Friday, December 26, 2008

Ithaca Excelsior! White Gold

With all the fast-moving happenings in the craft brewing world, we have been remiss in being slow to ignore some of the good things that the Ithaca Brewing Company has been doing lately. I first took notice on Thanksgiving weekend, when I noticed that their seasonal twelve-pack was absent the previously ubiquitous Apricot Wheat beer (a popular beer of which I am not particularly fond).

Instead, the twelver has four solid offerings: the decent Pale Ale, the gloriously hoppy Cascazilla, the surprisingly nice Oaked Nut Brown and my favorite winter offering, Gorges Porter.

Ithaca has also thrown their hat into the Big Beer movement, by offering 22-ounce bottles of new beers, in their Excelsior! series. They have just announced the release of their new αlpHαlpHα Double Honey Bitter and it has become clear that we are way behind in getting in on the Ithaca action.

[Note: It is going to be hard to find information about the Excelsior! series on Ithaca Beer's own website since it's not listed among their beers. They may want to get on that.]

Ithaca has released a beer in the series called White Gold, which is labelled as a "Strong Pale Wheat Ale." The label describes the beer thusly:

A Belgo-American Ale brewed with domestic barley and French wheat malts, the finest Continental and U.S. grown hops, and fermented with Belgian, English and Wild yeasts.

Here's what I thought about it:

The look is a very clear straw-yellow color. It has a massive puffy head when poured into a tulip glass. The liquid is anything but static; quite the contrary, it looks like champagne on the interior, with throngs of upfloating bubbles rushing to the surface. Other than that, it is very clear, appropriately so. With each sip, it leaves a thick and frothy lace.

The aroma is of the typical wheat vardiety, with only a mild spiciness that comes more from the mild hop than from any possible Belgian yeasts. There are fruit flavors that come through like a light accent, mostly lemon, orange peel and apple. The malts are estery and crystalline, a little spicy.

The flavor is primarily apples: the sweet red kind and the sour green kind. All this is balanced by a dry wheaty base. The beer is both sweet and spicy; you could call it Franco-Belgian. Surprising taste of pineapple, as well as a mild leafy hop. The pale malts mix well with that wheaty "twang" (as the kids are calling it these days). At the end of the sip, it turns slightly more sour, probably due to warmth. All these sweetish/spicy/sour flavors blend nicely with a frosty thickness on the tongue, lending themselves to a feel that is both bubbly and creamy.

White Gold is sweeter than most beers of its ilk, but it's balanced enough on the other ends of the spectrum to make it very drinkable. While there is a hint of sour and lots of other tree fruits that make it a good beer for girls and boys.

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