What is a West Coast style IPA?

Answered by Marvin Richey

A West Coast style is a specific type of that originated on the west coast of the United States, particularly in California. It is a subcategory of American IPAs, which are known for their bold hop flavor and higher content. However, West Coast IPAs take this to another level by using almost double the amount of compared to traditional American IPAs.

One of the defining characteristics of a West Coast IPA is its prominent hop bitterness. The abundance of hops used in the process gives these beers a strong and assertive flavor profile. The hops used in West Coast IPAs often impart a resinous, pine-like flavor, along with citrusy and floral notes. The combination of these flavors creates a unique and intense taste experience.

In terms of alcohol content, West Coast IPAs typically have an ABV (alcohol by volume) ranging from around 6.5% to 7.5%. This higher alcohol content helps balance out the strong hop bitterness and provides a fuller body to the beer. It also contributes to the overall boldness and intensity of the flavor.

Another characteristic of West Coast IPAs is their clear appearance. Unlike hazy or New England IPAs, which have a cloudy or turbid appearance, West Coast IPAs are typically filtered to remove any haze or sediment. This clarity allows the vibrant colors of the beer to shine through, showcasing its golden or amber hues.

When it comes to aroma and taste, West Coast IPAs are known for their intense hop aromatics. The floral and citrus notes from the hops are often the most prominent, but pine, resin, and even tropical fruit flavors can also be present. The hop bitterness is balanced by a solid backbone, which provides a touch of sweetness and helps to round out the overall flavor profile.

In terms of food pairings, West Coast IPAs can complement a wide range of dishes. The bold hop flavors can stand up to spicy foods, such as Mexican or Thai cuisine, while the citrus and floral notes can pair nicely with grilled seafood or salads. The higher alcohol content also makes West Coast IPAs a good match for rich and fatty foods, as the hops and alcohol can help cut through the richness.

As a sommelier and brewer, I have had the opportunity to taste and appreciate many West Coast IPAs. One memorable experience was trying a West Coast IPA that had been aged in oak , adding another layer of complexity to the beer. The combination of the hop bitterness, oak character, and higher alcohol content created a truly unique and enjoyable drinking experience.

A West Coast style IPA is a bold and intensely flavored beer that showcases the hop character and brewing prowess of the west coast of the United States. Its higher hop content, strong bitterness, and elevated alcohol level differentiate it from other IPA styles, making it a favorite among hop enthusiasts and beer lovers looking for a flavorful and robust experience.