Listen. The world of IPAs goes far beyond the beer that your mate gets when they just order the most familiar thing they see on the craft beer menu.
Not only is the mighty IPA full of nuances, but it’s also got some signature flavors according to where it was brewed. And if you ask a beer aficionado where the best IPA is brewed you’d better prepare yourself for some strong opinions.
You thought Biggie and Tupac had East Coast/West Coast beef? East Coast/West Coast brewers are definitely talking similar smack to each other.
But what’s the big deal? Is there really a difference between East Coast IPA and West Coast IPA? And does anyone really care?
Maybe you’re reading this and you don’t even live on either coast. Maybe you brew a kick ass Midwest IPA that’s like a Kanye - bringing those middle-of-the-country vibes to the industry. More power to you. But today, we’re tackling this East Coast vs West Coast debate (at least in the IPA realm, we all already know Biggie was king).
Are we going to settle the IPA debate today? No. Are we going to try? Also no. What we are gonna do is break down what each of these has got to offer in the hope that you venture out and find your own favorite.
This post is best served chilled with a side of 90s hip hop.
What is an IPA?
IPA, or India pale ale, is a style of craft beer made using ale yeast strains and brewed at warmer temperatures. They’re hoppy AF giving them their tell-tale bitter flavor.
Not all IPAs are brewed the same, though. Just like how rap and hip hop have their subgenres and defining moments, IPAs do too. You wouldn’t compare Mos Def with Will Smith (aka The Fresh Prince), and you shouldn’t lump all IPAs together, either. Just because you’re an IPA person, it doesn’t mean you’re going to like them in every expression and, as we know all too well, in every batch.
What is an East Coast IPA?
Think of the East Coast IPA as the Biggie of this situation. While Tupac’s music is all about depth, Biggie’s brings the flavor that’ll hypnotize you (not literally, we’re just trying to cram as many song titles into this post as we can). East Coast IPA is a notorious crowd-pleaser and an easy brew to bring to a party. You know people will like it whether or not they like craft beer that much.
In fact, with its citrusy and fruity hops, East Coast IPA is, dare I say, juicy. Geographically, they’re mainly influenced by the British IPA, as East Coast beer drinkers and brewers often looked to the British ale and lager for inspiration when craft beer began its American takeover.
Much like Biggie, East Coast IPA changed the scene forever. It brought something new to the game, polishing and remixing flavors no one had ever seen before.
What is a West Coast IPA?
Now for some California love. If we look at the opposite coast’s IPA, we see a much higher similarity to a good old American brew. If the Biggie East Coast IPA is citrusy, West Coast IPA is, like Tupac, a little bitter. See, the brewers on this coast were much closer to the American hop farms and they went in hard with those bitter flavors. West Coast IPAs are clear, crisp, and beautifully hip-hoppy (sorry), with a good amount of bitterness.
West Coast IPA is complex and throws sweet maltiness out the window! I ain’t mad at cha if you’re not vibing with East Coast brews, and neither are the brewers behind it. They care about experimenting and pushing the boundaries of beer culture. They are the poetry of the beer world, entirely unafraid to highlight raw flavors and aromas.
What’s the Difference Between West Coast and East Coast IPA?
Basically, much like the never ending battle between coasts in music, it’s all about style and flavor. As with hip hop, it might all seem the same to uneducated fans, but those who know their stuff know that east and west are miles apart (not just geographically).
While both coasts can make brews that hit different according to your mood, you can always look to West Coast IPAs for fist-raising aggressiveness we all need in life sometimes. On the other hand, when you need something that starts sweeter and fades to a bitter finish, an East Coast IPA serves up exactly that.
Which Coast’s IPA is Better?
I told you once and I’ll tell you again I’m not here to take sides or settle this debate!
That being said, a lot of beer drinkers these days do tend to prefer East Coast flavors, including but not limited to the New England IPAs and East Coast IPAs. I guess people aren’t always in the mood for extraordinary, in-depth flavors.
However, the soul of craft beer really started with the spirit of a good West Coast IPA in its boldness to innovate, experiment, and just add 👏🏼 those 👏🏼 aggressive 👏🏼 hops 👏🏼.
At the end of the day, who can really choose? And, everybody’s taste changes over time so if you’re not sold on one or the other, give ‘em one more chance.
P.s. IPAs look great in our curved and slanted glasses. Check out our range here.