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Battle of the Haze: New England IPA or West Coast IPA

Updated: Apr 14, 2021

A few years ago some relatives of mine moved home to their native Washingtonian roots, after a decade in New England, and they complained about our IPAs. I said we get great IPAs here in Maryland and I set off to prove that and have an epic battle of the Hazy vs traditional IPA. Thus the title of this post. My grand plan was a bracketed battle royal with an equal number of West and East Coast IPAs. I got home with six 6 packs, two 12 packs, and two 4 packs, and realized I only bought two hazy IPAs both from MD and not NE. Turns out when you buy that much beer at once, I should say that many different beers, because we usually have at least two local sixtels on tap at home, you are libel to get mixed up.

What You Need to Know About IPAs

Let’s back up. It’s possible that some of you have already left because you didn’t know there was a difference or that a battle must be held. Here’s a little background info. Raise your hand if you’ve been into a beer bar and ordered an IPA flight and some buzzed guy next to you tells you that IPA stands for India Pale Ale and that they had to put extra hops in the beer in order for it to make it all the way from England to India in the 18th century. Me, me, me! Ignore him, he’s both wrong and unwilling to hear that he’s wrong. This is one of the greatest beer myths. The first recipe that’s been authenticated, lol, to have used that much hops isn’t until the 19th century and the rest is probably not that interesting to you. If you’d like to read more I recommend you head to Beer Connoisseur.

Ok, great. What about the West Coast vs East Coast part? Listen to this guy, he works for a beer distributor and describes the difference pretty well.

And what’s a hazy IPA? It’s a specialty IPA that’s more popular on the east coast. It’s filled with bold hops, but the yeast is actually what gives it that creamy mouthfeel and hazy appearance. Hazy IPAs are made with yeast that don’t sink right to the bottom and they’re made with high protein malts that play around with them, giving hazy IPAs their unique look and feel. Remember what that guy said about malt and the East Coast? This is related to the haze craze starting in New England. If you want to know more, Mr. Beer will be happy to confuse you further.

Our Experiment

On to our experiment slash pandemic double date night that I made too complicated and we all got confused. I am looking at four sets of notes and a blog post from one of the participants who’s a burgeoning psychologist on the brain science of having a beer with friends on a Friday night. Check it out on Cool, cool. There is some good stuff in here, and some things I can’t read, those are my notes mostly. But let’s be real for a min, and admit you are interested in the beer and wings but mostly come here to be amused by my pomp and circumstance over every minor event I do. In other words, Mandie, bring on the pictures!

The West Coast IPA Contestants:

Lagunitas IPA (CA)

Stone IPA (CA)

New Belgium Voodoo (CO)

The East Coast IPA Contestants:

Sam Adams Rebel (MA)

Jailbreak Poor Righteous (MD)

Key Brewing Bail Money (MD)

The Hazy New England Style Contestants:

Manor Hill Citra Splendor (MD)

Oliver Ale BMORE Hazy (MD)

The Judges:

Amanda & Patrick

Sarah & Paul

The Pairings:

Old Bay Dry Rub Wings

BBQ Sauce Wings

Buffalo Wings

Celery w/ Ranch or Blue Cheese Dressing

Soft Pretzels and Pub Cheese

Chocolate Cupcakes

It's hard to know where to go from here because I made it so complicated, but the special educator and cyber annalist took really good and organized notes, the psychology student took his notes, and mine are in-legible. Yeah that tracks. Let's see what we can do with that...

The West Coast IPAs

1. Stone IPA: Everyone used phrases like "easy drinking" and "classic IPA." We gave it a medium bitterness that worked with the sweeter BBQ sauce wings but not with the spicier wings.

2. Lagunitas IPA: This beer had that west coast hint of fruit and complementary hops that one judge felt worked really well with the strong flavors of the blue cheese dressing and the pub cheese.

3. New Belgium Voodoo: This was declared the winner in this category because, while it was middle of the road in bitterness and flavor, it went really well with both the complex savory old bay rub and helped cut the heat on the buffalo. While it didn't over power those flavors you could still taste the mosaic and Amarillo hops.

The East Coast IPAs

1. Key Brewing Bail Money: I can read my notes on this one, hop forward but not over powering. I could eat this with the Old Bay, which as a proper Baltimore gal is what I really needed and they know this out in Dundalk (where Key is located). Sarah, also native to the region, noted she wanted this on tap for our next crab feast. It was a lighter color and clear, hints of fruit that like the Lagunitas worked well with the strong pub cheese and blue cheese dressing as well. It was the clear winner in this group.

2. Jail Break Poor Righteous: This had a lot of flavor on it's own but felt a little atypical of IPAs. It paired well with nothing, even the sweeter BBQ wings so it was swiftly moved aside.

3. Sam Adams Rebel IPA: This was a little on the sweet side, but really did remind us that SA still makes quality beer. It paired fine with everything just fine but it didn't elevate anything. Sarah did right "meh" though.

The Hazy IPAs

1. Oliver Ale BMORE HAZY: We were surprised to find out this was mosaic based given how sweet it was. I was definitely was a little dazed and confused here, but if you notice in the cover photo the BMORE is open because the picture was taken a few days later and Pat had just drank the rest of this. I conclude that it's a great beer, but didn't work well into our little experiment.

2. Manor Hill Citra Splendor: It's in the name. It's citra forward with the hazy look and mouth feel and paired well with everything. Most of us consumed cupcakes with this one and said more please.

The Final Round

We chose to leave the hazies alone and take our favorite West Coast vs. East Coast it was 3 to 1. Paul, native to upstate NY and the least fond of IPAs in the group, voted for Key. Sarah, who's born and bread East Coast, also made a firm vote for Key. Pat, who's from no where and knows the most about brewing beer, also went Key. And I said New Belgium. I just thought the Voodoo would be great under all circumstances.

The Take Away

Well they're all good beers. Hopefully, there is enough information here for you to want to try some of these. Especially with Old Bay if you're from Maryland. You need to know what to drink with your popcorn too. Two, this was overly ambitious. Hazy IPAs are great but 8 beers are easy enough to taste, but not really make decisions. This is a fun activity but I would cut it down to one of each style and two types of wings and definitely keep the pretzels. I felt they worked as well to help clear my pallet as the ranch with celery only cooled my mouth. We discovered Sarah has never done a beer tasting big enough to know why you must drink the beer water. Raise your hand if you're surprised she didn't want to. No hands are up. If you want to get into Paul's mind, who was getting into our minds, you can head over to his blog Inquirious and dig a little deeper. Hopefully, we'll have more collaborations in the future, whether they be beer or blog related. I wonder what he'll write about the Yule Ball we're having on NYE (they're inside our pandemic bubble in case you're concerned about us being this close right now).

Finally, you need to wear comfy joggers with a crazy soft waist band like these ones from leggings depot to get through all this. I should mention that we each had a quarter to half of a pint of each beer, so in total around three beers each, plus the food. We had tons of tasting glasses from back in our Beer Festival days. But this is an 8 glass set of 5 oz tasters from Libbey. If you really want to go all in or are looking for a good beer gift I love this 4 beer flight set with chalk board labels from MyGift.

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