6.6%, 100 IBU
The good people at Surly label this literal can of taste bud whoop-ass (in the best possible way) an ESB/IPA hybrid thanks to the pleasing dose of Scottish malt it gets to round out the flavor profile. But make no mistake, the soul of this beer (and brewery) is in the almost confrontational but ultimately refreshing hit of hops. Despite the name, it's a hard combo to be mad at.
6.8%, 80 IBU
In the Pacific Northwest, IPA is king, with hundreds and hundreds of worthy contenders vying for the throne. We could go on about that all day, but instead, we'll just sit back and drink a nice Inversion, an IPA from the makers of Mirror Pond and Black Butte porter that eschews the hops arms race that runs rampant through the region in favor of a laid-back, balanced, piney beer that relies not on gimmickry or aggression. Deschutes has become something of a national ambassador for PNW beers (with a new location announced in Roanoke, VA). If there are any nonbelievers out there remaining, Inversion will make them converts.
6.8%, 62 IBU
If you didn't guess by the name that this beer hails from Texas, you are really bad at guessing things. In just a few short years of production this has become one of the Lone Star (getting it now?) State's most celebrated brews that isn't a sour from a certain outfit outside Austin (cough cough Jester King). Crafted entirely from Mosaic hops, it has a distinctly drinkable profile, which is good thing because, with Texas being Texas, it of course comes in 750ml bottles.
7.5%, 87 IBU
North Olmsted, OH
How good is Fat Head's? Good enough that the Cleveland-area brewery has set up outposts in Pittsburgh and Portland, OR... and dominated in tough markets. And while Hop JuJu remains the Holy Grail, even that whale of a beer owes a debt to the year-round greatness that is Head Hunter, a Midwest IPA that emulates a West Coast so well that it's been immediately embraced by those it once imitated. Some would call that flattery. We're just going with good taste.
6.3%, 56 IBU
Iowa's formerly under-the-radar craft heavyweight made its name largely on the backs of big, heavy stouts like Kentucky Brunch and Mornin' Delight that rate among the most obsessed-over beers in the country, but make no mistake, these guys know what they're doing when the dial it back a bit, too, as is the case with their beloved pale ale pseudoSue and this spot-on IPA that packs a serious hop profile despite coming in on the slightly lower end of the ABV spectrum.
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Lee Breslouer is a senior writer for Thrillist, and could use a Ska beer right about now. Follow him to Colorado beers: @LeeBreslouer.
Andy Kryza is senior editor at Thrillist, a Portland resident, and a Michigan native. Which is to say, he had a very hard time with this assignment. Follow him to consolation beers: @apkryza.