Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Ithaca - White Gold Review

Brewery: Ithaca (NY)
Style: Pale Wheat Ale / Brett Beer
ABV: 7.5 %

Grade: B

It's nice to try something different: American pale wheat ales are already a fairly new, unique style, combining the creaminess of wheat beers with the citrusy zing of American hops. Ferment that with a more flavorful strain of Belgian yeast, and you get something  earthy, spicy, and full of character. Finally, hit it with some wild yeast for a tart, funky finish, and you have White Gold.

From a brewing perspective, I'm surprised White Gold doesn't have more Brett (wild yeast) character. Despite letting the bottle age for almost a year past its release — time which Brett would usually spend making a beer funkier and funkier — it's barely more than a suggestion, a subtle flavor in the backend of the beer that I might have even missed if I didn't know to look for it. The high carbonation and immense head, sitting atop the beer like a fat dollop of whipped cream, give this both an effervescent quality and a creamy, smooth mouthfeel. With suggestions of both funk and American hops, the prominent flavors are bright citrusy fruit — sweet orange and lemon, hints of pear and apple. White wine drinkers would undoubtedly enjoy this one. It's got the palate of wine, but the body of beer: the body here is still substantial, with a lot of sweetness remaining. Another hint that the wild yeast, for whatever reason, didn't play a huge role.

And while I am admittedly a tiny bit biased against wheat beers a bit to begin with, I feel like this would have been more interesting if the wild yeast had in fact been given more opportunity to develop their character. As it is, the flavor is somewhat muddled — unique, but not super interesting. I like it, but I find myself working too hard to uncover all the subtle, buried flavors; flavors that shouldn't be so buried under what amounts to a fairly flabby wheat beer profile. The closest beer I can think to compare it to is Orval, but it lacks the complex, shape-shifting flavors of Orval even at a young age. It's an easy-drinker, but a more aggressive, intense character one way or the other would really win me over. Nonetheless, Ithaca remains one of the best breweries in New York, and White Gold is well worth trying.

Availability: Rotating. 750 ml bottles.

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