White Labs is an interesting brewery to visit because it is not your ordinary brewery. Most breweries will go with one beer in a specific style or two if you are lucky in an effort to brew the best beer they can. In certain cases breweries end up with an iconic beer like Ballast Point’s Sculpin IPA. White Labs decided instead to focus on exploring the flavors of different strands of yeast. So while it has beers in a number of styles you might recognize they aren’t going to be like everything else you taste in San Diego.
I went with three sets of four tasters for a total of 12 tasters while I visited. I decided to go with the pale ale, the IPA, and the porter. I probably wouldn’t have been able to try all of them even though I was there with a friend. White Labs is exciting for two types of people; those interested in home brewing, and those looking to learn more about how beers are made. White Labs even has home brew classes available so that newbies can get a start by brewing their own beer. To help out those interested in brewing they allow you to download the recipes for any of the beers you taste.
As far as the actual beers go, while I enjoyed comparing the four varieties of each style I tried I was not blown away by any individual beer. The pale ales were interesting because I could certainly recognize some of the yeast but they didn’t have the hop flavors I expect out of a good pale ale. Similarly, the IPAs were interesting because they weren’t dry-hopped like most San Diego IPAs are, and they were also un-filtered (pictured above). Flavor wise though, I didn’t really get any of the complex hop tastes I expect in a good IPA. This is to be expected though because their goal here is to educate by getting people to compare the strands of yeast. In order to taste the yeast you have to keep the hops slightly subdued. To finish things off I tried the porters. They were pretty similar to me and all on the bitter chocolate side. Anyone looking for something a bit sweeter out of their porter is not going to like these.
White Labs is an interesting brewery to explore if you are looking to learn more about beers. Though you won’t find any amazingly hoppy beers that will bring you back you might find a better appreciation for certain beers you enjoy at other breweries. For example, fans of Belgian styles of beers might not be familiar with the big part the yeast plays in the flavors. You can certainly taste the flavor in the Belgian Yeast pale ale. Similarly, one version of the IPA has similarities to Green Flash’s Le Freak and I appreciate knowing that this is because of the yeast.