Tamarack Brewing Company, Lakeside and Missoula

The idea for Tamarack Brewing Company’s Blue Jay White IPA was hatched two years ago in the heat of summer. Arriving at work one morning in Lakeside, head brewer Joe Byers said it was the chirping of a blue jay that inspired his decision to brew a batch of the white IPA.

“We took our wit recipe and basically scaled up that malt bill. And then we just hopped it heavily,” said Byers. “The lightness of this beer allows the hops to really come through without being overshadowed by caramel malt character or overwhelming bitterness.”

White IPABlue Jay is a spiced American wheat ale married with a Northwest India pale ale. Mixing the hop character of an IPA with the wheat base and spice additions of a wit results in a refreshing brew that departs from the heavier IPA while retaining depth of complexity and flavor.

“Balance over an overwhelming hop presence,” said Byers. “That’s what we’re shooting for in this beer.”

Instead of the traditional Belgian yeast, Byers uses a London ale yeast.

“(The yeast) has some fruity notes to it but doesn’t dominate the beer. So we allow those spices and those hops to really play together and not be overwhelmed by yeast character.”

Since its inaugural pour, the white IPA has gone through numerous incarnations, including port barrel-aged and mandarin orange-flavored batches. This year’s first batch will feature Galaxy and Pacifica hops, a departure from the Citra and Cascade hops used previously.

“Because it’s not set in stone in our full-time lineup, we have a little more freedom to play around with it,” said Byers. “If at some point it goes to a full-time production we will dial in.”

“This one we’re going to use some black pepper, ginger powder and some grains of paradise in very subdued amounts,” added Byers. “When we dry hop on about day seven with more Pacifica and Galaxy, we’ll also add a small amount of candied ginger. (This) adds a little spiciness to it and complements the beer.”

A favorite of previous summers, this beer has a hop character that satisfies IPA drinkers and pale ale drinkers while the spice and wheat notes gratify some of the wit beer lovers.

“It’s been a very successful beer for us. So we’re trying to work out the kinks, making it more consistent and getting it into production full time,” said Byers. “I think it’s just the balance of yeast, hops and spice and that gentle malt presence (and the ginger) that makes it very palatable to most beer drinkers.”

“The uniqueness of it, that’s what keeps us excited about it,” he added. “Plus we love the end product.”