Water, malted barley, hops and yeast – these are the classic building blocks of beer. As brewers continue to manipulate and supplement this treasured combination, the breadth of their labors is both beautiful and daunting. Rest assured we’re here to help you make sense of it all. Ever wonder why a certain beer tastes the way it does? Recognize a familiar flavor but can’t quite put your finger on it? This week we take a closer look at Witbier.
For hundreds of years the small Belgian village of Hoegaarden was known for its hazy wheat beer; but in 1957 the Tomsin Brewery closed its doors and with it the style vanished from the earth. Thankfully a milkman by the name of Pierre Celis who once worked at Tomsin pieced together a small brewery in his hayloft. He named his witbier Hoegaarden in honor of his hometown, and his recipe evolved into the most globally recognizable example of the style.
Building Your Beer Palate
During fermentation, yeast produces fruity and spicy flavor compounds called esters. Brewers often supplement and amplify these flavors with adjuncts. From spices to fruits – coffee to chocolate, the sky’s the limit. Belgian Witbiers incorporate coriander and orange peel for an additional touch of fruit and spice.
Witbier or “white beer” takes its name from it hazy unfiltered appearance. This haze is primarily a mixture of yeast and proteins derived from a mixture of malted barley and unmalted wheat. Brewing with unmalted wheat is a demanding, but crucial step in producing the creamy dryness of a classic Witbier.
Here are three excellent Belgian-style Witbiers that are not to be missed!
Quebec’s Unibroue is renowned for their masterfully crafted Belgian inspired ales. Blanche de Chambly is a very traditional interpretation of the Belgian Wit with an incredible mouthfeel. It’s light, creamy and refreshing, with notes of coriander and fresh orange zest on the finish. Bottle conditioning produces delicate champagne like carbonation and a silky mousse-like finish.
When it comes to Belgian-style Witbier, it’s hard to beat this three time GABF Gold Medal winner from Maine. In addition to red and white wheat, Allagash incorporates oats to their grain bill, making for a velvety smooth mouthfeel. Creamy, fruity and spicy – this artfully balanced wheat leaves you reaching for more.
Brewed with the Hoegaarden yeast strain, Pierre’s legacy lives on in this refreshing Belgian-style Wit. Crafted with both sweet and bitter orange peel, this zesty palate cleanser is remarkably food friendly. It pairs especially well with seafood and salad courses.
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