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Let's drink to a happy #IPAday
Introducing our new beer column
Moon River's Swamp Fox is a well-balanced, lighter IPA for 'everyman'

THURSDAY, AUGUST 1 is IPA Day, a nationwide celebration for the hoppiest of beers: The India Pale Ale.

The venerable Pale Ale is the IPA's direct precedent. Those highly drinkable beers are known for their smooth balance between hops, yeast and malts.

IPAs crank up the amount of hops in the recipe and are most recognizable by those hoppy flavor profiles.

The typically bitter taste of the hops is the predominant flavor element, clearly discernable from their mild malt bases and minimal yeast notes. American IPAs can bring additional citrus, floral, pine, resin or fruit characteristics, depending on their included hop varieties.

Beer can be brewed in many styles, from crisp almost clear ales to black milkshake-like Imperial stouts. For a lot of people, IPAs are the perfect "gateway beer" — a logical next step from the mass-marketed sweet lagers and into the wider, more diverse world of craft beer.

The aggressive hopping of IPAs gives a big punch of flavor, and IPAs represent some of the biggest selling and highest rated craft beers. By recognizing the IPA, we're really celebrating the rise in popularity of all craft beer.

If you're looking for a local watering hole to celebrate IPA Day, start your day at Moon River Brewing Co.'s new beer garden. That recent expansion has opened up their tap list to include a wide selection from breweries across the U.S.

"Savannah's on the cusp of being another big beer town in the state. IPAs are something that draws people in," says Taylor Yates, a brewer at Moon River. "What's not to like?"

Sitting beside beers from New Holland and Green Flash will be a special 1/2 barrel variant of Moon River's house IPA, Swamp Fox, flavored with fresh rosemary.

Another excellent option is The Distillery, where they will be devoting all of their keg space to the day's namesake style. Founders Devil Dancer will be there, along with 20 other American IPAs, from Imperials to Blacks.

Julia Volen, GM at The Distillery, is a devoted hophead looking for "any excuse to have as many IPAs as possible."

So which IPA is right for you?

The Hop Bomb: While I'd love to write a long-winded love letter to The Alchemist's Heady Topper or Three Floyd's Zombie Dust, limited distribution means you can't run out and buy those in Savannah. Instead, let me point you to one of the gold standards in the IPA world, Stone IPA. This classic West coast-style IPA pours a gorgeous cloudy orange with a thick white head. A glimpse of sweetness gives way to the big, bitter citrus hops and leaves a clean dry finish.

Big and Boozy: There's a lot to like about Dogfish Head's 90 Minute IPA. It's a sweeter selection with a less harsh but still complex hop profile. The viscous amber beer's strong malt base compares to caramel and honey while the hops bring some floral and pine elements that blend nicely. At 9% ABV, it's definitely a sipper, so take your time!

The Belgian Twist: White IPAs have been gaining popularity in recent years. These beers blend bitter floral or citrus hops with the spice, fruit and funk of Belgian yeasts. Linchpin, a collaboration by Founders and Green Flash, is a great introduction to the style. A more accessible bottle right now would be New Holland's White Hatter.

Local Options: Two Savannah breweries offer IPAs. Southbound's Hop'lin IPA is the new kid on the block, just hitting local kegs in the past few months. Hop'lin has a semi-sweet base with a bitter hoppy wallop. One of Moon River Brewing Co.'s long time offerings is their Swamp Fox IPA. Swamp Fox is on the milder side of the IPA spectrum. Brewer Taylor Yates describes it as "not overly boozy or bitter. It's well balanced between the hops and malt. An 'everyman' IPA."

No matter where you choose to celebrate or which beers you select, you can share your IPA Day activities by using the #IPAday hashtag.