What Does West Coast vs East Coast IPA Mean to You?

Discussion in 'Beer Talk' started by honkey, Mar 30, 2021.

  1. honkey

    honkey Disciple (337) Aug 28, 2010 Arizona
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    The silliness of regional distinctions for IPA's has always been pretty amusing to me. I remember back when I first started brewing around 2008 or so and West Coast IPA's were all the rage in the same way that hazy IPA's are today. Brewers were labeling their beers as "west coast" style even when they were brewed thousands of miles away from the coast. Back then, it seemed like people had the belief that West Coast IPA's were dryer and more bitter while East Coast IPA's were sweet and malty. In the last 15 years, it seems like as newer beer drinkers have entered the scene that the terms really don't have any meaning anymore and East Coast IPA is synonymous with hazy IPA to many people.

    I found a list that I thought was very amusing that listed Two Hearted as one of the classic examples of the East Coast IPA. That same list defined Union Jack as a classic example of the West Coast IPA. I pointed out to the author that those two beers have the same basic stats... 7% ABV, IBU's are 60, real close color (I'm drinking them side by side right now and Two Hearted is just a tiny bit darker), they share either the same or similar yeast strain... Side by side, they taste like they definitely fall into the same style.

    Now as I watch a bit of a resurgence in more "West Coast" IPA's, it seems like I'm constantly watching customers voice opinions about them that are contradictory to my experiences and what I think of the style being. One recently said that they should be 100 IBU (Back in 2008 or so the conventional wisdom was that the bitterness units should be a 1 to 1 ratio or just slightly higher with the gravity units) and another said that no respectable west coast IPA would use crystal malts (I think Blind Pig is one of the best IPA's out there and it uses crystal malt as well as the two I'm drinking right now both use crystal malt). It seems like there's really just no meaning anymore, so I'm curious... When you hear "West Coast IPA" being used to describe a sub-category of the American IPA style, what does it mean to you?
     
  2. dennisthreeninefiveone

    dennisthreeninefiveone Initiate (121) Aug 11, 2020 New Jersey
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    I refer to all IPAs that taste like IPAs as American IPA. No coast involved.
     
  3. chipawayboy

    chipawayboy Devotee (461) Oct 26, 2007 Massachusetts
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    My first thought is always Pliny the Elder - a beer I chased, drank, and wanted to learn everything about - how it was made, what hops gave it that character, the process for maximizing that character, etc. Aromatic, piney/fruity/bitter and w/all that body/alcohol- a beer that showcased hops in a way that was different from my go-to ales throughout the 90's - namely Harpoon IPA/SNPA/SA Stock Ale and the many Pugsely/Ringwood based copper brew pub beers all over New England - Geary's/Shipyard/Long Trail etc etc etc. Anything compared to those beers seemed like progress - and Pliny set the bar high.
     
  4. honkey

    honkey Disciple (337) Aug 28, 2010 Arizona
    Trader

    Funnily enough, PtE was the first Double IPA I ever drank and also the first truly West Coast example I had. I actually had homebrewed a clone without ever having drank it and found a trader to send me a few bottles of the real deal and tried them side by side... 19 years old at the time :wink:
     
  5. MistaRyte

    MistaRyte Defender (616) Jan 14, 2008 Virginia
    Trader

    West Coast: unbalanced to the hoppy side (in a great way IMO), C hops (Centennial, Chinook, Cascade... Citra not as much)
    East Coast: way more balanced (hoppy but sweet, perhaps in aftertaste)

    I miss good smashmouth West Coast IPAs
     
  6. unlikelyspiderperson

    unlikelyspiderperson Poo-Bah (1,906) Mar 12, 2013 California
    Society Trader

    If it is labeled west coast then I expect a relatively light malt bill and a dry, crisp beer with hop flavors that border on aggressive and don't shy away from bitterness.
     
  7. honkey

    honkey Disciple (337) Aug 28, 2010 Arizona
    Trader

    So, for example, is Sierra Nevada Torpedo a West Coast brewery that doesn't brew West Coast "style" IPA in your mind? It's pretty dark. Still bitter and a fairly aggressive hop flavor, but not light and doesn't feel too dry to me (I've moved on now to drinking Stone and SN side by side at this point).
     
  8. Ranbot

    Ranbot Defender (659) Nov 27, 2006 Pennsylvania

    Today, the east vs west coast IPA means practically nothing to me. If the same brewer made two IPAs and they called one east coast and the other west coast, I would expect the west coast IPA to be more bitter. But one brewer's IPA to a different brewer's IPA I'm not putting much thought into the designations. I don't think many brewers put the "east coast" label on their own beers these days anyway. The people using east vs west coast are usually some reviewer, op-ed writer, or online rando shoehorning an IPA into a box the brewer never intended.

