The West Coast IPA has evolved over the years. Brewers leading the way for this style have reduced or eliminated crystal malts and incorporated advanced hopping techniques and products, many of which have just recently been discovered. The modern West Coast IPA is less bitter, lighter in color, and provides a more pungent aroma while still maintaining balance and drinkability. Read on to learn about the modern West Coast IPA!
Generally speaking, it is accepted that IPAs are more bitter than other styles of beer. Some variations include pine and dank notes while others can even have a tropical flair. Traditionally, West Coast IPA had large amounts of grassy, dank notes, and bitter grapefruit. The newer, more modern West Coast IPAs are less bitter and more drinkable than their traditional counterparts. They have a stronger emphasis on aroma and are available in new fruit-forward hop varieties. According to co-owner and head brewer at Blackbird Brewery, “They almost drink like an extremely hopped pilsner. They should be around 6-8% but still have crisp drinkability.”
The modern interpretation of the West Coast IPA strives to provide more balance than traditional IPAs. There are five defined tastes your tongue can detect – bitter, sweet, salty, umami, and sour. Different beer styles can feature any of the five as part of their profile, but when any one of them becomes a dominant character, this is what we call unbalanced. Ian explains, “It’s OK to taste bitterness in a beer. It’s not OK for that bitterness to be the defining characteristic of the beer. The bitterness should be layered in. You don’t want “bitter” to be the first word that anyone says.”
Traditional West Coast IPAs tend to have an orange-amber hue. The most successful modern West Coast IPAs are lighter in color ranging from straw yellow to golden depending mostly on the gravity of the beer rather than the use of higher kilned specialty malts. This “West Coast IPA is Dead Facebook Fan Page“, where most of the beers are from CA, show the trend towards the lighter color modern West Coast IPAs.
Many of you recently enjoyed a West Coast IPA with a modern flair in our recent collab with Wooden Robot Brewery called “What the Crows Know.” Ian and Mikey have been brewing up a modern interpretation of a West Coast IPA utilizing incognito and cryo-hops mid-fermentation with another large dose of post-fermentation dry-hopping. Stay tuned; we hope to release it late next week!