Tag Archive: Belgium Style Witbier

ielandic white ale

Einstök Ölgerð: Icelandic White Ale (Iceland: Belgian Wit: 5.2%)

Visual: Pale yellow. Moderate off white bubbles and low carbonation.

Nose: Thick and musky fruit. Pineapple and passion fruit. Cloves. Cream. Lemon cordial. Pepper.

Body: Sprityz. Fresh lemon. Meringue. Cream. Sweet lime jelly. Lemon curd. Cinnamon. Toffee. Orange.

Finish: White grapes. Meringue. Cream. Cinnamon. Dry lemon. Wheaty. Passion fruit. Vanilla. Bubblegum.

Conclusion: This would probably have been more highly rated if it had not come hot on the heels of its Canadian competition. It really did have bad timing to be entering my tasting notes list.

By itself it is a pleasant, sweeter edged take on the wit style, though with a satisfying dryness behind it which tempts it back from being compared to the more commercial and over sweet wits. It has slightly unusual notes such as toffee in amongst the lemon, and a pungent fruit thickness in the aroma that hints as some good experimentation with the style.

Also odd is that the beer is nowhere near as spiced as many examples of the style, they are not completely absent, but the beer does seem to be focusing elsewhere for its most prominent elements.

Where it is most traditional is the finish, drying and with that Belgian yeastiness given full effect. It’s a nice touch that allow the slight oddities of the body to coexist with the style expectations.

Its main problem is that it came after Dieu Du Ciel awesomeness, and in comparison it seems very mainstream despite its quirks. It really isn’t though, yes it is sweet like a lot of mainstream wits, but it uses that full funky yeast character and pushes its own way with its different interpretations.

Not bad, but not up there with the greats.

Background: Beer from Iceland! Ok, I’ll admit that was mainly why I picked it up. I’m allowed my quirks. Anyway, picked this up from Independent Spirit, I’ve seen their bottles around a bit in craft beer pubs recently, but never got around to giving it a try. Anyway, not much to say on this one, so few preconceptions going in.

Blanche Du Paradis

Dieu Du Ciel: Blanche Du Paradis (Canada: Belgium Wit: 5% ABV)

Visual: Light grain to yellow. Yellow white head.

Nose: Funky Belgian yeast. Slightly tart. Lemon. Coriander. Banana sweets.

Body: Big amounts of banana and yeast. Cream. Apricot. Lemon curd. Meringue. Coriander. Banana milkshake.

Finish: Carrot and coriander. Funky yeast, Dry. Milk. Meringue and lemon curd. Banoffee milkshake. Wheaty hop character.

Conclusion: Throw away your hoegaardens boys and girls, this is full on wit with no compromises. Lots of that funky yeast character and lots of fruity esters with it. In fact the normally prominent spices are very light behind it, merely giving enough for a tingle to work in the place of other beers hop characters.

Despite the full on yeasty style, the finish is actually delicate enough to nigh instantly invite further sipping in a session style. There is no lasting harshness or anything to put you off continuing the beer. Though don’t be mistaken, if you do manage to hang on and not take the next sip then the light banana, lemon curd and meringue elements that hang around are far from boring, and definitely last.

There is almost a banoffee milkshake character to the backbone of the beer (and please don’t tell me if there is, in fact, no such thing as banoffee milkshake, let me have my dreams), it is again a low element behind the massive funky yestiness , so never gets sickly, but is a delicious note to back up the main character.

For criticisms, well I would put Mikkellers “Not Just Another Wit” ahead of it for sheer enormity of flavour, however that is a much heavier beer, so they are barely even in the same style for comparisons. One is a beer to relax and take your time with, while this is just slightly too strong to be a perfect session beer.

So frankly an awesome, nearly sessionable, Belgian wit and far from the over sweet and watered down mainstream efforts you too often find. Lovely flavour, lovely feel and perfect use of yeast. Spot on.

Background: Canadian craft beer! Woo! I’ve been keeping an eye on PEI Beer Guy’s blog for a while, and bemoaned my inability to find some of the tasty sounding beers over here. Then I found this on tap at Brewdog Bristol. So I drank it. I had been told beforehand that this was very much an old style Belgium wit so was very much looking forward to it.

(EDIT: Recently had in bottle, so decided to add an image of the nice bottle art)



Ballast Point: Wahoo Wheat (USA: Belgium Style Witbier: 4% ABV)

Visual: Hazy yellow. Large white head.

Nose: Slightly musty. Dried fruit mixture. Orange peel. Light lemon curd. Coriander.

Body: Lemon. Wheat. Vanilla back. Slightly fizzy. Toffee. Carrot and coriander. Light banana. Nice bitterness. Peach.

