Beer excitement: Hinterland White Cap White IPA

October 4, 2013

my happy refrigerator

I interrupt my regularly scheduled blog posts for this important news: I have twelve bottles of my favorite new-to-me beer in my refrigerator! Well, ten, because I gave one to my neighbor to try (she likes it, hey Mikey!) and I’m sitting outside drinking one at this very moment.

(Full disclosure: I wrote the first half of this a week ago when it was 80F/26C, clear, and perfect for sitting outside. Tonight, it is 58F/14C, drizzly, and miserable. I don’t feel like drinking beer at all…)

white cap white ipaLet’s get the business taken care of first. Hinterland White Cap White IPA is a pleasant, slightly-cloudy yellow beer that pours with a fizzy, long-lasting head that can be easily reagitated. It isn’t extremely aromatic but when you taste it, it’s an explosion of pink grapefruit in your mouth! That might lead some people to believe that it’s problematically bitter, but that’s not the case. White Cap is only 4.3% alcohol by volume so it all stays in balance. I say best part because I began to experience big beer burnout this summer. I am thrilled that many breweries have started producing smaller versions of hoppy varieties which are still big on flavor, and this is one of them.

white cap and tuna tartareI first encountered White Cap at Ginger Hop in northeast Minneapolis. It was my third trip to that bar-restaurant for their tuna tartare starter which has become an occasional payday treat to myself. It’s chopped, raw tuna that has been tossed in lime juice and sesame oil and is served as a mound of perfection topped with fresh cilantro and accompanied by buttered crostini. It’s perfect for a hot day, and so is White Cap.

I’m always up for trying something new, especially when it’s an IPA (my favorite style), so when I learned that an IPA that I had never had was on the menu, I ordered it without hesitation.

kelly and white capToday was a windy, unseasonably warm day here in Minnesota. Combine that with the diminished daylight that fall brings and even in the early evening, we have my preferred conditions for enjoying a beer—at home, sitting on my steps, after dark, warmly windy. And the White Cap is a perfect beer for warm days.

It’s true that White Cap is just good, but I’m trying to decide why I think it’s soooo good. I think I can pinpoint two reasons. The first, I’m sure, is what I said up above about being tired of the high ABV that has been the fashion almost regardless of style, and even (dare I say it) the trend of making every hoppy beer an out-and-out hop bomb. White Cap is gentle in both regards.

The second reason is because of what I think of as the Jameson Effect. Ever so many years ago, I attended an outdoor festival. Let’s call it 2001. It was a beastly hot day in July at a rib cook-off in a surface parking lot downtown—a very localized urban heat island. There weren’t many adult beverage choices. I had tipped over the divide to craft beer, so rather than slum it with the Coors Light or the malt beverage on offer, I chose the only other alternative—Jameson Irish Whiskey. At the time I was still more of a vodka gal if I had booze but I though what the heck and, since it was a stinky-hot day, asked for one on the rocks. The sweltering heat with oppressive humidity under the bare sun on asphalt with the smell of twenty kinds of ribs wafting through the air while watching Harry Casey & the Sunshine Band work their asses off on the music stage provided the perfect atmosphere for that Jameson to be the best drink I had ever had. Ever since then for sentimental reasons, every summer I buy a small bottle of Jameson to have on hand for the inevitable return of that kind of weather.

The first time I had White Cap was also during uncomfortable summer conditions, but not as extremely as the Jameson incident. The temperature was only around 80/26, but the dew point was in the mid-70s/24, so you worked up a sweat just lifting your pint glass to your lips. My Ginger Hop tuna tartare was on order and I eagerly gulped the first couple of sips of the beer. It was the hot weather magic all over again.

Eager to enjoy my new favorite at home, I looked for it at my local liquor stores to no avail. The distributor was no help, other than identifying that they were the carrier, but armed with that information, I got Chris at Sorella Wine & Spirits interested in the quest. Eventually he was successful and the result is tonight’s bounty!

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
This is what has transpired in the last week since I began writing this post. The very day after I acquired my booty, I attended the Autumn Brew Review beer tasting festival which is put on by the Minnesota Craft Brewers Guild. If any of my Original Gravity friends have checked in, you might want to stop reading here 😉

kelly and mitchellI found the Hinterland table which was awkwardly unbusy. On the other hand, that gave me the opportunity to strike up a conversation with the regional brewery representative, Mitchell. He wasn’t pouring White Cap but he did have Saison. I eagerly tried that as it’s a favorite style and it, too, was a delight—a solid representation of the style but instead of sweet-spicy it was black pepper-spicy. I love pepper notes in beer.

While we were talking, Mitchell revealed that he was there alone with no back-up. Since to pour (but for Original Gravity but they were over-volunteered and I didn’t seem particularly needed) was the reason why I had gained entry to the festival, I offered to man the Hinterland table so that he could walk around for a short while. He gave me a crash course in the Saison and the Oktoberfest and away he went.

This is the weird thing about me and tasting festivals: as much as I love trying new beers, I about ninety per cent loathe being out in the beer fest crowd as a patron. I realized that about an hour into my first large festival four times ago. I pleaded with my Original Gravity buddies to let me help out and so they threw me into the fire behind the Alaskan table. Once I switched sides I had a blast, and that’s how I’ve been enjoying tasting mayhem since. This is also one of the few situations in which I’d say I’m actually good at and enjoy schmoozing.

kelly and a canSo I was happy to help Mitchell out. You can’t fault me. I’m enthusiastic about beer that I like and that’s one of the things you like about me. He told me to wait a minute and dashed over to his car which was just across the street. He handed me two sixteen-ounce White Cap cans and said that I am the first consumer in Minnesota (or possibly anywhere, I don’t remember which) to possess them. I stuffed them in my jacket pockets and didn’t tell anyone. Until now. You people with cabins and boats, remember this for next summer.

So just one more thing before I wrap up this post that has gone on for longer than you ever thought it could, though to be fair this is like two entries in one with the week-separated writing sessions.

Tonight I cracked open the cans. As I was taking my traditional photo of the poured beer and its container, I noticed that the can design is quite a bit different from the bottle label design. The rocks and Lake Michigan photo from the label has been simplified and graphic-ized for the can, and though the typefaces are the same, the entire treatment of the can design reminds me more of a geographic atlas map. But that’s not the interesting part.

The interesting part is that I re-noticed the word white in the name. Not the white in White Cap, but the white in White IPA. I had ignore that second white with the draught and bottle versions because all I tasted was the grapefruit. But when I poured the can version, smelled it, and tasted it, I realized that the aroma I got from all three versions was the white-as-in-Belgian-style sweetness. And oddly, unexpectedly, the canned version of White Cap White IPA to me tastes more white-as-in-Belgian-style than the draught or bottle versions. I’d better compare against the bottle. I know that sorting the photos I want to add to this post will take at least another beer…

The bottle tastes a little more Belgiany than on previous occasions. My official assessment is that that’s just how my palette is tonight. Such is the joy of beer!

*The events presented are factual, though to help the narrative I may have massaged timelines somewhat.

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