    That said, through the 90s and early aughts there was a discernable change in bitterness from English IPA to East Coast IPA to West Coast IPA, and the regional designations made some sense because the most well known examples were from those regions. Then and now it was nearly impossible to find an English IPA in the US, so east vs west coast was the only real distinction. West coast IPAs are all the bitter bombs you'd expect. @chipawayboy mentioned several of the classic east coast breweries known for east coast IPAs, but of them only Harpoon IPA and Brooklyn IPA are still being made as far I am aware. For a "real" [I use that term lightly] east vs west coast IPA side-by-side taste I would get Harpoon or Brooklyn IPA and compare to something like Stone IPA or Sierra Nevada Torpedo. But, while the experience of strolling down American IPA-memory lane might tickle the fancy of a beer nerd, it's not very relevant to today's market.
     
  9. imtroy703

    imtroy703 Devotee (424) Nov 13, 2009 Tennessee
    Society Trader

    Bitter/Juicy
     
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  10. oldmankoch

    oldmankoch Devotee (467) Jan 1, 2014 Tennessee

    I'm on the site of a favorite local brewer...thought it might be fun to play GUESS THE COAST based off their IPA descriptions. FYI they do list (WC IPA/HAZY/NEIPA) next to the beer name.

    this BLANK Style IPA focuses on the piney, resinous and raw citrus character of Columbus and Simcoe Cryo hops, with an underpinning of juicy tropical stone fruit of Idaho 7 hops. This IPA is hop forward with a simple malt bill, and finishes crisp, bitter and dry.

    this BLANK IPA exudes juicy tropical fruit and citrus hop aromas from Mosaic, Moteuka and Rakau hops. We dosed this beer with two rounds of dry hops during fermentation. Cloudy and a full mouthfeel that is surprisingly light at the same time, and finishing soft and clean.

    this BLANK style IPA present a huge aroma of citrus fruit, melon and pine resin, balanced perfectly by a simple malt body. It finishes crisp and very drinkable!

    this BLANK style IPA features juicy tropical fruit aroma with a punch of citrus and a light yet silky body finishing dry and effervescent.
     
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  11. Ranbot

    Ranbot Defender (659) Nov 27, 2006 Pennsylvania

    I didn't think about this statement much, but then I saw this...
    To me "Juicy" means New England IPA style and decidedly not east coast, for the reasons I talked about above. Is East Coast IPA being interchangeably used with New England IPA now? Did I miss something?
     
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  12. honkey

    honkey Disciple (337) Aug 28, 2010 Arizona
    Trader

    Assuming West Cost, New England, and hazy are the options... How’d I do?
     
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  13. honkey

    honkey Disciple (337) Aug 28, 2010 Arizona
    Trader

    I do think they are now interchangeable in many people’s mind.
     
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  14. Chaz

    Chaz Poo-Bah (2,203) Feb 3, 2002 Minnesota
    Society Trader

    A style that I might want to drink versus another style that I might want to drink a bit less of. I’m not really the biggest fan of either, but once in a while, sure. I think it “helps”, in a sense, to see what the younger generations of drinkers are so fired-up about!

    But one problem I find (and I know that I am not the only one) with BOTH stylistic examples (or ranges, really) is that the ABV has gone from the olden days standard for a “strong beer” (say about 6%) to DIPA and above... 12%, for example. These are damn-near Dogfishhead and BrewDog “stunt” levels, and pushing the boundaries of both drinkability and desirability. YMMV...
     
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  15. MNAle

    MNAle Poo-Bah (2,223) Sep 6, 2011 Minnesota
    Society

    WCIPA

    NEIPA

    WCIPA

    NEIPA
     
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  16. Providence

    Providence Crusader (758) Feb 24, 2010 Rhode Island
    Trader

    I think you've done a great job summing it up. I'm going to adjust it slightly, add a category, and give examples. And let me preface this all by saying I'm no Cicerone or BJCP graduate

    West Coast: Unbalanced to the hoppy side, lots of Centennial, Chinook, and Cascade-
    Example beer: West Coast IPA from Green Flash

    East Coast: More balanced than West Coast, still very hoppy but sweeter-
    Example beer: 60 minute from Dogfish Head

    New England IPA- Very hoppy, more tropical tasting hops than citrus, sweeter than west coast IPAs, but perhaps not as sweet as East Coast IPAs, hazy as all hell-
    Example- Heady Topper from the Alchemist
     
  17. T-RO

    T-RO Initiate (130) Nov 9, 2012 New Hampshire
    Trader

    Unfortunately I think that East Coast IPA means NEIPA now. I harken back to those days of yester year when there was a west coast and an east coast IPA and I wasn't afraid of buying a beer labeled as "American IPA" or "IPA" only to pour another murky, lazy attempt at a NEIPA.
    I would classify Torpedo, two-hearted, sip of sunshine as W/C and Lunch, NEBCO, Finestkind as E/C .... I'm sure there's tons of overlap either way. I guess I associate WC with crystal clear and not overly bitter. I try and avoid NEIPA's these days.
     
