The craft beer revolution has taken the world by storm, and the IPA - India Pale Ale - is undeniably at the forefront of this movement. Within the IPA category, two dominant regional styles have emerged as popular beers for homebrewers & pros alike: the West Coast IPA and the East Coast IPA. Each has its distinct characteristics, which make them unique and appealing to beer enthusiasts. today, we'll explore the key differences in home brewing a West Coast style IPA versus an East Coast style IPA, helping you decide which one suits your taste buds and brewing preferences.
Which Hop Profile?
The first and most notable difference between West Coast and East Coast style IPAs lies in their hop profiles. West Coast IPAs are renowned for their aggressive hop bitterness and prominent citrus, pine, and resinous flavors, making them Christian's go to choice of late. This is achieved by adding hops early in the boil to extract more bitterness and using a significant amount of hop varieties like Cascade, Simcoe, Amarillo, and Centennial.
On the other hand, East Coast IPAs are known for their less assertive bitterness and focus on hop aroma and flavor. Brewers tend to incorporate more late hop additions, often during whirlpool or dry-hopping stages. Hops like Citra, Mosaic, and Galaxy are commonly used to impart tropical fruit, stone fruit, and floral characteristics.
Don't Forget The Importance of The Malt Backbone
Another crucial aspect to consider in brewing these two IPA styles is the malt backbone. West Coast IPAs typically showcase a leaner malt profile, allowing the hop flavors to shine through. Brewers often use a blend of pale malts, such as 2-row or Pilsner, to create a clean and crisp base that may or may not be a bit darker in colour than it's right coast counterpart.
Conversely, East Coast IPAs tend to have a more substantial malt presence. Higher amounts of specialty malts like Munich, Vienna, or even some crystal malts are frequently employed, lending a touch of sweetness and a richer mouthfeel. The maltiness in an East Coast IPA acts as a counterbalance to the hops, creating a smoother, more rounded flavor profile.
The choice of yeast can significantly impact the character of an IPA. West Coast IPAs often use a neutral yeast strain, like Escarpment's American Ale Yeast, which lets the hops take center stage and allows for a clean fermentation profile. This helps accentuate the hop flavors and bitterness.
Conversely, East Coast IPAs may employ yeast strains that contribute more esters and fruity flavors. Varieties like Ecarpment's Foggy London Ale yeast or the classic US-05 dry yeast can add subtle notes of peach, apricot, and pineapple, enhancing the overall fruitiness of the beer.
Clarity vs. Haze - The Great Debate!
One of the most visually apparent differences between the two styles is their appearance. West Coast IPAs are known for their brilliant clarity, achieved through careful brewing and filtration techniques. The clear, golden hue of a West Coast IPA is a testament to its crisp and clean nature.
East Coast IPAs, on the other hand, have a characteristic haze. The haze is often a result of using high-protein malts and the copious amounts of late hop additions and dry hopping. The haziness in East Coast IPAs adds to their smooth mouthfeel and contributes to the perception of juiciness.
Home brewing a West Coast style IPA and an East Coast style IPA are two unique experiences, each offering distinct flavors and characteristics. While West Coast IPAs are known for their aggressive bitterness and crisp, clear appearance, East Coast IPAs emphasize hop aroma, fruitiness, and a hazy appearance. Deciding which style to brew ultimately depends on your personal taste preferences and the kind of brewing experience you seek.
Whether you're drawn to the bold, piney bitterness of a West Coast IPA or the juicy, tropical fruit explosion of an East Coast IPA, both styles offer fantastic opportunities for home brewers to experiment and create beers that cater to their individual palate. So, why not gather your ingredients, fire up the brew kettle, and embark on a hoppy journey to craft the perfect IPA in the style that suits you best!
We have tons of experience brewing both of these styles of IPA, so please contact us with any questions, or to share your own IPA experience!
Christian & Derek