By most counts there are over 3,000 breweries in the United States. The upper limit I have seen is over 3,200 with a lot in the planning or building stages. In this era of small brewery saturation it is inevitable that brewers are going to start stepping on each other’s trademarks and intellectual property when it comes to naming the countless beers. There are only so many ways to be creative when it comes to naming a seasonal IPA made with kumquats and coriander.
Great Divide Brewing Company and Boston Beer, the people behind Sam Adams, found out that they were both making a beer named Whitewater. Great Divide’s beer was going to be a hop forward wheat ale while Sam Adams was intending on bottling a white IPA. Different beers with the same name. Thankfully, these relative heavyweights of the beer industry found a way to get along and not fight this out in court. That is more than I can say for the jack wagons at Lagunitas Brewing who went about threatening Sierra Nevada over the font used to spell out IPA on a beer label.
Anyway, Great Divide is brewing Whitewater Hoppy Wheat Ale again and making it available in all of its markets:
Here is the thing. With more than 3,000 breweries making countless beers there is going to come a time when the vast swath of middle ground is somewhat indistinguishable. I believe that Whitewater Hoppy Wheat Ale represents the dawning of that age.
It’s got a good amount of hop bitterness, but because it is a wheat beer there is a different malt profile versus an IPA. The juxtaposition is kind of interesting and when consumed side-by-side with a traditional IPA it is made even more apparent.
However, what would make me recommend or rate this beer over any of a hundred others beers that are available year round in your market? I do not know. Maybe you like wheat beers more than IPAs, but want something a little bolder as the summer months turn to fall and football is on the television. Okay, buy a six pack and enjoy.
This is the problem that has led to breweries getting increasingly gimmicky in their special releases and seasonal beers. It’s also why hard cider has taken off recently as people are looking for something different without having to sort through countless beers in an attempt to excite their palates.
The downside is that Whitewater Hoppy Wheat Ale, like a lot of other beers in the great middle ground of the craft brewing “scene”, is a damn good beer that would have been revelatory for the vast majority of consumers in the 1990s. Now we just shrug and look at the tap handles for something that is really different. Has our love of craft jumped the shark?
Regardless, if you are a wheat beer fan looking for something on the heavier side this winter give the beer a shot:
See what others are saying about Great Divide Brewing Company Whitewater Hoppy Wheat Ale at Beeradvocate.