In style: These craft brews ain’t your grandma’s IPAs

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Photo: Rammelkamp Foto Photo: Rammelkamp Foto

What’s longer, the list of IPAs made by American craft breweries, or the span of every beard from every American brewmaster laid end to end? It’s a trick question, because both are still growing.

What’s with the beards is anyone’s guess, but Three Notch’d Brewing Company owner Dave Warwick says there’s good reason for the proliferation of India pale ales.

“IPA is the most versatile style of beer,” Warwick says. “I don’t think they’re going anywhere for a long time.”

If you think IPAs are just big, bitter monstrosities, check out these unique ales from seven local breweries.

Champion Brewing Company’s Habanero Missile IPA

Carved into the small industrial section of downtown, Champion is the quintessential modern beer tasting room. For a non-quintessential taste, try the Habanero Missile, a seriously hot version of the brewery’s flagship IPA. While the spiciness can vary from batch to batch, owner Hunter Smith says the big bite is by design. “If I say a beer is going to have a certain ingredient, I want it to really taste like that ingredient,” he says.

C’ville-ian Brewing Company’s C’Ville on the Rye’z IPA

C’ville-ian, a small brewhouse and tasting room located right on West Main Street, reinvented itself in late 2014 with a new brewmaster and tap list, and this golden beer is testament to its establishment on the local scene. The IPA features a rye spice that plays off the citrusy hop profile many American IPAs are known for.

Three Notch’d Brewing’s Zombie Killin’ Ale Black Rye Double IPA

This macabre IPA is a mash-up of IPA styles, with some roasted malts (which make it black), a hard rye kick and a big hops and booze presence. “It is definitely a big beer,” Warwick says. Zombie Killin’ is only available on tap at the spare Three Notch’d tasting room on Preston Avenue, but the brewery began distributing a more traditional black IPA in March.

Starr Hill Brewery’s Whiter Shade of Pale White IPA

Lighter and crisper than traditional IPAs, the white version is a good place for craft beer newbies to start. Starr Hill’s Whiter Shade of Pale is a great example of the style, having won a gold medal at the 2014 World Beer Cup. See what all the fuss is about at Starr Hill’s tasting room, which got a pretty significant facelift in 2014, and is situated directly inside the brewery’s Crozet production facility and distribution center.

Devils Backbone Brewing Company’s Catty Wompus Belgian IPA

Devils Backbone, a lodgy joint at the base of Wintergreen Resort in Nelson County, has quickly become one of the country’s most decorated small breweries. Catty Wompus, which mingles the fruity esters of a Belgian yeast strain with hoppy bitterness, hasn’t won any awards yet, but it’s only a matter of time.

Blue Mountain Brewery’s A Hopwork Orange

One of the cardinal rules of craft beer geeks is “never fruit your beer.” So let the brewery do it for you. This subtly orange IPA is the perfect beverage to enjoy while taking in the views from Blue Mountain’s expansive, award-winning outdoor space.

Wild Wolf Brewing Company’s Exquisitely Evil Ale

From the street, Wild Wolf looks like it’s out of a fairy tale, with its picaresque beer garden complete with water feature. Inside, things get more serious, and the beer’s what really matters. The brewery’s double IPA is lot like that, with honey and citrus notes disguising a bruiser of an ale made with obscene levels of hops.