East Coast vs West Coast IPA, What Is The Difference and Why You Should Care

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East Coast vs West Coast, when you think of this you may think of things like the Lakers vs Celtics NBA games in the 80’s, or even Biggie Smalls vs Tupac and those furious Hip-Hop battles in the 90’s; however, now you might want to consider another big difference, their beers.

There is one style of beer that can most accurately describe the differences between the two coasts, and that is the IPA. India Pale Ales have taken the United States by storm and in order to better understand IPAs you must first understand the difference between taste and flavor. Taste is one of our senses ( like sight, and the ability to hear ), taste is what happens in the mouth, and it is what gives you the information that something is sweet, sour, salty or even bitter. Flavor is the incorporation of everything impacting your impression of what you are tasting, and it is usually just the conversion of taste and aroma, but some say that your environment even impacts your impression of somethings flavor. IPA’s wouldn’t be so popular if it wasn’t bitter, and unfortunately people exchange bitterness with a negative connotation. Bitterness is refreshing, often even relaxing, but it could also provide a jolt of energy and take your taste buds on a wild ride.

Back to the East Coast vs West Coast IPA debate. East Coast IPAs are balanced, often malt sweetness with citrus and fruity hop character with a nice little hop bitterness to kick you in the pants. East Coast IPAs are basically the red-headed step child of a British IPA, and it makes sense just based on geographical influence. When craft beer started to gain popularity in america, East Coast brewers sought after the tradition of European ales and lagers.

West Coast IPA’s are geographically closer to the hop farms in the United States, and what are one of hops major contributions to beer? You guessed it, bitterness. West Coast India Pale Ales are more complex than its rival on the East Coast. In California, bitterness is the at the frontline for IPAs, and pushes malty sweetness to the very back. The West Coast also seems to be unafraid to experiment with IPAs, take Ballast Point and their Grapefruit or Habanero Sculpin IPAs. There is one exception to the West Coast bitterness, and thats in Oregon and Washington. In the Pacific Northwest, they seem to have found the perfect marriage between both coasts. However, they do bring something exciting to the table, and thats intense and creative aromatics. I often find myself sipping, actually sniffing, a 8oz snifter of Total Domination IPA by Ninkasi just to take in the beautiful bounty in the aroma.

Nevertheless, these styles at the end of the day are meant for enjoyment. There is no superior style or correct answer to which one is better, I am torn on every other East Coast vs West Coast battle though. #TeamTupac

Written by

Beer Historian, Beer Enthusiast, Beer Maker, and now a Beer Writer. Scottsdale, AZ Email: DWIV27@hotmail.com for inquiries and discussion.

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