Friday, November 18, 2011

494. Deschutes Conflux No. 2 White IPA vs. Boulevard Collaboration No. 2 White IPA

This is what a drink-off should be like: two quality beers, both by quality brewers. Experiment and identify a recipe, then both make a version of the beer. It’s like the Rockit Cup, only at the professional level. And let’s be honest—the results are spectacular. Besides myself and Elli, Jeffrey joined in to enjoy the sweat and toil of this beery labor. This is our eighth beer from Deschutes, including The Abyss, Black Butte Porter XXI, Mirror Pond Pale Ale, Black Butte Porter, Hop Trip, Inversion, and Red Chair IPA, and our fourth from Boulevard: Saison, Saison-Brett and Two Jokers Double Wit. Oh, and here’s a little on the whole collaboration process for all of youse looking to read up and stuff.

The Deschutes version pours a slightly hazy straw with a thin white head; it is a lighter than the Boulevard version, which is closer to gold. The head presence is similar on both—a wafty white ethereal covering that drifts across the glass. The nose on both is similar; Deschutes has a delicate herbal spicy bitter aroma mixed with candy malt and a slight wheat gumminess, while Boulevard is more earthy and spicy. There is still the candy malt, but it borders on caramel. Flavors start with light candy malt and spicy hop bitterness; Boulevard has more mineral bitterness and bready malt caramel, while Deschutes has a herbal bitter character with candy malt. Both beers have a light body that drinks more like a spicy, hoppy saison than an IPA; Deschutes is more floral and delicate, with the sage providing a nice herbal emphasis, and Boulevard features a lingering bitterness that strikes us as more bitter orange than hop derived. However, both are fantastic—the subtlety and nuance in both are very close, but distinctly different. Elli and I both lean towards the Deschutes version, while Jeffrey likes the Boulevard best. Both had critical remarks, however; Elli said she would rather appreciate both beers than have to drink them on a regular basis, while Jeffrey thought that the Deschutes version was based more on the idea of an IPA than actually being an IPA. I can see where they are coming from; both beers strike me as more saison-like than anything else—I would drink them both all day every day for precisely the factors Elli and Jeffrey critique. The delicate flavors and nuance present in each beer are both like and unlike traditional IPAs, yet the subtlety of each is well worth examining on its own merits—the discussions we had while drinking these two beers strike me as the very type of discussion that keeps American beer production interesting and innovative. So keep up the innovation. And the Belgian character. Because in many ways, this is just a new varietal on the Belgian IPA format. While it foregrounds a light wheat malt character in conjunction with the hop flavor as opposed to the yeast and malt character of most Belgian IPAs, the overall effect is not that much different. While I would celebrate both trends, the delicate and subtle nature of these two beers does something more for me than other more aggressive Belgian IPAs—this is the version I would laud and endorse. After all, it bespeaks a certain level or nuance and complexity that a lot of American breweries miss. And for that, I am thankful.

From the Deschutes bottle: “Second in a series, this citrusy, smooth white India pale ale is fortuitous meeting of Deschutes’ hop skills and Boulevard’s deft wheat touch. What’s 1800 miles when a great beer is at stake?”

ABV: 7.3%

From the Boulevard bottle: “Combining the refined body of a Belgian-style witbier with the refreshing bite of a hop-forward IPA, this ale puts a new spin on the idea of collaborative brewing. Working from a single shared recipe, Boulevard and Deschutes have created two separate brews, more than 1600 miles apart. To the traditional witbier spices of coriander seed and orange peel they’ve added sage and lemongrass, giving the ale subtle herbal notes which perfectly complement the pungent hop aroma and full, fruity mouthfeel. Hints of pepper linger in the dry, clean finish.”

ABV: 7.4%


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