An Atlanta twist on the White IPA style story

IPA is big stuff and getting bigger.

For many years it’s been the top category at the Great American Beer Festival. Last year, Dogfish Head and Sierra Nevada even teamed with the German glassware maker Spiegelau to create a special IPA glass they claim enhances the experience of the hops that distinguish the style.

Of course, American craft brewers have made the most of bright, citrusy, aromatic American hops with experimental styles like Black and Belgian IPA that have become more and more popular.

Now another new style dubbed White IPA has emerged as a favorite. Essentially a hybrid of Belgian wit and American IPA, it mixes unmalted wheat and spices from the Belgian side and barley malt and hop character from the American side.

Oregon’s Deschutes and Missouri’s Boulevard are the brewers often credited with creating the prototype with a 2010 collaboration called Conflux No. 2. Since then, a host of White IPAs have hit the market, including separate versions from Deschutes and Boulevard, as well as from Sam Adams, Harpoon, Blue Point and Saranac.

Here in Atlanta, Sweetwater released Whiplash White IPA as a November–February winter seasonal. Citrusy and tart with a dry finish, it’s brewed with wheat and caramel malts, hopped with Bravo, Ahtanum, Centennial and Cascade, fermented with a strong Belgian ale yeast, and dry-hopped with Ahtanum, Centennial and Simcoe.

More recently, Decatur’s Three Taverns released White Hops, a White IPA that’s the first addition to the brewery’s year-round lineup since the 2013 launch of its Belgian-style core brands, A Night In Brussels and Single Intent.

That it is available year-round is a big plus, I think, because crisp, lively White IPAs seem perfect for spring and summer sipping. Beyond that, White Hops has a fascinating back story rooted in Atlanta beer history.

Three Taverns founder and brewer Brian Purcell is a history and beer buff, who discovered a 1898 article that referenced a mysterious malt beverage known as White Hops, apparently sold by the now-defunct Atlanta Brewing and Ice Company as “nonalcoholic” in an attempt to avoid liquor taxes.

“The story inspired the name,” Purcell says. “I thought it was a beautiful name for a beer. But I didn’t know what style of beer it would be. Later, I read about the Deschutes White IPA called Chainbreaker and became intrigued.”

After tasting Chainbreaker two years ago at the Great American Beer Festival, Purcell declared it delicious and vowed he would try to make his own version of the style, which he decided was closer to a double wit beer, with more malt and alcohol to balance more hops.

“We love hops,” Purcell says. “Every American craft brewery is experimenting with hops and IPA styles. I think it was a natural progression to try figure out what would happen if you threw a bunch hops in a wit beer.”

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