Finish: Wheat. Lemon meringue. Raw carrot. Coriander.

Conclusion: America has a wealth of good Belgium style beers, from Lost Abbey to Ommegang. Alas it seems to struggle making good wit beers. This could just be my experiences but during the “Road Trip Of Awesome” I had several Belgium wit beers and they ranged from ok to pretty damn terrible. I have had the occasional good Wit from the USA, but not many. Maybe I need recommendations.

Of course this isn’t a slight on USA, the style is hard to do well and even Belgium sods it up sometimes, heck the best take on the style recently I had was from Denmark.

This take is competent but not much beyond. There is a bit too much fizz and not enough grip for the flavours. A pity as if you let the beer roam in your mouth it seems to have the right elements, from light coriander, spice, lemon curd through to vanilla sweetness backing it up.  What it lacks is the capability to bring those flavours to the forefront to be enjoyed.

It does manage to keep quiet traditional in its interpretation, slightly dry and tart over the wheat styled base. It therefore avoids the over sweet interpretation that can be a bane to the style.  There is sweetness but used as background noise and lingering finish. if the other elements were bigger it would provide an appropriate backdrop. As is the wheat dominates the flavour too much and it relies on the slightly heavier than normal bitterness as a crutch.

It is a far better beer than some of the watery atrocities or over sweet version I had encountered (but not reviewed0 during the road trip, and uses good calls to the Belgium interpretations, unfortunately for all its attempts at matching their style it doesn’t pull it off.
A nice try but lackluster beer.

Background: So far my experiences with Ballast Point have been pretty spot on so I grabbed a few more of their beers to try recently. It had nothing to do with my urge to rub it in that these are easier to find in the UK than in some states of America. Honest.  I’ve been on quite a stout run recently so have been deliberately grabbing some lighter coloured beers to give me a bit of a break. Drunk while listening to Radiohead: Ok Computer because it’s been bloody ages since I last listened to it.

Three Boys: Wheat (New Zealand: Belgium Wit Beer: 5% ABV)

Visual: Pale and cloudy with a light lemon curd colour. Large mound of white bubbled froth.

Nose: Sour. Lemon zest and coriander. Crushed orange. Crisp wheat. Tart apple juice. Very fresh.

Body: Quite tart. Apple pie. Lemon curd. Cider. White bread. Light hop bitterness. Touch of cream.

Finish: Tart lemon and apple. Dry. Fresh white bread. White wine. Slight hop bitterness.

Conclusion: I’m always wary of non Belgium interpretations of wit beers. It seems so easy for a brewer to make a beer that misses the point of a wit, making them too sweet, or hopping them so they don’t seem like a wit, or just plain making them dull.

This is dry yet citrus fresh, just slightly bitter and with only a merest whiff of cream sweetness working against what is otherwise the most mouth freshening experience. Oh yes they got the point with this one.

The citrus flavour is all orange and lemons (No, not the bells of Saint Clemens), with the body holding that very true. With that you also get a light wheat and hop tingle, that bleeds through into a quite dry finish.  For a bit of a surprise it lays on apple tartness which just makes it that touch more acidic and refreshing. Not to mention makes it that touch more interesting.

For the all important question, is it better that Mikkeller’s “Not Just Another Wit”? The answer is, well, no.  However the more reasonable abv on this one makes it a much more easy to drink beer. Combine that with the freshness and you have a great summer refresher of a beer, one you can have more than just the one of.

Set for thirst quenching sourness and flavour, dry yet sippable. A very easy to appreciate beer.

Background: I owe my sis massively for bringing these back from New Zealand.  This one was on from 1001 Beers You Must Try Before You Die (Incidentally does anyone else thing beers you should try books should top out at the one to two hundred mark, over five hundred and you’re just being indecisive.) Anyway, I’ve hit the heavily hopped beers from the selection already and I’m now onto the lighter coloured beers part of the set. I’m keeping the heavy and dark beers for the ends as I figure they will survive much better.  Definitely enjoying this little patch of the NZ beer scene so far. Annoyingly my Internet is playing up at the mo, so reviews and updates may be intermittent until I get an engineer in.

Kiuchi: Hitachino Nest: White Ale (Japan: Belgium Wit Beer: 5% ABV)

Visual: Light grain yellow. Slightly hazy. Short lived white head.

Nose: Fresh apple in tartness and slightly new apple sourness. White grapes. Banana candy sweets. As it warms distinct ginger becomes evident.

Body: Apples Fresh. Slight bitterness. Slight banana and cloves. Vanilla. Quite sweet but sharp. Slight ginger warmth.

Finish: Vanilla. Pepper and coriander. Waxy sheen. Ginger beer as it warms.

