What Is This Mysterious "West-Coast IPA" of Which You Speak?

Leaving aside the debate about who brewed it first--and I very much want to leave that debate aside--a more salient question arises: what the hell is a West-Coast IPA? If that which-is-first debate shed any light, it was, I think, on the insubstantiality of this "style." There is India Pale Ale. Even an anti-style guy like me admits it, and its perameters are pretty well-established: strongish, hoppy, pale. Not quite a strong ale, but more than a pale.

West-Coast style? You tell me. I think people mean some combination of five things:

1. Made on the West Coast
2. Strong(er than regular IPAs)
3. Made with American hops
4. Juicy with citric flavors and aromas
5. Bracingly bitter

But how do these things differ from any other American IPA? With the exception of place--made in CA, WA, or OR--how do these characteristics particularly distinguish IPAs made in San Diego or Muncie? Everyone makes beers like this now--even in Europe. American hops are a worldwide phenom, and citric juiciness pretty much defines American IPAs, not a regional variation. Surely we're not going to argue that every style gets its own regional title just because it happens to be brewed there--Midwest wheats, New England stouts, Southern browns. That's not style, it's boosterism.

But I'm open-minded. Tell me what you think it is. If everyone in comments agrees, I'll be happy to concede the point. (No I won't--I'll be dyspeptic and profane, but I'll concede.)

Do tell--

Jeff Alworth24 Comments