  18. oldmankoch

    oldmankoch Devotee (467) Jan 1, 2014 Tennessee

    @honkey @MNAle It Goes -

    West Coast
    DDH Hazy
    West Coast
    NEIPA

    Just Swap the Hazy and NE and you're spot on! But honestly I feel Hazy/NE is cutting hairs these days....is there even a difference?
     
  19. Ranbot

    Ranbot Defender (659) Nov 27, 2006 Pennsylvania

    Well, that's really confusing then. Did people see sweet and malty descriptors and decide that should also include juicy? While juicy and sweet could go together, there's nothing about old school east coast IPAs that was juicy like the hazy New England IPA. It feels like someone made the association by mistake and then the mob ran off with it.

    Maybe it's a regional thing? Because I don't see the east coast/New England interchangeable labels around me (Philly area). I'll start paying closer attention... spring is coming and I can go outside for a beer again...

    Regardless, I guess it doesn't matter if a mostly extinct style label gets a new life. It's only words. More reason these labels are mostly irrelevant.
     
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  20. T-RO

    T-RO Initiate (130) Nov 9, 2012 New Hampshire
    Trader

    For me living literally on the East Coast, "everything" brewed locally tends toward NEIPA
     
  21. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (5,161) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania
    Society

    Back in the day (a decade or so ago) before the 'invention' of the Juicy/Hazy (NEIPA) IPA the distinction between West Coast IPA and East Coast IPA was pretty clear (pun intended):

    A West Coast IPA was unbalanced featuring the hop aroma/flavor with little in the way of a malt flavor. Example would be a beer like Stone IPA.

    An East Coast IPA was more balanced with a combination of hop aroma/flavor but also a notable malty flavor as well. Example are Victory Hop Devil IPA and Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA.

    As far as I am personally concerned this is still how these two IPA sub-styles should be defined. The fact that some of the 'newer' beer drinkers conflate a Juicy/Hazy IPA with an East Coast IPA is just an artifact of not having the proper background/history here.

    Cheers!
     
  22. honkey

    honkey Disciple (337) Aug 28, 2010 Arizona
    Trader

    Two hearted is the real funny one to me. Exact same specs as Union Jack which I think few people would say isn’t a West Coast. Torpedo is funny since it’s a super classic West Coast brewery but I think few people would say it’s a West Coast IPA.
     
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  23. honkey

    honkey Disciple (337) Aug 28, 2010 Arizona
    Trader

    I’ve sampled 6 IPA’s today... Torpedo, Jai Alai, Two Hearted, Union Jack, Stone IPA, and Lagunita’s IPA. The two outliers seemed to be Jai Alai (less perceived bitterness and more sweet/fruity flavors) and Torpedo (woody, caramel, and darker appearance). Your example of Hop Devil is my “go to” example of a classic East Coast. Two Hearted seemed perfectly in line with Union Jack and Lagunitas. Stone was the most bitter of the bunch and is probably my least favorite. The chunks in the bottle were a surprise to me... I don’t remember ever seeing that years ago.
     
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  24. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (5,161) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania
    Society

    Weedy, FWIW my consistent personal experience with Jai Alai is that this beer 'falls off a cliff' extremely fast. I was able to obtain a couple of very fresh (two weeks from canning) cans of Jai Alai a few months ago. I immediately placed those cans in the fridge when I came home. I drank one can a few days later and I really enjoyed that beer. The second can was consumed a couple of weeks later and it was like it was a completely different beer. There was notable hop fade and that beer was more sweet than hoppy. Just the other day I saw Jai Alai on the shelf of my local beer retailer. I picked up the pack to read the beer was canned one month prior and I put that pack back on the shelf.
    Last year I purchased a 12-pack of Stone IPA which was canned three weeks prior to my purchase. Those 12 beers had zero (and I do mean zero) hop aroma. The beers had no off-flavors and other than a total lack of hop aroma they drank OK. But when I purchase an IPA I fully expect notable hop aroma so this 12-pack was a total fail for me. I vowed to never buy another Stone product again. There is something amiss at the Stone RVA brewery. I suppose the 'good news' I can report is there were no chunks in those beers?

    Cheers!
     