Conclusion:  Most beers change with chilling, but this one is more reactive than most. Even the slightest temperate changes seems to radically change the profile of the beer. Slightly chilled it is quite tart and slightly thin. It’s refreshing with apple tartness and vanilla tones.

At room temperature it is a livelier bugger. Ginger beer like with slight spicy fire. Less refreshing but more enjoyable aside from that. Even then the fresh and vanilla gives a sweet and slightly sharp backbone that means it hasn’t lost it’s core.

The sweetness is slightly more evident than a lot of the Belgium wits. Very vanilla style mixed with apple tartness.  Kinda mixed messages, the kind of contrast you get from biting on a toffee apple. The vanilla style seems quite similar to the TM 10 saison oddly enough. Its still somewhat refreshing if less so than the chilled diversion, and the ginger beer dryness does make it easy drinking. A nice wee mix.

Definitely a better beer warm,. Chilled is slightly too light, and reminds me of Baldin Isaac. Warm it is heavier and richer. Slightly disjointed but enjoyably so. A bit too much clashing to be in the best of beers but a worthwhile trip for a session drinking. The abv is just a but to high for a  full session beer, but flavour wise it is well set. Guess in a pich you could share a few bottles with mates quite enjoyably.
Background:  Drunk with friends, which gave the advantage of extra opinions on the beer, but also meant that I was distracted with conversation during the review. Hopefully the two cancel out.  I’ve tried quiet a few Hitachino Nest beers recently and they have been pretty good so far, if not quite showing the spark of wild experimentation most of the time.  Still as a fan of craft beer and Japan it’s always nice to give them a look over. Picked up from Brewdog’s guest beer section.

Huyghe: Florisgaarden: Wit Blanche (Belgium: Belgian Wit: 4.8% ABV)

Visual: Cloudy white streaking through a beer the colour of the inside of orange rind. A moderate sized loose white bubbled head.

Nose: Lemon Rind. Fresh. Wheat chaff and jiff lemon. Slight meringue.

Body:  Lemon curd on rye. Slightly sweet but not overly so. A bit like lightly sugared ring doughnuts. Light astringent touch. Some orange and pumpkin.

Finish: Jeff lemon and slight cream. White sugar. Slight drying teabags. Light bitterness. Feels slick on the tongue.

Conclusion: A very light touch to this beer. A shy wit one might say, if one was into very low quality punning.  It, like many of the wit biers, is easy drinking, but you get the feeling they were concentrating more on it as a base for the rest of their fruit beer range than as an impressive beer in itself.

It plays mainly with the usual lemon flavours, but does introduce and unexpected pumpkin like twist. The beer is certainly not terrible but very unimpressive compared to the superior wits that can be found on any Belgium beer menu,

It, like most wits, makes a good summer refresher, but even in that it does not excel. It doesn’t quite have the tart touch needed to really keep you coming back.

Ok, but not impressive.

Background: Florisgaarden are one of the easier set of Belgium beers to be found, oft in their fruit or chocolate infused varieties where they are set to appeal to people who are not usually beer drinkers. As well as the deeply odd chocolate beer I have also seen an apple beer in my time. Oft they are slightly over sweet, but this does not seem to harm their wide distribution.

Van Steenberge: Celis White (Belgium: Belgium Wit: 5% ABV)

Visual: Very pale hazy lemon juice with a  dash of mostly white head coving it. A few suds left as the head trails away.

Nose:  Mild lemon. Crisp wheat. Earthy turmeric touches. Crushed sesame seeds. Passion fruit intrudes as it warms.

Body:   Very fresh lemon curd. Whippy ice cream. Graceful wheat mixes with pineapple juice drink.  Passion fruit. Carrots. Occasionally very light strawberries.

Finish: Lemon meringue and cream. Quite dry. Passion fruit.

Conclusion: A wit beer of distinctive, if slightly confusing heritage, which is explored slightly in the background section. This beer cleaves very closely to the traditional wit beer style, somewhat unsurprisingly.

Very fresh and graceful, it has a nice balance of flavours, though does not push them to the fore as much as I prefer which occasionally resulted in a slightly thin main body.  This was the exception rather than the rule though, and it can bring a very nice citrus fresh shock if you ever let your guard down.

A pretty spot on interpretation of the classic style that shows a range of subtlety that the current Hoegaarden lacks, it does however seem slightly lacking since having Mikkeller’s not just another wit, though quite frankly they are trying to be very different beers.

Still a fine beer, and a memory of where the style came from.

Background: Pierre Celis, who was the original brewer of Hoegaarden developed Celis White in a Texas Brewery after being forced to sell his originally brewery in Belgium.   This beer from Belgium is supposedly the same recipe, which is allegedly the original Hoegaarden recipe. It is all very confusing.  Pierre Celis passed away earlier this year, so with the Texas take out of my reach, it seemed the closest thing I could get to raise in his honour.

