In the ultimate battle for IPA global appreciation, the West Coast and New England would be the Star Wars and Avengers of the beer world. One, a classic game-changer that has paved the way for many of the styles we see today. The other, a younger breed that’s bringing in a whole new audience of beer aficionados.
Both are innovative, both are beloved, and both are here to stay…but what’s the deal with them?
WCIPA / West Coast IPA
Let’s start with that which came first; The West Coast IPA. A long time ago in a galaxy far far away called California, one Fritz Maytag of Anchor Brewing was about to make history yet again. He desired to make a Pale Ale, akin to the more malt forward version which was popular in England, but using American hops. What luck he had being located along that Pacific coast, for just up north, the USDA Breeding Program at Oregon State University had developed the hop variety Cascade. Adding this to his boil, he hailed once again to his English brewing predecessors and took their lead also adding the hops in the conditioning process. The result was Liberty Ale, a beer that, for its time, boasted more hop aroma and bitterness than beer drinkers had experienced up to that point.
Brewers across the American West Coast embraced the boldness and, with a plethora of hop varieties at their fingertips including the 5 Cs (Cascade, Chinook, Centennial, Columbus and Citra), ran even further with it. In no time the style evolved into the clear, higher ABV, dank, bitter, and oh so aromatic West Coast IPAs we know today. These days, with new hops varieties coming into play all the time it’s clear this style is never going to bore us.
NEIPA / New England IPA
The NEIPA or 'New England IPA' may not have been developed at the Avengers Headquarters in NYC but it wasn’t too far away. For it was in the state of Vermont, located in…New England (betcha didn’t see that one coming) that this style was born. The brewery was The Alchemist, the brewer was John Kimmich, the beer was Heady Topper; An unfiltered, unpasteurized new kid on the block that excited the senses with its hefty aroma, low bitterness and thicker, softer mouthfeel.
Just as Liberty Ale had done in the 70s out West, Heady Topper got East Coast brewers all excited and Hazies started popping up all over the place. Brewing methods varied – use of different yeast strains, hops added late in the boil, more extreme dry hopping, even the addition of oats and lactose – all in an effort to get that pillowy-soft-juice-bomb-liquid-gold. Whatever the technique of choice, this style exploded and to each new drinker they thought they’d found the motherland. It swept across the States, then across borders, filling our fridges. Variations were born before the style had even hit puberty, it was a takeover 50 years after the West Coast lay the groundwork for its inception. Today the NEIPA is known for its almost smoothie-like tropical character, which Aussie hope are famous for – consider them the Chris Hemsworth of the bunch. Without doubt, it has taken the world by storm and secured its place in the history books.
In this battle it seems impossible for one to come out victorious. We suppose only time will tell. Here at Carwyn we can't pick a favourite, one day we're feeling East the next West. Guess we all just have to keep drinking them both! Gosh, life is hard sometimes.