Sud Savant: New Holland White Hatter – Should’ve Been Better Than the Sum of its Parts

Here’s another installment from New Holland Brewing’s “Hatter” series. It seems like just about every type of Hatter imagineable has come forth: Imperial Hatter, Regular Hatter, Rye Hatter, Farm House Hatter, Black Hatter, White Hatter, Oak Aged Hatter, and even a Hatterday (see what they did there?) tour at the brewery (actually scheduled for this upcoming Sautrday, June 16, 2012). It seems like an awful lot of their eggs are in this one basket. I am a little confused on the plethora of styles present here, but I’ve never held a little creativity against a brewer and I’m not about to start now. Let’s pour!

Aroma 9/12: The fresh hop cones are very forward and are rich with spice, pine, resin, and a lesser bitter grapefruit. For a beer that also claims to be also a pale ale AND a Belgian white, I’m getting very little none of either of those styles. At this point, I’d have guessed that I’m smelling an IPA. The malts are non-existant and what little sweetness I can detect could just as easily be from the hops’ citrus. Does any of this make this a bad smelling beer? No, just underwhelming given its claimed style. The beer has to warm quite a bit before the Belgian yeast becomes detectable at all.

Appearance 1/3: This is utterly indiscernible from an adjunct lager except that the macrobrews have a better head. Granted, this is on tap, but I still expect a little something. The color is a light, golden yellow with extremely high clarity (if you can read reversed text, you could read looking through this glass). To be honest, it looks more like cider than ale.

Flavor 15/20: Thank goodness the flavor is interesting! Frankly, that’s the way I prefer it (hence the weighted scoring of this category). The beer begins by with a little bit of Belgian yeast sweetness and really nice dry, crackery malts. There also appears appear to be a scuffle amongst all the spices present (peppery hops, cloves) in which no one is a winner and the effect is a jumble in the mouth. It doesn’t take long before adding an undeniable lemon zest citrus and foaming up in the mouth very pleasantly. The citrus flavor along with a substantial mouthfeel would have me believe that the wheat percentage of this malt bill is fairly high. The finish drops out the citrus (and all other sweetness) all together and shows a reprise of the dry, crackery malts. It also adds a nice bitter, which is complimentary and never threatens to overthrow the malt flavors. Though in the aftertaste, all that lingers is that same bitter, made all the more intense by the fact that it’s unaccompanied. As a pale ale, this is a decent, citrusy version of the style. As a Belgian, it’s virtually non-existent; even more so than in the aroma. At least in the aroma, it had the decency to show up as the beer warmed up. In the flavor, it is all but completely AWOL.

Mouthfeel 5/5: The carbonation is a high point of this beer! It’s crispness really compliments that of the malts and its moderate foaming action in the mouth never contradicts the beer by feeling thick & silky or way too light & mousse-like. The body feels very full, undoubtedly a contribution of all those dry malts. No detectable warmth or flaws.

Overall Impression 6/10: This is the story of a better than average beer made less by under-delivering on a promising sounding style. Had the sweetness from the “Belgian white” come through to sweeten the pale ale portion of the brew, you’d have yourself a interesting combination and probably some great aromas. Instead, it stands as a pretty decent pale ale with a twist (Get it? Like a twist of lemon? Get it… oh nevermind). However, the mouthfeel is awesome for the pale ale style and the carbonation is spot on.

Total 36/50: I think the “Overall Impression” section says it all. If you drink this for a combination of styles, I think you’ll be disappointed. If you drink this as a pale ale, you’ll probably dig it. The malts are everything they should be for a pale ale: lightly bitter, dry, and crisp. The hops are nicely aromatic, but contribute little other than citrus and spice to the flavor. This is a beer that should’ve been better than the sum of its parts… and the sum of its styles.

Joel R. Kolander is the Cheif Blogger for Sud Savant, a beer-savoring blog for the rest of us. We’re not here to get plowed. We’re not here because we are world-famous beer critics. We’re here because we enjoy savoring a great beer with even better friends. Sharing great beer is just as amazing as finding it in the first place. Lets share!