Sunday, March 30, 2014

White IPAs Do Not Impress Me

On paper, the white IPA is a great idea. Take the smooth unfiltered goodness of a wheat beer, boost the potency a touch, then add a massive amount of American style hopping. Boom, now you've got a white IPA.

And what a concoction that should be! Sounds like something that will drink in the refreshing way wheat beers drink, but with the lovely citrus aromas and bitterness of an IPA - a match made in heaven, really.

But no. Not even when done by people who know their IPAs...

... I can't quite figure out why the style has yet to click for me, despite having sampled more than a half-dozen white IPAs so far. Granted, it's a new style. Brewers are still working out the kinks and trying to nail down what makes a good white IPA work. Pretty much no one has a ton of experience with them.

Thing is, I just don't think anyone has gotten there yet.

And maybe no one ever will.

A great American-style IPA works in part thanks to having a fairly simple malt bill designed to support the hops, allowing them to do all the heavy lifting as far as taste goes. The malts serve as balance so you're not assaulted with off-putting bitterness, but rare is the American IPA that offers much in the way of complexity in the malt bill - and that's fine, because the point is to provide a platform for those lemon-and-grapefruit-tinged, pine-scented hops to do their thing.

Wheat beers don't play that way. They have an Earthy softness with touches of spice and grain and the feeling of a warm spring day. They are usually unfiltered, and the yeast imparts musty, dusty aromas, occasionally with hints of black pepper or bread or banana. All of this is imparted by the malt and yeast. The hops are generally only there to balance out the malt sweetness. They maybe provide some herbal or lemon-tinged aromas, but they are not the star of the show.

Two totally different approaches to beery goodness.

Two totally different philosophies.

Is it any wonder that I've yet to encounter a white IPA that made me want to go back for seconds?