This post is dedicated to my friend Gina – who, when asking for “something like a Blue Moon”, was incorrectly guided by me to order a Schneider Edel Weiss … Yes, they’re similar, but the Schneider is a Hefeweizen after all, and there IS a difference… (oh, and did she let me know about it… Sor-ry!!!)
Lemonade, or OJ?
Brought back to life in the 1960’s by Pierre Celis while at Hoegaarden, the Witbier – aka white beer (or “biere blanche”) – differs from the Hefeweizen slightly, but noticeably, in that instead of a lemon & clove quality, you’ll typically notice flavors of orange peel / orange zest, and “secret spices” (most often, coriander). It usually carries a light honey and/or vanilla sweetness, and should be creamy on the palate. It should finish refreshingly crisp, with a dry finish – sometimes also accompanied by a light lactic tartness. Similar to the Hefeweizen, the yeast is left unfiltered, and carries the mysterious, cloudy appearance seen in the Hefeweizen – although true to it’s name, it will be far whiter than golden.
That said, here’s a more formal description from the Brewer’s Association:
Belgian white ales are very pale in color and are brewed using unmalted wheat and malted barley and are spiced with coriander and orange peel. Coriander and light orange peel aroma should be perceived as such or as an unidentified spiciness. Phenolic spiciness and yeast flavors may be evident at mild levels. These beers are traditionally bottle conditioned and served cloudy. An unfiltered starch and yeast haze should be part of the appearance. The low to medium body should have some degree of creaminess from wheat starch. The style is further characterized by the use of noble-type hops to achieve a low hop bitterness and little to no apparent hop flavor. This beer has no diacetyl, and a low to medium fruity-ester level. Mild acidity is appropriate.
A good Witbier can take you from breakfast (yes, breakfast – you gotta problem with that?) through evening desserts. It pairs well with egg dishes, polenta, monterey and pepper jack cheeses, meaty fish (shrimp, crab, lobster, bass), chowders, and of course, an orange creamsicle dessert.
Hoegaarden is famously served in their standard hexagonal glass, but most witbiers are well-served in a either a fat tulip or weissbier glass.
**Douche Bag Alert, part 2**
A few weeks back, we kept you from entering Douchebagville while drinking your Hefeweizen. So in a similar vein, we’d like to say that we don’t care how bad your witbier is, just lay off the orange slices… Ok fruitcake?
What to Buy
Most people are familiar with Blue Moon from Coors – it’s widely available, and will often be the only “craft” beer on draught at many bars. It’s not a bad start into the world of Witbier, but we suggest that you check out the following other varieties this week – all of which should be available at your better bottle shops and distributors around Southeastern PA:
– Allagash White, 5.2% ABV (Portland, ME)
– St. Bernardus Witbier, 5.5% ABV (Watou, Belgium)
– Southampton Double White, 6.7% ABV (Southampton, NY)
Some additional worthwhile, and local Wit varieties include:
– River Horse Double White, 7% ABV (Lambertville, NJ)
– Victory Whirlwind Wit, 5% ABV (Downingtown, PA)
– Weyerbacher Blanche, 5% ABV (Easton, PA)
– Philadelphia Walt Wit, 4.2% ABV (Philadelphia, PA)
For more top selections, visit the Witbier page on our site’s Style Selector, and drop us a Comment below to tell us about your experience with the Style!