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  25. T-RO

    T-RO Initiate (130) Nov 9, 2012 New Hampshire
    Trader

    Well you did say regional classification was silly and consumers are contradictory to your experience yet "few people" but me apparently would classify Torpedo as west coast? seems clear lol
     
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  26. AMessenger

    AMessenger Initiate (29) Mar 17, 2018 Pennsylvania

    It is an interesting observation that designations people applied to style not too long ago seem rather silly now. These older beers are really just products of the time they were made and show the evolution of IPA drinker’s tastes. If the older brands survive in something close to their current forms they’ll continue to seem more and more alike as IPA tastes continue to evolve
     
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  27. rgordon

    rgordon Meyvn (1,177) Apr 26, 2012 North Carolina

    Smuttynose Finest Kind was a fine IPA that in my mind would be difficult to classify to the needs of those that thrive on classification. It was often a little cloudy, carrying floating things here and there. The most unusual thing about FK was a slight white pepper edge, which I always thought was from some hop?
     
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  28. defunksta

    defunksta Meyvn (1,161) Jan 18, 2019 North Dakota
    Trader

    I think there are basically three regional IPA styles:

    1) West-Coast IPAs: These are hoppy, piney, and bitter. They may have a large malt profile, but ultimately drink bitter with high IBUs. Stone IPA would be an example.

    2) Midwest IPAs: This is the most controversial and difficult to define, but I think these beers are strongly hopped similarly to west-coast IPAs, but have a stronger and sweeter malt backbone. They finish less bitter and with more of a malt profile. Robust, but balanced. Two-Hearted and Union Jack as in the OP would qualify here.

    3) East-Coast or New-England IPA: These are hazy and juicy. A wide variety of flavors. Minimal bitterness and soft on the palate. Often dry-hopped these can be quite pricey. These are often made my local breweries that can afford more dry-hopping than some of the macro breweries, so there is wide variation here. I don't think I need to provide any examples here.

    There's other version of IPAs, but geographically these are the three regional styles of IPAs that make sense to me.
     
  29. nc41

    nc41 Poo-Bah (2,771) Sep 25, 2008 North Carolina
    Society Trader

    To me it’s not a regional thing it’s more of a style description that’s easily conveyed and understood here. Wicked Weed makes a very good WC IPA in Pernicious.
     
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  30. Providence

    Providence Crusader (758) Feb 24, 2010 Rhode Island
    Trader

    Yeah, finest kind. Good call. That’s an east coast ipa for sure.
     
  31. nc41

    nc41 Poo-Bah (2,771) Sep 25, 2008 North Carolina
    Society Trader

    Wow, that’s like so many years gone now, I always liked it. A lot of nice IPAs just went away.
     
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  32. AWA

    AWA Disciple (341) Jul 22, 2014 California

    So I personally say Torpedo is about as classic a west coast IPA as you get. Maybe that's just me though.
     
  33. AWA

    AWA Disciple (341) Jul 22, 2014 California

    So back in the day, people referred to speakers as east coast or west coast sound. East coast, (Kef, Advent, most British speakers) were supposedly more neutral, and perhaps soft. West coast, ( JBL, Cerwin Vega, Altec Lansing) were brash, more pronounced bass and rolled off highs. WC were much more in your face. I think the same basic feeling apply to beer, as well as most other things.
     
  34. dbl_delta

    dbl_delta Poo-Bah (3,240) Sep 22, 2012 Pennsylvania
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    ...and you're trying to parse incremental differences in styles?? I'm impressed!
     
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  35. bubseymour

    bubseymour Poo-Bah (3,322) Oct 30, 2010 Maryland
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    To me there is just NEIPA, American, Belgian and English. These days I get most excited when I see a Brewer releasing Belgian or English because they are less available and my taste buds like the variety.
     
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  36. Pinz412

    Pinz412 Zealot (570) Nov 20, 2019 Pennsylvania
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    I think I like my speakers East Coast and my IPA's West Coast.

    signed,
    a KEF family
     
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  37. AWA

    AWA Disciple (341) Jul 22, 2014 California

    I hear you. That being said, I'm listening to some George Thorogood on my Cerwin Vega E-712 at about 90db while drinking some Dogfish Head 60. I think that's an east coast IPA. Maybe. I don't know, it kinda sucks either way, but at least Lonesome George is on, and that makes any beer awesome.
     
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  38. draheim

    draheim Poo-Bah (2,976) Sep 18, 2010 Washington
    Society

    It’s not possessive! It’s just plural!

    Look, when you take a chip, just take one dip, and end it!
     
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  39. bret27

    bret27 Poo-Bah (1,954) Mar 10, 2009 California
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    Then you got Ballast Point throwing in clear hazy ipa just to f*ck with everyone.
     
  40. bret27

    bret27 Poo-Bah (1,954) Mar 10, 2009 California
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