West Coast IPA vs East Coast IPA vs Midwest IPA
The “India Pale Ale” or “IPA” for short can be defined quite easily, it involves a beer with a boatload of hops. As the IPA came on the scene and boomed in popularity, the style transformed greatly, with each American region taking on its own interpretation. Defining each kind can be beneficial beer knowledge for choosing what appeals to you and not getting burned on a six-pack you don't like.
The West Coast American IPA really started it all in America, after it was adopted from English brewing techniques. It involves a simple grist (grain profile) to highlight the hop flavor. Most IPA’s are going to brew with 2-Row malt which provides a nice clean slate for the hops to be tasted. Other specialty malts like Caramel and Crystal malts will be added to provide some color and flavor nuance, but it’s still the hop’s show. The factor that distinguishes the West Coast IPA is a large amount of bittering hop. A lot of hops are put in for flavor later or dry-hopped, but the key distinction is that initial bitter taste. Breweries like Stone, Green Flash, and Sierra Nevada continue to make beers that deliver the bitterness and then hit you with citrus and tropical flavors. The haziness is not stressed with this style, with the beer being mostly transparent.
East Coast American IPA is a lot different. Little to no bittering is involved but the grist (grain profile) stays simple to highlight the hops. Without the bittering, the hop flavor comes immediately and has been brewed to deliver a deliberate combination of fruit flavors. Most people think East Coast IPA is synonymous with “Hazy beer” or “New England IPA” which is only half true. These are a type of East Coast IPA but don’t embody the entire style. However in recent years, it’s difficult to find an East Coast IPA that isn't “New England“ or “Hazy”, so it really has become the new definition. The massive amount of hops and yeast strain make it a more smooth, opaque, and creamy texture compared to other IPAs.
Midwest IPA is my favorite because you get a little bit of everything. Unlike the West Coast or East Coast, you will get a much maltier backbone. This can cover up some of the hop flavors, but also makes it more interesting. With some of the more famous Midwest IPA’s like Bell’s Two Hearted and Pipeworks Ninja Vs. Unicorn, you’re getting a little hop bitterness in the front-end, a healthy dose of tropical or citrus hops, all rounded out by malt sweetness and texture.
An important thing to note: After the widespread of breweries opening and especially the burgeoning of “hazy” beer, style is hardly restricted to region any longer. If you’re having a beer in IPA in Chicago, it doesn’t mean it’s a Midwest style IPA, it could very well be a West Coast IPA or East Coast IPA.