A wise woman once told me that crisp, cold, clean, and easy drinking beers are suitable for Texas summers, but there's nothing better on a sweltering day than pumping your veins with 473 ccs of dank hops, some bursting with tropical flavors that complicate the classic perception of beer, let alone IPA, and some laced with a grassy, earthy blend that softens your heart and relaxes your mind. That makes the annual celebration of National IPA Day pretty fitting. The mercury is hovering around 100 degrees. There's beer close by. Have an IPA. Experience pleasure.
Need some suggestions? Here are five of the best Houston-area IPAs in rotation right now.
Top Coat IPA - Holler Brewing Co.
Let's start with something that screams IPA from the rooftops. Top Coat pours with a little haze and drinks like a West Coast IPA with grapefruit and pine dominating the mix. With a 7.9 percent ABV, it's right for a dinner pairing (always grilled meat) and for the barfly who's fine sitting around for an additional hour. As a straight-up local IPA, this works quite well.
Bam Bam - Great Heights Brewing Co.
The great New England IPA craze of 2016-17 brought us a wealth of beers that attempt to pack as much sugary, fruit juice flavor as possible into a crowler. The key to a great NEIPA, however, is that the tropical flavors aren't the only body blows delivered by the beer. A big roundhouse of West Coast hops are a great way to wallop the drinker after that initial burst of Citra. Bam Bam's profile leans on the fruit (Citra, Idaho 7 hops), bringing notes of pineapple and grapefruit, while the additional hops (Mosaic, Ekuanot) are primarily for aroma. It doesn't destroy, and instead, lets you down easy. This makes for an acceptable introduction to a style where beer can literally taste like your third-grade lunch snack of Gushers.
Mama Tried IPA - Brazos Valley Brewing Co.
Speaking of New England IPAs ... well, it's hard to call Mama Tried a NEIPA. Yes, there's Citra here, and the slap of mango and lemon peel is quite refreshing. But it doesn't punch, and the offsetting hop (Cascade) is right on point, but not turned up to 11 like in the finest juice bombs (Treehouse Julius, Two Roads Two Juicy, Lone Pint Yellow Rose). This is a session NEIPA, or something I'll call a Cape Cod IPA, perfect for the family barbecue, a lazy Saturday afternoon when you want the flavor but not the fall-on-your-face feeling at the end of the session. Now that we have more information about NEIPAs, it feels like Mama Tried can find its place in a crowded space.
Bonesaw - Sigma Brewing Company
Sometimes it's fun to taste a beer you wouldn't traditionally order on a 100-degree day, and Sigma obliges regularly with bourbon-barrel offerings, stouts, porters, and this double black IPA that rides in with a 9 percent ABV. Bonesaw is perfect for dessert or that "I've had a long day; let's go" feeling, and it does a nice job balancing its dark maltiness with the big hop qualities that you'll find in most IPAs, marrying roasted aroma and a malty, piney taste that goes strong. It's adventurous, and maybe even overlooked.
ThunderCougarFalconBird - Eureka Heights Brewing Co.
This relatively new, seasonal beer is a holy grail for fans of Futurama (the ThunderCougarFalconBird is a very "masculine" car) and a fun attempt at attracting drinkers by smell, much in the way that gullible car buyers can be attracted by catchphrases and commercials where dealers' kids are paraded about. Citra (of course), El Dorado, and Simcoe are all double dry hopped here, creating a pungent aroma of tropical fruit.