Top Ten North Carolina IPAs

Top 10 NC IPAs
Posted by: Mike  /   Category: Top 10 and Top 5 Lists   /   14 Comments

Everybody loves a good Top 10 List, right?  At some point, I’d like to do a list of my favorites of a lot of different styles of beer, but I think I’ll start with IPAs seeing as they are probably the most popular among craft beer drinkers.  Originally I was only going to do a “Top 5” list, but I quickly realized that there are way too many good NC IPAs for that.  My list of contenders was 17 candidates long and I could have done a bigger list…but where’s the fun in not leaving some of them off for arguments sake. The one rule I made for myself in creating this list was only one IPA per brewery.  No sense in having only a handful of breweries take up the majority of the list…anyone who had read this blog post knows my man crush for Wicked Weed and their beers, so I won’t go there again.  With that in mind….let’s go…..

Wicked Weed Brewing Logo1(a).  Freak of Nature by Wicked Weed Brewing

Was there any doubt…come on…you know me better than that. I can’t get enough of this stuff.  I seriously wanted to make trips to Asheville for the sole purpose of going to Wicked Weed and having this beer.  I was really excited to see it recently hit the  Top 50 IPAs on Beer Advocate.  For a beer that has only been out a relatively short amount of time, that’s pretty impressive.  I would be willing to wager that once they start bottling this beer, it will continue to skyrocket up that list as more and more people get to try it.  It is that good.

Noda Brewing Company Logo

1(b).  Hop Drop & Roll by NoDa Brewing Company

It was extremely difficult for me to decide which of these two beers to put in the top spot, so I copped out and put them both there…and deservedly so.  Talk about another easy-to-drink IPA that packs a hop punch.  This is another one that cracked the Top 50 IPA’s on Beer Advocate, so apparently the general public agrees with my assessment of these top two beers.  They also make an Imperial Hop Drop & Roll which is a little higher in alcohol and just as tasty, but I’m giving the nod to the regular version due to its availability.  It also helps that they come in tallboy cans which I’m a big fan of.

Foothills Brewing Logo

3.  Jade by Foothills Brewing

There aren’t a lot of beers out there made with Pacific Jade hops and when Foothills started experimenting with it several years ago, they hit the jackpot.  It’s not the only hop they use in Jade, but they sure know how to use it.  Since its inception, it was only available at the brewery or on tap at certain spots and people went crazy for it. It’s one of those beers that if someone is in from out of town and you’re at a bar that has it…you are required to make them try it.  There has been a high demand for it to be bottled and here in the last couple of weeks, Foothills granted that wish to its patrons and you can find it in most bottle shops around the state.

Pisgah Brewing Company Logo

4.  Vortex I by Pisgah Brewing Company

Although this IPA isn’t as readily available as the ones ahead on this list… I was hard pressed to keep it down this low.  I’ve had it on tap several times when I’ve been in the Asheville/Black Mountain area and it has always impressed me…especially when really fresh.  I’ve also been lucky enough to run across a few bottles at Beer Study in Chapel Hill in the past, and was still impressed.  They do not distribute to the Raleigh area, but there are certain shops that make the trip to western NC and stock up on Pisgah stuff on the way to Asheville.  With it being a seasonal (I believe they did it sometime in the summer), it’s going to be harder to come by, but if you ever run across it, make sure to try it.

double barley logo5.  Wilma’s Wandering EyePA by Double Barley Brewing

The thing I love about Double Barley is that they push the envelope with every beer they brew.  This beer holds true to that belief.  It’s not your average double IPA and with an ABV of 12%, it can get you in trouble since it doesn’t drink like 12%.  This beer is a little sweeter than the others on the list, which will make it stand out.  I would highly recommend making the trip out to the taproom in Smithfield and not only trying this, but all of Double Barley’s beers, because I haven’t been disappointed yet.  They did recently start bottling the Wilma’s Wandering EyePA so check your local bottle shops to see if they have gotten or will get any.  Be careful not to drink too much though and let those eyes start wandering.

