THE IMPERIALIZATION of styles has spread widely throughout beer, often with compelling results. But ‘more’ does not always mean ‘better’ and for some styles can actually mean ‘much worse’. Witbiers, with their wintry translucence, light wheaty bodies, and uplifting zips of spice and tartness, are one such case—juicing them up seems anathema to their inspiration.
Not that brewers haven’t tried it before. Boston Brewing’s Imperial White was perplexing and overwrought, for one. For two, here’s Southampton’s Double White Ale, a 6.6% ABV attempt that offers “a little more of everything.” Overall it’s milder that Boston’s, but “a little more” is still an understatement.
Double White pours a cloudy light gold, rather like honey diluted in water, with a slightly suppressed white head. Appearance is not its strong suit. The aroma is more of peach than orange—an occasional consequence when Witbiers prize robustness over refreshment (see Kronenbourg)—with some extra dosing of yeast in the background. Its flavors and body are rather thick, meanwhile, not showing too much of the wheat that should distinguish its texture via a little extra snap. Spices, too, are a little underpowered for its strength and can’t quite hang with the bits of alcohol that emerge in the finish and linger alongside the first hint of citric sourness. Effervescence is only medium.
All of these notes sound like shortcomings and, technically, they are. Yet it’s worth being reminded that Southampton intentionally set out to fortify Witbier’s fleet-footed flavors and has ultimately followed through, however unevenly. While Double White is far from legitimizing ‘imperial white’ as a style at large, it’s still a more sensible effort than Boston Brewing’s and, grudgingly, rather drinkable.
Served: 22 oz bottle