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East Coast versus West Coast

Beer chessMissed this story about the difference between East Coast and West Coast beers, most notably IPAs, by Greg Kitsock when it first appeared in the Washington Post a couple of weeks ago.

When it comes to hoppy beers the differences aren’t just East-West. Try an IPA, or Imperial IPA, from the Northwest, then one from Southern California and you’ll find similarly diverse beers. (Last year the San Diego Tribune riffed on Garrett Oliver’s suggestion we make San Digeo Pale Ale an official beer style.)

These are differences we should embrace, rather than arguing if one version is better or that the brewers who make beer to a particular taste are more talented. (This article didn’t do that, just to be clear.)

10 Responses to East Coast versus West Coast

  1. SteveH July 3, 2007 at 9:46 am #

    Hmm. Interesting how the likes of Goose Island, Bell’s, & 3-Floyds (among others) gets completely overlooked as the 2 ocean coasts argue superiority. Once again.

  2. Stan Hieronymus July 3, 2007 at 10:25 am #

    Steve. I somebody who grew up in the Central time zone and now a resident of the invisible Mountain time zone I appreciate your point. Just another discussion.

  3. SteveH July 3, 2007 at 11:11 am #

    Another discussion, or should it have been written as East Coast vs. Mid Coast vs. West Coast? Dunno. I just don’t see how focus can sit 3000 miles apart and completely ignore what’s going on in between — especially with the notoriety 3 Floyds has garnered. Sorry Yankee and Dodgers fans.

  4. Rick July 3, 2007 at 11:32 am #

    Thanks for the short, yet correct, observation. Southern California IPAs are vastly different than ‘most’ NW IPAs and all are a world away from what is found on the East Coast – and I’ve had FFF, Bells and GI, there great and seem to be in line with what I would call ‘east coast’ IPAs.

    There simply is not one region that is “better” than another.

    I do think, however, there is a better story in the brewing tendencies of regional brewers. Up in the NW you see a lot more browns and porters than we get in California. Back east too, with the embracing of old world styles with American flare. And down in SoCal, well, you won’t find a more exciting hoppy beer scene in the world.

  5. Stan Hieronymus July 3, 2007 at 12:04 pm #

    Rick, it’s not often my observations are short ;>)

    You are right. There are a lot of interesting stories about why certain styles occur at the regional level – and how approaches to them differ.

    An important component of the American beer revolution has been the re-connection with local and regional beer.

  6. SteveH July 3, 2007 at 12:36 pm #

    An important component of the American beer revolution has been the re-connection with local and regional beer.

    A terrific component and history before our eyes.

    If we’re talking regions, where would Sierra Nevada or Anchor’s Pale Ales fall into comparison? I tend to find Great Lakes’ Burning River and Goose’s Honkers close in character, as I do SNPA and Anchor Liberty, SNPA nodding to Cascades, of course. But I guess I’d fit Dogfish Head 60 Min (an IPA in name, I know) alongside the 2 N. California staples.

  7. Jeff Alworth July 3, 2007 at 2:00 pm #

    I don’t think the difference is in the beers as much as it is in the drinkers. My wife’s family is from New England, and I love the beer there. I know that if you brought Harpoon IPA to Portland (the West Coast city), you’d find broad love of it. But in Boston, while it’s popular, the preference is toward more classically English-style ales. On the west coast, people like intense flavors, whether you’re talking coffee or chardonay–or IPAs.

    The article was a bit of a one-off. Obviously, many breweries on the East Coast do brew big, hoppy beers. The thing is, they’re a minor note. On the West Coast, big, hoppy ales are known as “beer.” We tend to ignore anything but.

  8. Stan Hieronymus July 3, 2007 at 2:26 pm #

    The article was a bit of a one-off.

    A few years ago Greg did a feature for All About Beer Magazine (which, the best I can tell, is not archived online). It went into much more depth, giving you a better feel for the variety of influences. Worth seeking out.

    I don’t think you can overestimate the combination in the East of being closer to England and Alan Pugsley planting all those breweries on what brewers and drinkers called balanced.

    So Jeff, I think you were right to point to the fact that beer generally is part of the bigger picture when it comes to what people are looking for in flavor.

    California: New World wines, New World IPAs.

  9. Stan Hieronymus July 3, 2007 at 2:32 pm #

    If we’re talking regions, where would Sierra Nevada or Anchor’s Pale Ales fall into comparison?

    I’m pretty sure that Anchor Liberty influenced SNPA, and of course SNPA launched 1,000 pale ales. So that’s where we start.

    The riffs come off that, whether it’s a Bells beer in Michigan, Southern Tier in New York or Sweetwater in Georgia.


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    […] The first and most available beer I had was Shipyard’s (pronounced ship-yaaaad) Export Ale. I was immediately reminded of a post Stan at Appellation Beer put up a couple of weeks ago on East coast vs. West coast pale ales. […]

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