Barley Mow’s Black IPA (around 7% ABV) - Not yet available commercially, but was literally black gold. Unlike many black IPAs or Imperial Black IPAs, this was a light yet rich variety with hints of black cherry and mild spiciness. This is a winner in my book.
Cigar City Brewing’s White Oak Peach aged Jai Alai IPA (also around 7-8% ABV) - I love regular out-of-the-tap Jai Alai IPA, but the White Oak Peach aging process added a tender richness and smooth texture to the IPA. Having tasted many different Cigar City varieties over the past year, I often remark that “you can always tell a Cigar City beer by its smell (which is not a bad thing!),” but this variation of Jai Alai was sweeter and less cigar-like than others. I look forward to Cigar City replenishing their on-tap supply and bottles of White Oak Peach IPA!
Tampa Bay Brewing Company’s One Night Stand Pale Ale (5.0% ABV) - Although this was not an IPA per se, as a pale ale, it was a worthy contender nonetheless. I liked the smooth, unpretentious texture and the full-bodied taste that lingered after the first sips. While lighter than the other two, this will definitely be a solid choice when I select an evening beer with a bit less alcohol.
I apologize if your favorite was not among this list, but there were so many contenders that it was not easy to choose.
It is pure coincidence that all three beers were on tap at The 13th Step event at the Creative Loafing space in Ybor City, but I tasted many other formidable IPAs during the week at events on both sides of the bay. One of the reasons I especially favored these three beers were their ability to pair well with various dishes that were presented along with the pours. Hmmm, can food enhance beer or can beer enhance food? A good question and one about which I certainly intend to do more research!