Green Man Brewery Logo6.  The Rainmaker by Green Man Brewery

This beer will definitely make it rain.  I had tried The Rainmaker on draft several times in the Raleigh area and really enjoyed it, but when I went down to the brewery last year it must have been a fresh batch because it was way better than what I remembered.   There are tons of IBUs in this one (I had to look it up and found 158 as the number), so if you like that style of IPA, this one will not disappoint.  This is another IPA that has a fairly high ABV of 9.3%, but doesn’t really drink like it.  I haven’t had it out of the bottle, but I know that it is available so be on the lookout.

White Street Brewing Logo7.  Centennial IPA by White Street Brewing Company

There are a lot of breweries that do single hop IPAs or pale ales and most of the time I am not overly impressed by them, although this one is the exception.  When this beer was released late last summer, I happened to stumble into a White Street tasting.  I was excited to finally be able to try some of their beers, although I was a little disappointed that this beer was a single hop (since like I said, single hop IPAs aren’t my favorite).  I tried it last and although I really enjoyed the others, this was my favorite of the bunch.  I would even go as far to say that it’s my favorite beer that White Street does, which is saying quite a lot seeing as they have done some excellent brews.

Trophy and Deep River logos8.  Carpetbagger Collaboration by Trophy Brewing Company and Deep River Brewing Company

Back in August 2013, during Raleigh Beer week, I heard that two of my favorite breweries in the Raleigh area were doing a collaboration on a double IPA, so I was really excited to try it.  I was down at Trophy 30 minutes before the keg got tapped to ensure that I had a place to sit at the bar.  This is another high IBU IPA that isn’t too overpowering.  I wasn’t fortunate enough to grab any of the bottles when they got released, so I’m not sure how it was out of the bottles, but both the draft and cask that I was able to try were delicious.  I haven’t heard anything about either Brewery re-releasing it, but I think that they should. I would definitely buy it.

steel string logo9.  Big Mon IPA by Steel String Brewery

This is just a really well done, straight forward west coast style IPA.  It is citrus forward with not crazy high IBU’s (70) or ABV (6.5%), but it gets the job done.  I started to put Crying Holy, their double IPA, on the list because it is really good as well, but I thought that relative to the style, Big Mon deserved the nod.  If you haven’t ventured out to Carrboro and tried this beer yet, you need to make the trip.  Chapel Hill is one of my favorite places on earth, and I travel out there numerous times a year for games and whatnot.  Now every time I go out there, I make it a point to stop in downtown Carrboro to have a Big Mon, amongst others.

Nantahala Brewing Company Logo10.  Noon Day IPA by Nantahala Brewing Company

I first had a Noon Day at the Hickory Hops Festival several years ago, shortly after the brewery had opened.  I had a sample…and then another….and then another. Before you knew it, I had been standing at the Nantahala tent for 30 minutes.  With the brewery located up in Bryson City, I knew it was going to be hard to come by, so I was really ecstatic when we started getting growlers in Raleigh several months later.  Nantahala beers still weren’t easy to find, so I was even more pleased last month when I discovered that they started bottling this delicious treat.

Oskar Blues BreweryHonorable Mention:  Deviant Dale’s by Oskar Blues

I had a really hard time leaving this one off the list because it’s one of my favorites.  My rationale was, even though Oskar Blues has a brewery in Brevard, I haven’t been there yet, so I still think of Oskar Blues as a Colorado brewery.  I’m not going to go into all the others that were on my initial list because this post has been long enough already, but I wanted to specify why I left Deviant Dale’s off the list.  Once I visit the brewery and actually see Oskar Blues as a NC brewery, it will probably warrant moving up the list.

So there’s my list, but I’d love to see your comments below about any you agree with or any you think I’ve missed!


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  1. Brant February 20, 2014 at 12:46 pm  /  Comment Reply

    You’ve just given me a ‘bucket list’ of beers to drink this month. Mike, what’s your favorite NC brewery to visit and what local bottle shop do you frequent the most??

