The beer-savvy folks over at the website Thrillist have decided to come up with their list of the “definitive” IPAs (not double or triples, mind you, just the plain ol’ IPA) and, perhaps not surprisingly, our hometown brews pretty much cleaned up – three of the top 10 are brewed in Sonoma County and eight were from California. A smashing victory for the West Coast style, it appears.

According to the Thrillist’s panel of judging experts, the top 10 were:

1. Russian River Blind Pig

2. Ballast Point Sculpin

3. Firestone Walker Union Jack

4. Bell’s Two Hearted Ale

5. Surly Furious

6. Bear Republic Racer 5

7. Alpine Beer Company Duet

8. Sierra Nevada Torpedo

9. Sierra Nevada Celebration

10. Lagunitas IPA

This is interesting since all of these brews handily beat out this year’s most buzzed-about beer, Heady Topper from The Alchemist in Vermont. The beer is distributed only within a few miles of the brewery, but is garnering top ratings on respected beer sites and raves on discussion groups. That supply and demand situation has set off a frenzy, forcing the brewery to shut its retail store because of huge crowds showing up to buy in person, and leading state liquor agents to launch a crackdown on black market online beer sales. But despite the buzz, Heady Topper comes in only 25 on the 45-entry list.

The list is also interesting because it comes at a time when Lagunitas founder Tony Magee is in a beef, so far a one-sided beef, with Sam Adams, which is just launching it’s Rebel IPA, described as a West Coast style IPA. Tony has interpreted the marketing campaign as something of a personal affront, since he was one of the pioneers (some say the outright inventor) of the West Coast style – typically a bright yellow color with a powerful punch of hops, a sharp contrast to the maltier East Coast IPAs and the British bitters and pale ales that are the ancestors of both. He (and possibly others) sees this as a bit of me-too-ism by a company that built its reputation on the much milder Boston Lager.

Tony took to his Twitter feed (which he calls his own personal radio station) earlier this month to complain:

Learned that SamAdams’ Rebel IPA marketing plans incl specifically targeting our biz as well as other craft IPA. Flattering & sad, it is … Sam Adams /Boston Beer is powerful, but what is it about power that so inevitably corrupts. [EXPLETIVE] them. We’re ready. Drink what thrills ya … I say it’s sad because ‘parody is the last resort of a desperate artist’. So said Papa Hemmingway decades ago. Still true.”

So far, it does not appear that Sam Adams has taken the Twitter bait, but Tony’s tweets did set off a round of pro-Lagunitas replies from Tony’s tribe of loyal customers, promising not to buy the interloper Sam Adams beer.

– Sean Scully