Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Harpoon - 100 Barrel Series #43 White IPA Review

Brewery: Harpoon (MA)
Style: White IPA
ABV: 6.2%
Grade: B+

If I had to guess at the two most popular craft beer styles in America today, I'd go with wheat beers (based on volume and mainstream appeal), and IPAs (the poster child style for the whole craft beer movement, arguably.) So while I enjoy one of those styles a great deal more than the other, it makes absolutely perfect sense to me that they'd receive the mash-up treatment eventually, much like their evil cousin, the black IPA. If you enjoy something less sweet and yeasty than your average witbier, but aren't fully on-board with bitterness, this is the style for you.

Harpoon's 100 Barrel Series White IPA goes a bit further than some, retaining the spice additions of a typical witbier, orange peel and coriander. But the spices — like the Belgian yeast presumably used in this — are pleasantly restrained, and the hops dominate. The nose is subtle but clear, with sweet fruity hops, orange, lemon, hay, and a very slight hint of bubblegummy Belgian yeast. There's more bitterness on the tongue than I'd expect from only 45 IBU, leading me to believe the spices hit you here as well, with that sort of dry tongue-coating thing spices are wont to do. If so, it's a pleasant and clever merging of the two sensations. After that, hop flavors saturate your palate, with all of the bright, fruity flavors found in the aroma, but with a steep descent into an extra-dry mouthfeel. I'm taken aback (and very pleased) by how dry this beer ends, and it allows the spices to make a reappearance, as well as some clove character from the yeast. The Belgian aspects of #43 are mostly hiding below the surface — particularly the yeast — but there's still the suggestion of something funkier and spicier than you'd normally find in a fruity IPA. 

Harpoon's #43 White IPA makes a solid case for the style's uniqueness and validity, and I'm very pleased that it doesn't lead down a bleak path to an overly-sweet, cloying summer beer. #43 is bright and refreshing enough to be an any-season beer, and despite the 6.2% ABV, it makes for a good session ale too. 

Availability: Harpoon's 100 Barrel Series beers are one-time releases, at least until further notice. 22 ounce bottle.

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