    • Mike
      Mike February 20, 2014 at 1:25 pm  /  Comment Reply

      Thanks for commenting, Brant…Glad it’s given you something to strive for. A couple will be harder to find than others, but having even half the list in one month would make it a very successful month of beer. As far as breweries go…there are tons of great ones, but Wicked Weed is my favorite. If it was in Raleigh, I would be there all the time. In terms of the bottle shops, the glory of being in the Raleigh area is there are so many, and they are all excellent. Because I live in Apex and am so close, I probably go to a The Beer Dispensary the most. I have gotten to know the guys there quite well and they are awesome. I venture into Raleigh at least once a week and most frequently go to Ridgewood Wine and Beer (best tap selection in town) and Bottle Revolution (great bottle selection, atmosphere and really good taps as well). If Beer Study wasn’t in Chapel Hill I would probably be there on a very regular basis. I better stop or I will go on forever telling you what I like about all the shops. Let me know if you have any more questions and feel free to say hello if you see me out and about.

  2. dennis mooney February 25, 2014 at 11:14 am  /  Comment Reply

    I’d add Firewater from Catawba to the list. Fine drinking IPA

    • Mike
      Mike February 25, 2014 at 12:55 pm  /  Comment Reply

      Agreed Dennis…it is a fine drinking IPA. Only so many spots though. I’m interested to hear which from my list would you be most inclined to remove in order to add it?

  3. Jebediah March 20, 2014 at 11:22 am  /  Comment Reply

    Wilma’s to me is maybe the worst beer in NC. Hoppyum should def make the bottom half of this list.

    • Mike
      Mike March 20, 2014 at 11:28 am  /  Comment Reply

      I haven’t talked to many people that would agree with you on that sentiment regarding Wilma’s, but hey, everybody’s got their own preferences. I agree that Hoppyum is a solid IPA, but in my opinion, Jade is significantly better and only one beer per brewery on the list.

  4. Matt October 19, 2014 at 8:55 pm  /  Comment Reply

    Mike, your list is pretty spot on. I would suggest you try Frog Level’s IPA. I’ve found it in growlers here in the Charlotte area. It’s a memorable IPA.

  5. jim December 14, 2014 at 6:59 pm  /  Comment Reply

    I always enjoy reading about beers. The only 1 I’ve had on your list was the hop drop and roll. A friend brought me a 4 pack back. I’m in Pittsburgh,PA. It was ok. Too much of a caramel malt on the back end. Not my style of IPA. I will have my friend check on the others for me. I pretty much drink IPA’s exclusively. Thanks for the list!

  6. stephanie December 7, 2015 at 2:06 pm  /  Comment Reply

    I would like to buy my husband a collection of IPAs brewed in North Carolina. Are these IPAs available in a store or are they only available in a restaurant/brewery setting. I don’t drink at all so my apologies if this is a stupid question.

    • Mike
      Mike December 7, 2015 at 2:31 pm  /  Comment Reply

      Not a stupid question at all Stephanie. Most of these Ipas are not going to be sitting around on the shelves anymore. If you’re in Raleigh, you can probably find Freak of Nature, Jade and Wilma’s around town. This list is a little old, so there are plenty other good ones that are sitting around that I’m sure he’d love to try. If you check out your local bottle shop, they should be able to help you find plenty of good substitutes. If you let me know what part of town you’re in, I’d be glad to recommend where would be your best place to look.

  7. Anonymous February 22, 2016 at 3:42 pm  /  Comment Reply

    Mmmm Pernicious>Freak

  8. Scotty G December 30, 2016 at 9:41 am  /  Comment Reply

    I have seen numbers where Hoppyum is #1 IPA in NC.

  9. Mike October 4, 2017 at 4:17 pm  /  Comment Reply

    I would move Hey Mon up on your list. I was skeptical but it blew me away.

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