops, this one isn't going to do it for you. **3/4

Double/Imperial IPAs from Colorado

Avery duganA Boulder, 8.5% ABV This is seriously tasty beer, easily sliding onto our favorites list. The scent is honey, orange, and pine, and the taste follows up with creamy malt, rich buttery caramel corn, orange and kumquat. The rich malt is beautifully balanced with nice bitterness and resinous piney hop oils, lots of delicate carbonation to clean the palate. ****1/2

Ska Decadent Imperial IPA Durango, 10% ABV With a scent of fresh grapefruit, mandarin orange, and brown sugar, we weren't surprised how sweet this tasted, though it has a nice rich hop flavor to nearly balance it out. This beer is intense (and strong!), tasting mostly like pomelo, with candied orange peel in the center, and dry juniper on the finish. If you like your IPAs sweet and rich, this'll please you. ***3/4

Oskar Blues Gubna Lyons, 10% ABV This hugely alcoholic canned beer is more potent than it tastes—be careful! It's malty, sweet, and resiny, with hints of pineapple, golden raisins, and maraschino cherries. The bittering hops hang for awhile on the finish—some tasters found the end a little harsh. Serve quite cool with a giant bowl of buttered popcorn; this one gets syrupy as it warms. ***1/2

Steamworks Conductor Imperial India Pale Ale Bayfield, 9.24% ABV While still creamy and sweet, this beer is brighter and less syrupy than some Imperial IPAs and has good carbonation. There's a hint of strawberry-banana flavor, nutmeg, rum, and herbal hopping. It reminded some tasters of liquefied golden raisins. ***1/2

Boulder Mojo Risin' Boulder, 10% ABV Strong and sweet, with rum raisin on the nose, this beer reminded our tasting panel of golden syrup, dried papaya, and dried pineapple. If you like barleywines or Belgian Quads, you'll have fun with this beer, though we wanted it to have a bit more hoppy bitterness to balance the sweetness. **1/2

Disclosure: All Colorado beers except those from Fort Collins Brewing, Boulder Brewery, and Steamworks were review samples.

The Serious Beer Best IPA List

So far, this only includes beers from California, Oregon, Washington, and Colorado, but there's more to come. All of these beers are super-excellent; at this point of deliciousness, the order is personal preference.

Our Favorite IPAs of 2010 We just couldn't limit it to ten.

1. Laurelwood Workhorse IPA (Oregon)
2. Speakeasy Big Daddy IPA (California)
3. Odell India Pale Ale (Colorado)
4. Firestone Walker Union Jack (California)
5. Boundary Bay IPA (Washington)
6. Green Flash West Coast IPA (California)
7. Rogue Brutal IPA (Oregon)
8. Stone Ruination IPA (California)
9. Port Brewing Wipeout IPA (California)
10. Coronado Island IPA (California)
11. Ballast Point Sculpin (California)
12. Bristol Brewing Compass IPA (Colorado)

Best Double and Imperial IPAs We've Had This Year

1. Russian River Pliny the Elder (California)
2. Hopworks Ace of Spades Imperial IPA (Oregon)
3. Anderson Valley Anniversary Imperial IPA (California)
4. Avery DuganA (Colorado)
5. Marin Brewing White Knuckle (California)
6. Moylander Double IPA (California)
7. Bend Brewing Hop Head Imperial (Oregon)
8. New Old Lompoc C-Note (Oregon)
9. Ninkasi Tricerahops (Oregon)
10. Full Sail Slipknot (Oregon)