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The classic West Coast IPAs you have to drink now

Get on the West Coast IPA bandwagon this summer

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When you envision an IPA, you’re probably thinking of a West Coast IPA. While there are milkshake IPAs, New England-style (hazy IPAs), and others, the West Coast IPA is the king of the American hop-fueled beer landscape.

For those unaware, the West Coast IPA started on the (you guessed it) West Coast. Its heart is in San Diego (and the surrounding area) where countless breweries like Alesmith, Green Flash, Ballast Point, and Societe are cranking out this timeless style.

What is a West Coast IPA?

Close-up of beer in a glass
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If you’re new to IPAs (or beer in general), you might not know what a West Coast IPA is. That’s okay as we’re here to help. West Coast IPAs are known for their citrus and dank pine aromas and flavors with a very bitter (sometimes aggressive), hoppy finish. Often brewed with more hops than their IPA counterparts, West Coast IPAs are the perfect beers for fans of resinous pine and bitter flavors.

But don’t let the word “bitter” turn you off. A well-made West Coast IPA is balanced with citrus and other tropical fruit flavors, dank pine, and the perfect amount of hop bitterness. They’re crisp and refreshing as well. There’s a reason West Coast IPAs are so popular during the warmer months.

Classic West Coast IPAs you have to drink right now

Beer being poured from tap
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While a West Coast IPA can be made anywhere as long as it follows the guidelines of being citrus-filled, piney, and bitter, its base is in Southern California. This is where you’ll find some of the most noteworthy, classic West Coast IPAs. That being said, we found six of the best West Coast IPAs ever made. Keep scrolling to see them all.

Lagunitas IPA

Lagunitas IPA

This 6.2% ABV IPA is known for its balance and drinkability. It’s brewed with Caramel malt and Cascade, Centennial, Chinook, and Simcoe hops. The result is a memorable IPA with a ton of biscuit-like, caramel malts up front. This is followed by a burst of citrus and tropical fruits and ends with dank pine. The finish is gently bitter. A great starter West Coast IPA.

Stone IPA

Stone IPA

There aren’t many West Coast IPAs more famous than Stone IPA. To say this beer is loaded with hops is a ridiculous understatement. It gets its flavors of lemon peels, tangerine, tropical fruits, and dank, resinous, pleasantly bitter pine from the liberal use of Magnum, Chinook, Centennial, Azacca, Calypso, Ella, and Vic Secret hops. Yes, you read that right. This IPA is brewed with seven different hops.

Societe The Pupil

Societe The Pupil

If you’ve never tried Societe The Pupil, you’re really missing out. One of the highest-rated IPAs made today, this award-winning brew is known for its palate of mango, guava, passionfruit, tangerine, grapefruit, and dank pine. It gets these refreshing flavors thanks to the use of Citra, Centennial, and Nelson Sauvin hops.

Green Flash West Coast IPA

Green Flash West Coast IPA
Green Flash

Green Flash West Coast IPA is so good, that they didn’t even feel the need to give it a memorable moniker. Featuring Simcoe, Centennial, Columbus, Citra, and Cascade hops, this iconic beer is known for its mix of caramel malts, grapefruit zest, tropical fruits, and dank, resinous pine. The finish is perfectly bitter and leaves you craving more.

Ballast Point Sculpin IPA

Ballast Point Sculpin IPA
Ballast Point

No West Coast IPA list is complete without the wildly popular Ballast Point Sculpin IPA. This year-round favorite gets its name from the sting of the sculpin fish that’s just like the sting of the Amarillo and Simcoe hops. It’s well-known for its flavors of ripe peach, mango, guava, pineapple, grapefruit, lemon, tangerine, and resinous pine needles. The finish is prickly, bitter, and memorable.

Alesmith IPA

Alesmith IPA

If you’re only going to purchase one West Coast IPA on this list, make it Alesmith IPA. This highly-rated IPA is loaded with Columbus and Citra hops and a nice malt backbone. This results in a malty, sweet start that descends into a cacophony of grapefruit, lemon, tangerine, peach, and pine needles. The finish is hoppy and pleasantly bitter.

Bottom line

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Let’s be honest. West Coast IPAs are very divisive. Either you love them for their dank, hoppy, resinous, piney bitter finish or you despise them. That’s just a fact. If you’re lucky enough to be in the former group, there are a ton of great options available. Any of the above selections are absolutely worth adding to your fridge.

But, on top of that, there are countless, lesser-known craft breweries making amazing West Coast IPAs. We implore you to seek out one near you and try their take on the popular style.

Christopher Osburn
Christopher Osburn is a food and drinks writer located in the Finger Lakes Region of New York. He's been writing professional
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