PHOENIX — For whatever reason, it seems the national alcohol days fall on weekdays and never the weekend. Maybe that’s for the best.
This time around it’s National IPA Day, where all day Thursday Americans can pop open an India Pale Ale to celebrate.
In Arizona, there’s quite a few that have garnered national recognition, so why not start there? Do it responsibly, of course.
Thanks to DRAFT Magazine, we have a taste (pun intended) of three of the best IPAs in the country brewed in Arizona.
The Spellbinder, created by Wren House Brewing Co. in Phoenix, was ranked highest among Arizona IPAs in DRAFT Magazine’s Top 50 list.
Full disclosure: DRAFT is based in Arizona. With three Grand Canyon State brewers in the top 50, an argument could be made that proximity gives locals an advantage in a tasting focused on fresh flavors. But here’s the counterargument: Arizona’s brewers are just crafting some really great IPAs right now. Spellbinder is made Northeast-foggy through additions of wheat and oat milk, plus Loral lupulin powder and Citra hop whirlpool additions and triple dry-hopping with Citra and Mosaic lupulin powder. The result: a dynamic aroma that covers honeydew rind and mown grass with shots of mango, orange pulp and dank weed. The flavor’s milder and more focused on the citrus, though huge grassy notes do float above the palate; soft swallows are like spoonfuls of oatmeal followed by a slow fade of moderate grassy bitterness.
The next-highest rated IPA in Arizona is Bingo Bango Bongo from The Shop Beer Co. in Tempe.
The Shop was named the best new brewery in Arizona at this year’s Ratebeer Best awards; Modern Times made our recent list of 25 breweries that are just crushing it. Turns out when you get two demonstrably outstanding breweries working together, they can create some demonstrably outstanding beer. Denali, Idaho 7 and Ekuanot hops added during whirlpool and dry-hop additions infuse this IPA with an aroma of peach pulp, tangerine and mown grass, each in equal proportion and interlocking like puzzle pieces, while the supportive malt base alternates between baked wheat bread, vanilla beans and flaky, honey drizzled pastry crust. (That peach note gets huge if you let the beer warm up a bit, which we suggest you do.) Sips lead with tangerine zest sprinkled over grass blades as subtle green pine needles poke at the edges of the tongue. A small amount of smooth peach juice and a large amount of chewy wheat dough immediately softens these bold hop notes at the swallow, though moderate pithy-piney bitterness does linger long after the beer’s gone. Bitterness at first seems a bit lacking, but it’s just not punctual; it arrives late in a big way and, like the creamy body, seems to mold itself to the tongue’s every contour like memory foam. Bingo bango.
Finally it’s Toole Avenue IPA from Tucson’s Borderlands Brewing Co.
For a long time, Borderlands’ best beer was an above-average vanilla porter called Noche Dulce; the brewery remained off most drinkers’ radars when it came to hoppy beer. That changed when Landon Swanson took over head brewing duties for the Tucson brewpub in March 2016. His Starkiller Base was one of the best beers we tried during Arizona Beer Week, and Toole Avenue continues the trend. Bold tangerine zest leads the flavor—it’s a pretty intense citrus experience, actually—but segues late in the sip into fresh, green grass and pine. Swallows are warm, and paired with the creamy, soft-as-a-fleece-blanket body, this almost drinks like a double IPA. It has the citrusy vigor and biting bitterness of a West Coast IPA, but the creamy body and soft wheat character of a New England version.
If you don’t have time to find these three IPAs, we’re pretty sure there’s more in Arizona that will satisfy you.