India Pale Ales, aka IPAs, is one of the most popular beer styles in the world. There is also an ongoing debate about which IPA style is better – West Coast or Hazy.
In our opinion, you can’t go wrong with either, it just depends on what type of flavor and bitterness level you are looking for in your beer. So, what’s the difference between a West Coast and Hazy IPA anyway? We sat down with Sam Tierney, brewing manager at our Propagator brewhouse, to learn more about the two styles, their influence and how we classify our IPAs into these categories.
WHAT IS A WEST COAST IPA?
West Coast IPAs are traditionally known for their bold hop aroma, high bitterness and citrus/piney aroma and flavors. Firestone’s most popular and well-known West Coast-style IPA is Union Jack. Union Jack is aggressively hopped showcasing pineapple, citrus and piney aromas and dry hop flavors of grapefruit and tangerine. Packing a punch at 7% ABV with hops such as Magnum, Cascade, Centennial, Amarillo, Citra, Chinook and Simcoe.
Our Luponic Distortion rotating series is also a West Coast IPA using new hop varietals from around the world. Compared to Union Jack, Luponic Distortion’s bitterness is much lower and is more fruit-heavy even though there is no actual fruit in the beer. We’d consider this to be a more “modern” West Coast style IPA at 5.9% ABV using super-secret hops that shall remain undisclosed.
West Coast IPAs are typically brewed with higher amounts of hops in the boil kettle, which leads to the high bitterness and mid-palate hop flavor in the style. Hops are still added post-fermentation to the beer to add more aroma and little bitterness, but the proportions are more equal between the two, while hazy IPAs tend to have more hops added post-fermentation and little or none in the kettle and a smaller amount in the whirlpool, which leads to less bitterness and -mid-palate flavor and more aroma.
WHAT IS A HAZY IPA?
The Hazy IPAs also known as the New England IPA, juicy IPA, East Coast IPA and unfiltered IPA has taken the beer industry by storm. They tend to be lower on the bitterness scale with tropical and juicy flavors. New England IPAs also have a fuller or creamier mouthfeel and are usually sweeter. This can have a lot to do with the perception of bitterness and how it affects the balance with sweetness.
The haze craze is still underway, and most breweries are now offering at least one hazy-style IPA to stay current with the trends and give the people what they want. Insert Mind Haze.
As a California craft beer company, we like to think of Mind Haze as a first national release hazy IPA. Mind Haze is a free-spirited beer made to elevate your perceptions – juicy yet balanced, hazy yet lasting and loaded with an imaginative array of tropical hop flavors.
Mind Haze is Firestone’s first hazy IPA at 6.2% ABV using Cashmere, Mandarina, El Dorado, Idaho 7, Azacca and Mosaic hops.
The science behind the haze: It’s not just for appearances
One of the main differences between the two styles is when hops are actually added to the beer. In West Coast IPAs, hops are usually added to the kettle throughout the wort boil to extract a range of bitterness and flavor. Hazy IPAs are usually brewed with most or all of the brewhouse hops added to the whirlpool after boiling is complete. This “hot steep” time avoids extracting too much bitterness because the hops are not boiled but does extract aroma and flavor.
Hazy IPAs get their signature appearance from a combination of proteins and tannins contributed by a combination of higher-protein grains like wheat and oats used in the mash, and high rates of hop additions. The resulting haze complex actually binds to non-polar hop aroma compounds that would normally not remain in the beer, leading to the unique juicy aroma and lush mouthfeel of the style.
“It’s been pretty wild to see how quickly hazy IPAs have risen in popularity,” said Sam. “I think that the juicy, fruity flavors and lower bitterness have very broad appeal with many drinkers who may have been turned off by the higher bitterness in most West Coast IPAs. We took our time in joining the fray, but we found the perfect balance and drinkability for the style with the creation of Mind Haze.”
— Brewmaster Matt Brynildson
Mind Haze offers the best of what you expect from a hazy IPA. But we’re going about it a little differently, and that’s what gives Mind Haze its own unique signature. We’re finally ready to do a hazy IPA the Firestone way.
IPAs ARE EVOLVING
We live in a world where the styles of West Coast and Hazy IPAs are blending. It’s exciting.
There’s a nice middle ground where cool stuff is happening. The popularity of hazy IPAs has helped accelerate an already-existing trend in West Coast IPAs toward lower bitterness and juicier hop flavors. These modern West Coast IPAs, exemplified by Gen 1 from our Propagator brewhouse, may be unfiltered and have varying levels of haze, but maintain a firm balancing bitterness and refreshing dryness in the finish that set them apart from the hazy style, even if they have similar hop aroma and flavor.
Another example is Flyjack, everything you want from a hazy IPA with nothing to weigh you down. Citrus, hazy and crisp, Flyajck is only 96 calories and 5 carbs. Maximum flavor, minimal calories, no compromises. According to brewmaster Matt Brynildson, “Flyjack was one of the hardest beers we’ve ever had to create.” The team was challenged to make a great tasting, easy drinking hazy IPA. Learn more about the making of Flyjack.
Well, now you know…when asked the question about the difference between West Coast and Hazy IPAs, it’s not a simple answer. There are two general families BUT not everything falls into a box. Both styles are amazing and have made a permanent imprint on the craft beer industry. We suggest exploring all the options out there and be excited that the industry is evolving and what once was the rule is no more.