If there were ever a great battle within craft beer, it’d be between the West Coast IPA and the much newer, much more popular New England-style or “hazy IPA.” Both styles of IPA are delicious, but currently the hazy is by far the more favored. A lot of that demand has to do with hazy IPAs’ more approachable flavors, which tend to be much fruitier and softer than the traditional West Coast IPA’s bitter bite.
The differences in these IPA styles can be traced back to where each originates, but more so to how each is made. Both use a good amount of hops, but in different ways and at different times during the brewing process. The West Coast IPA sees a majority of those hops added during the boil, or the “hot side,” where heat extracts more of the hops’ bittering characteristics.
Hazy IPAs, on the other hand, call for more hops at the end of the boil, after the boil, and/or during fermentation. (If it’s during fermentation, this is called “dry-hopping.” If it’s during primary and secondary fermentation, it can also be called “double-dry-hopping,” a.k.a. DDH.) The lower temperature of the cooling wort or fermenting beer extracts more of the hops’ floral, citrus, and tropical fruit aromas and flavors, and much less of the bitterness.
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As for the tell-tale haze? That cloudy appearance comes from a few things: hop residue that is left suspended in the liquid, grain particulate from adjuncts such as wheat or flaked oats, plus other things that some brewers add to intentionally pump up the haze, but we won’t get into all that here.
Craft beer purists and old-school craft beer lovers still lean toward the West Coast style, but the hazy IPA has definitely brought more people into the world of craft beer. In the end, you may prefer one, the other, or both. It’s really up to you.