Collaborations are all the rage in craft beer right now, and can take many forms. For example, with the recent Stone/ Troegs Cherry Chocolate Stout project, all the brewing took place at Stone’s facility due to the distance between the breweries as well as Stone’s far greater size, resources, and infrastructure. In the case of the famous Collaboration Not Litigation Ale, Russian River and Avery simply combined two existing brews in the name of craft beer brotherhood. Yet another option has been taken by Larry Sidor of Deschutes Brewery and Steven Pauwels of Boulevard Brewing Company– using Boulevard’s expertise with Belgian Wit beers and Deschutes’ mastery of West Coast hop varietals, the two master brewers set out to create not just a new beer, but a whole new style- the “White IPA“. Brewing from the same recipe, each facility released an offering with distinct packaging to their distribution networks. Herr Hordeum was kind enough to send along a bomber of the Boulevard effort, which I tackled with gusto yesterday evening. So it begs the question: did they succeed in brewing a distinct new beer style?
Answer: the hell if I know? Beer styles are necessary for competitions in which guidelines are needed by which to judge the success of a brewer in producing desired attributes, but in the end they are but arbitrary designations created by primates with an insatiable need to categorize, analyze, and compare the world around them. If Larry and Steven say it’s a new beer style, then I certainly won’t argue. What I do know is that the Deschutes/ Boulevard Conflux/ Collaboration White IPA incorporates elements of Wit and India Pale Ale in a considered manner to produce a complex offering that is more than the sum of its parts.
The beer pours a hazy blond with some orange flecking- slightly disappointing in that it looks like a lightly-colored standard IPA. A good Black IPA is just that, black, and I secretly hoped this beer would have the hue of Gatorade Frost Alpine Snow, but alas, twas not to be. The aroma is subdued, with some earthy citrus notes from the hops, a little bit of fresh-cut grass, and spice- primarily the coriander. The head on this beer is just gorgeous, strikingly white and resolute, with a little sticky cobweb lacing left behind on the glass edge after several minutes. The first sips are dominated by hops as well: bitter grapefruit pith, lemon rind, and orange peel. In the interest of full disclosure, I tend to avoid wheat ales because I don’t always enjoy the creamy, viscous quality they impart to the body and mouthfeel of a beer, but it works here. Perhaps the addition of Pilsner malt has given a crispness that allows this ale to finish and leave the mouth quickly… the beer benefits greatly as it warms and the spice elements begin to emerge: more coriander, clove, and some peppery bite in the finish- a highly-desired quality and a hallmark of great wheat ales.
Is it a White IPA? A Belgo-Wheat IPA? An over-hopped Wheat Ale? Who knows? Who cares? Deschutes and Boulevard have produced an extremely refreshing and well-crafted hop-forward wheat beer that is a pleasure to drink, even for a wheatly curmudgeon like me. It’s unlikely I will get a chance to sample the Deschutes version of this special beer, so if you’ve had it please let me know in the comments.
When Slouch emailed out that he was going to do a tasting note on the Boulevard-brewed version of this beer I happened to have a bottle of the Deschutes-brewed version in my fridge. He suggested we do a little dual tasting note, so you below are my impressions of the west coast incarnation of this interesting collaboration.
A ‘standard’ pour of this slightly hazy straw-colored beer yielded a massive fluffy white head which lasted longer than its light nature would suggest. Delicate but tenacious lacing covers the glass more or less throughout. The nose is herbal and a bit spicy, with the hops providing a nice lemony balance without being overwhelming. Having to work through 3 fingers of head to get to the beer itself ensures that the aromas remain central to the experience while drinking. The beer has a very nice light body with moderate carbonation that fits well, with slightly more present coriander and various other spices than in the nose. The fairly subtle Belgian yeast character ensures that you remember this beer’s wit roots, followed by a hop bitterness that surprises you near the end of the first sip, almost perfectly supplanting the usual finish that tends to drive me away from wheat beers. The medium level of carbonation really helps to make this a beer that I didn’t put down for very long. This almost dangerously drinkable beer is an excellent and interesting offering from Deschutes and Boulevard, though at 7.3% ABV calling it a session beer might be a stretch. I concur with Mr. Sixpack’s rating of 3.5 hops.