Mikkeller: Not Just Another Wit (Denmark: Belgium Style Witbier: 7.6% ABV)

Visual: Very hazy in a mix of colours from dark lemon to a hazy apricot.  The body is shimmering in its hazy styling and sports a very solid cinnamon influenced off white head that has about an inch of froth bubbles within it. Some bubble suds are left as the beer descends.

Nose: Lemon. Cinnamon  on doughnuts. Pineapple and custard. Condensed cream or possibly vanilla ice cream. Orange peel. Lemon curd and peaches.

Body: Tingly orange fresh. Coriander and lemon.  Very citrus packed.  Wheat flavour and a lovely just slightly gripping texture to contrast the smooth flavours.  Lots of vanilla ice cream. A balanced hop bitter hidden underneath, subtly influencing the beer.

Finish: Lemon meringue. Peach and light bitterness. Wheat.

Conclusion: Oh wow. Definitely wow. This is how you do a wit bier. Fresh, full flavoured with almost an afterthought of hop bitterness just hinted at to give it a bit of spice.  The aroma rolls out of the glass, far more evident that most examples of the style, and brings a fresh and just slightly tart tantalising smell to lure you in.

When you get into the body the abv is evident in the punch it gives the flavour, not the burn of alcohol.  You know it has punch as it would be hard for a weaker body to sustain the flavour, but it does not otherwise give a hint of the alcohol.

The craft influence is cleverly restrained, with light hints of the hop style and pineapple and peach hop character.  It just adds that fresh touch. Instead of pushing the craft style where it would overpower the original elements they instead turn the traditional style up to 11 and it works fantastically.

Really refreshing, amazing to share and packed with fruit flavour. A gem and masterpiece of a beer.

Background: Picked up from Brewdog’s guest beer section.  As always Mikkeller is a big draw for me, being one of the early craft brewers I encountered. Mikkeller do not have a brewery of their own, doing all their work at other breweries.  Mikkeller refer to it as an Imperial Wit and I would find it hard to disagree.  The beer has been spiced with coriander seeds and orange peel.

Roman: Mater: Wit Bier (Belgium: Belgium Wit: 5% ABV)

Visual: Hazy lemon coloured body with a white bubbled head.

Nose: Pancakes with sugar and jiff lemon.  Fresh. Slight herbal. Peppermint, meringue and carrot.

Body: Dry wheat, carrot, bitter back.  Slight sourness. Milk. Lemon. Grape and white bread. Turmeric.

Finish: Dry. Potatoes and carrot. Still lemony. Coriander.

Conclusion: A quite snugly packed set of flavours in a small package. This 25cl bottle comes in dry and refreshing, again showing the carrot and similar flavours that I first noticed in wit beers with Ezel wit, and have noticed with increased regularity since then.

This has wine dryness alongside the distinctive whit bier slightly wheat character combined with a slight down to earth spice. Not forceful, quite relaxing and good for a hot day.

A summers day session beer from Belgium. Not the showiest beer, but will taste good enough as you quench a hot days thirst.

Background: One of the beers from Michael Jackson’s 500 Great Beers.  Drunk when I wanted something quite light on the abv on a warm summers day.

Bavik: Ezel Wit (Belgium: Belgian Wit: 5.8% ABV)

Visual: Light but cloudy, like a mix between lemon and grapefruit juice. Half an inch of white head.

Nose: Slightly musty, lemon curd. Carrot (maybe I’m being influenced by the picture) Meringue. Fresh apples. Ok definitely carrots.

Body:  Fresh. Apples, carrots, light coriander. Quite smooth texture with a touch of wheat and hops at the back Cooked potato skins. Citrus. Slight cream. Slightly vinous on front of tongue.

Finish: Carrots again. Dry potatoes. Wheat grain and lime.

Conclusion: A nicely balanced witbbier. Its got all the citrus style, but with a subtle fruit and veg influence that grounds it well. (though I’m still not 100% sure that those carrot tastes aren’t psychosomatic).

It all makes for a sturdy base wit, its grounded nature may not win awards from me, but it definitely puts it above a lot of the overly sweet and simple takes that come from more mainstream breweries.

Feels like a beer to go with a solid wholemeal sandwich, maybe a BLT, or a salad. It’s just that kind of beer. Not fancy but complements well the rustic food stuff.

Background: This beer seems to have gone through several versions, with the earlier version being a couple of percent higher in ABV. Best I can tell the donkey imagery seems to be linked to a local town in which it’s brewed though I couldn’t tell you more than that.

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