In the mid 2000s, brewers became obsessed with making the most bitter and palate crushing IPAs possible. This style of American IPA, or West Coast IPA, is a hoppy beer that primarily showcases hop flavours and bitterness. The East Coast IPA was created in part to offer a softly bitter, more palatable alternative to its West Coast contemporary.
Born in Vermont, the New England IPA began as a series of ongoing experiments between John Kimmich and Greg Noonan in the mid 90s. In 2003, Kimmich opened the Alchemist Pub and created Heady Topper, considered by most to be the original New England IPA. With humble beginnings as a regional brew, this style of beer is now recognized by the Brewers Association as a version of American IPA called “Juicy or Hazy IPA”. According to official guidelines, fruit-forward hop flavours and aromas dominate, with a relatively low perceived bitterness and a cloudy or hazy appearance.
The interplay of hops and yeast gives the New England IPA its so-called juiciness. With increased demand for juicy and hazy IPAs, hop breeding programs started experimenting with flavours like mango, papaya, guava and pineapple. Vermont Ale yeasts are also a key element to this brew, providing a less attenuative “estery” alternative to cleaner, more traditional ale yeasts used in West Coast IPAs. These Vermont ale yeasts used in New England IPAs give off juicy esters of citrus, tropical and stone fruits, imparting a touch of sweetness and a signature haze.
As the battle between East Coast and West Coast IPAs continues, we ultimately benefit with an increased selection of great craft brews. So really, why choose between East and West when you can have it all and double your fun.