Skip to main content

The History of the West Coast IPA (And Why It’s So Damn Hoppy)

West Coast IPA, IPA pour at Mancave Brewing, Oregon
Image used with permission by copyright holder

The act of brewing beer is tightly intertwined with the history of man. As civilizations grew, so did the sophistication of brewing techniques. From accidental open fermentations in ancient Mesopotamia to the regimented brewing practices of Belgian monks and on through the industrialized, computer-aided modern age, beer reflects our needs and abilities as a people.

The beer style known as India Pale Ale, or IPA for short, has its own distinct history and origin. Lore states that, as the British Empire expanded further east into India, they found the climate unsuitable for brewing the country’s traditional ales. As a precaution to keep the beer flavorful during the months-long journey from England to India, the beer was treated to an abundance of hops, far more than the typical recipe would allow. This new bitter ale was a hit, and eventually the beer became lighter and easier to drink while still packing that hop punch.

Green Flash Brewing Spanish Trampoline IPA
Spanish Trampoline IPA, Green Flash Brewing/Facebook Image used with permission by copyright holder

As the American craft beer scene blossomed in the 1980s and 1990s, this new wave of breweries sought to redefine traditional European styles, including the IPA. Over time, American IPAs evolved into their own subgroups. One of the most popular IPA styles in recent years is referred to as the West Coast IPA.

West Coast IPAs are notable for their big tropical and citrus fruit aromas. The malt base is relatively mild, giving those bright fruit notes prime billing and expanding from the smell into the flavor. There is no balance here — West Coast IPAs are all about the hops. The mouthfeel is light to moderate and the finish is crisp and dry. The slightly aggressive alcohol percentage (6-8 percent) is masked by the orange, pineapple, and papaya flavors, often suggested by the hops.

Delicious IPA, Stone Brewery
Delicious IPA, Stone Brewing/Facebook Image used with permission by copyright holder

Examples include Migration Brewing’s Straight Outta Portland IPA (Portland, Oregon); Russian River Brewing Company’s Pliny the Elder (Santa Rosa, California); the Green Flash Brewing Co. West Coast IPA (San Diego, California and Virginia Beach, Virginia); and Stone Brewing’s Stone IPA (Escondido, California). While all of those beers are in fact brewed on the West Coast, a brewery does not have to be located in Washington, Oregon, or California in order to produce a West Coast-style IPA. The popularity of this flavor profile means there is probably a West Coast IPA being cooked up at a brewery near you.

Editors' Recommendations

Lee Heidel
Lee Heidel is the managing editor of Brew/Drink/Run, a website and podcast that promotes brewing your own beer, consuming the…
Lost Lantern’s summer releases show off the diversity of bourbon
Bourbons from across the U.S.
lost lantern summer bourbon full collection v2

With National Bourbon Day arriving today, bourbon makers are getting ready—including a new release of a "Summer of Bourbon" series from Lost Lantern. Lost Lantern isn't a distillery itself but rather a bottler, taking bourbons from across the U.S. and bottling or blending them to share in releases.

This will be the second year that Lost Lantern is running its summer of bourbon, and this year's collection includes nine whiskeys from twelve states, blending bourbons from different distilleries into new combinations.

Read more
The 5 best Jamaican rum brands for your favorite summer cocktails
Jamaica is a rum-lover's dream
Rum cocktail

While rum is made everywhere, from Louisiana to the Philippines, its heart is in the Caribbean. This is where places like Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Barbados, Cuba, and Jamaica have been crafting rum for centuries. And while we could spend a whole article explaining the intricacies of the various Caribbean rum hotbeds, today, we’re most interested in Jamaica.

When people talk about Jamaican rum, the first word that usually comes up is “funky”. Jamaican rums, while known for their bold, complex, rich profiles and notes of molasses, fruit, and gentle spices, they’re also known for fermented funky, lightly barnyard aromas and flavors.
The 5 best Jamaican rum brands

Read more
Yes, a lean steak can actually be juicy and delicious — try these
A guide to the leanest cuts of steak
Different raw steak cuts

There's just something about a big, perfectly marbled, wonderfully fatty steak. Meaty, juicy, seared to absolute golden perfection, and satisfying in a way no other dish will ever be, hearty steaks like ribeyes are mealtime magic. Unfortunately for us, though, big, fatty steaks aren't exactly the healthiest option for every meal of the day. As with most everything that tastes wonderful, these steaks are best enjoyed in moderation. So, what do we do in the meantime? How can we satisfy our cravings for a delicious steak and remain conscious of keeping our arteries clean and happy? The answer is simple - reach for a leaner, less fat-filled steak.

We know, we know, leaner steaks have a somewhat nasty reputation for being dry and flavorless. Unfortunately, that reputation is not without due cause. But, if you pick the right cuts and know how to best prepare them, lean cuts of steak can actually be spectacularly flavorful and surprisingly juicy. Not only that but lean steaks are packed with minerals like zinc and iron, which boost immunity and promote healthy cell growth. They're also a wonderful source of essential B vitamins, such as niacin, riboflavin, vitamin B6, and vitamin B12.
Sirloin tip-side steak

Read more