Maybe it’s just me, but I’m a little tired of gender-bending beers that “marry two unique styles…” It seems like every other beer that comes across my desk is a porter/wheat or IPA/lager that blends two disparate genres of beer, as if brewers simply refuse to make a straight take on any given style these days. I get it. Who wants to make another straight IPA anymore? Or a straight Belgian wit? That’s like getting a new Lego set and only building the picture on the box. How boring is that? But man, all this Dr. Frankenstein-style experimentation gets a little old. It seems like the most experimental thing you could do in craft beer these days, is not experiment.
And yet, when Starr Hill’s new Whiter Shade of Pale, a beer that marries the Belgian wit with the IPA showed up, I was pretty psyched to give it a shot. Starr Hill has undergone a serious makeover recently, with a new brewmaster, new labels and most significantly, a new recipe for their flagship IPA. We were impressed with that new Northern Lights IPA, so when the Whiter Shade of Pale crossed our desk, I was intrigued.
This white IPA pours golden with a thin head, and has a wicked floral nose that’s mostly pine, grass and just a hint of fruit. Basically, it smells like a dank, modern IPA, but take a sip and the Belgian comes out. There’s some yeasty, almost peppery spice to the beer, which has a thin mouthfeel, void of anything malty at all. There’s a slight grainy sweetness to it—not so much fruity as sugary. All of this is textbook Belgian, and it definitely tastes like a Belgian up front, which is a bit surprising after that heady nose. But Starr Hill dry hopped the shit out of this beer, which helps explains the aroma. That aggressive hop bill also comes through in the taste with some lingering pine notes and a crisp, dry finish.
Is this a Belgian take on the IPA, or a modern IPA approach to a Belgian? I don’t know which is the stronger component in this beer, and maybe that’s the point. Maybe what we have here is an ideal marriage of styles, where both halves work together to make a greater whole. Like when Dennis Rodman married Carmen Electra. Or not.
Brewery: Starr Hill
City: Charlottesville, Va.
Style: Belgian IPA
Availability: Summer seasonal