Our very own Great Lakes Brewing News, available in print at most beer bars and brewpubs, recently hosted the "National IPA Championship" at various venues around the Midwest and Northeast. I'm guessing New York City falls into the Great Lakes area definition, as that is where the final taste-off was held. The full bracket layout with results is here.
I note that both craft brewers and brewpubs were represented. As many of the brewpubs don't have bottle production, we'll never see them here. They probably had the advantage vs. the commercial production entries since they could produce a "one-off" version of their best try. Indeed, the winner was from a brewpub, Laurelwood Brewing Company, Portland, OR.
Laurelwood was the only brewpub in the "final four" - the others included Tyranena's Bitter Woman, a favorite of mine from Wisconsin, Big Sky's Big Sky IPA, and Rogue's Yellow Snow IPA. Happily all these are more or less available in the greater Chicagoland market. Find them if you can and if you love hoppy beer.
I find that IPA's are a good gateway beer for novices. There are few ball breakers in this style, rather just good spicy beers, with solid malt backbones, usually around 6% or less alcohol by volume. Other locals to seek out include the highly loved Two Hearted from Bells, Dark Horse IPA, and Arcadia's India Pale Ale. all from our neighbors in Michigan. And of course Goose Island makes a very good one, it just wasn't in this competition.
Note: the Title of this blog entry is a "shout out" to my late friend Steve Wlodarczyk whom I got the saying from (usually a reference to a disputed competition or tragedy) and was a great lover of beer. The next one's for you Steve.