Many macro-lager drinkers are brand loyal – a Bud Light drinker only drinks Bud Light while craft beer drinkers tend to try anything and everything. This presents an issue for established craft breweries as they are constantly competing with new and exciting releases by up and coming breweries. Established breweries have to balance making innovative new beers with continued production of the old favorites that put them on the map. One brewery that has done an impressive job striking this balance is Otter Creek Brewing Company in Vermont. Otter Creek still brews their flagship beers like Copper Ale and Hop Session, but now brews a brand new series of seasonal ales. Their Summer seasonal is Fresh Slice, an unfiltered Belgian white IPA brewed with clementine juice and sweet orange peel. Fresh Slice is available on draft and in bottles and cans.
Otter Creek Fresh Cut White IPA pours a pale gold, very cloudy with a large white head. The smell is very hoppy, tons of citrus and resin. The taste is also very hop forward, notes of pine. lemon and orange. The Belgian yeast is also present, contributing some pepper and a touch of clove. There is some malt flavors as well, spicy wheat and a touch of grainy barley. The beer is very well balanced and drinkable, there is some hop bitterness but it isn’t overwhelming. The finish is complex, with some spice, fruit and a little hop bite. At 5.5% ABV it is not a session beer, but relatively light, perfect for the Summer. Overall this is a very nice example of a white IPA, skillfully melding the flavors of a Belgian witbier with flavorful American hops. Hoppy Boston score: 4.5/5.
Previous Otter Creek reviews:
Otter Creek Citra Mantra, Otter Creek Kind Ryed
Harpoon Brewery in Boston originally built it’s reputation on a solid stable of year-round beers led by their flagship English style IPA. Recently they have drawn praise for their more adventurous and experimental beers, including their 100 Barrel Series and Leviathan Big Beers. Harpoon also makes a number of seasonal beers, including the popular and long running Summer Ale, Octoberfest and Winter Warmer. This year Harpoon released a new Winter into Spring seasonal, a white IPA named The Long Thaw. I’m a big fan of the white IPA style when it’s done well, the Belgian yeast and citrus flavors of a witbier can nicely complement pungent American hops. The Long Thaw is available on draft and in 12 oz bottles from January through March.
Harpoon The Long Thaw pours straw gold with a solid white head. It is a little surprising how clear the beer is, the use of wheat malts usually gives a beer a cloudy character, but this has been filtered. The smell is pretty subtle, some piney hops along with spicy coriander. The malts and spices come across first in the taste, some wheat and bready flavors from the malt along with orange and coriander. There are some hop flavors afterwards, notes of lemon and earth, but much more muted than I would expect in a beer labeled “IPA”. The Belgian yeast adds some peppery flavors, but it’s pretty subtle. The Long Thaw is light bodied and easy to drink, but pretty solid at 6.2% ABV. The finish is mild, with a touch of spice. If The Long Thaw is pretty good as a witbier, but doesn’t quite fit the as a white IPA, it needs more hop character. Hoppy Boston score: 3.75/5.
Previous Harpoon reviews:
Harpoon Beer Hall/First Frost Ale
Slumbrew, AKA the Somerville Brewing Company makes a variety of artisanal ales in their brewery in Somerville, MA. The “slumbrew” moniker is derived from the old “Slummerville” nickname for Somerville, which is funny now that the town has undergone a major revitalization, with the Davis, Porter and Union Square now go-to locations for nights out. One of the keys to the Somerville Renaissance has been artisanal food and craft beer, each neighborhood is loaded with bars and restaurants that favor local, fresh and seasonal food and drinks. This makes Somerville the perfect place for inventive and fun new beers.
I tend to shy away from fruit beers. I love the flavor of malt and hops, I don’t need my beer to taste like fruit and sugar. That being said, subtle flavors of citrus and tropical fruit are a major reason why I love American hops, and their use in Pale Ales and IPA’s, so I can be talked into the idea of trying beers that attempt to enhance these flavors using fruit as an adjunct. Slumbrew Sittin on Hop of the World is a White IPA fermented with peach puree. White IPA’s combine the yeast and malt profiles of a Belgian white ale, typically some wheat and mild funky and estery flavors, with the strong American hop flavors of an IPA. The difference between a White IPA and a Belgian IPA is mostly semantics in my opinion (the line is pretty blurry), but I’ll keep separate designations depending on what the brewer decides to call the beer.
Sittin on Hop of the World pours a clear amber with a mild, white head and heavy carbonation. It doesn’t have the haze (formed from insoluble proteins in wheat malt) that is typical in Belgian Whites. The beer produces light hop aromas, some citrus and cut grass notes. The first taste gives a nice mix of citrus hops and the funky and estery flavors from the Belgian yeast, but neither flavor is overwhelming. The peach is there, evident but in more of a supporting role. The beer is easy to drink, all of the flavors are present but well balanced. It is 6.8% ABV, solid but not overly high for an IPA, and at 68 IBU’s it is noticeably bitter without torching your taste-buds. A great beer to sip while you grill up some steaks or seafood on a crisp fall afternoon. Hoppy Boston score: 4.0/5.