This type of beer, commonly called Witbier in Dutch, Biėre blanche in French and wheat beer in English, originated in the Flemish part of Belgium in the Middle Ages. Traditionally, it is made with a mixture of wheat and barley. Before hops became widely available in Europe, beers were flavored with a mixture of herbs called gruit. In the later years of the Middle Ages, hops were added to the gruit. That mixture continues today in most Belgian/Dutch white beers. (Article from Wikipedia: “Beer in Belgium”)
Today, numerous craft brewers in the United States offer their version of Witbier.
Witbier made its resurgence in the 1960’s due to one man’s efforts. His name: Pierre Celis. To read our story, “REMEMBERING PIERRE CELIS: A Classic beer Style Resurrected by a Legendary Brewer” click on the image below.
AROMA / BOUQUET:
Moderate sweetness (often with light notes of honey and/or vanilla) with light, grainy, spicy wheat aromatics, often with a bit of tartness. Moderate perfumy coriander, often with a complex herbal, spicy, or peppery note in the background. Moderate zesty, citrusy orangey fruitiness. A low spicy-herbal hop aroma is optional, but should never overpower the other characteristics. No diacetyl. Vegetal, celery-like, or ham-like aromas are inappropriate. Spices should blend in with fruity, floral and sweet aromas and should not be overly strong.
Very pale straw to very light gold in color. The beer will be very cloudy from starch haze and/or yeast, which gives it a milky, whitish-yellow appearance. Dense, white, moussy head. Head retention should be quite good.
FLAVOR / TASTE:
Pleasant sweetness (often with a honey and/or vanilla character) and a zesty, orange-citrusy fruitiness. Refreshingly crisp with a dry, often tart, finish. Can have a low wheat flavor. Optionally has a very light lactic-tasting sourness. Herbal-spicy flavors, which may include coriander and other spices, are common should be subtle and balanced, not overpowering. A spicy-earthy hop flavor is low to none, and if noticeable, never gets in the way of the spices. Hop bitterness is low to medium-low (as with a Hefeweizen), and doesn’t interfere with refreshing flavors of fruit and spice, nor does it persist into the finish. Bitterness from orange pith should not be present. Vegetal, celery-like, ham-like, or soapy flavors are inappropriate. No diacetyl.
MOUTHFEEL / PALATE:
Medium-light to medium body, often having a smoothness and light creaminess from unmalted wheat and the occasional oats. Despite body and creaminess, finishes dry and often a bit tart. Effervescent character from high carbonation. Refreshing, from carbonation, light acidity, and lack of bitterness in finish. No harshness or astringency from orange pith. Should not be overly dry and thin, nor should it be thick and heavy.
A refreshing, elegant, tasty, moderate-strength wheat-based ale.
RELATED WITBIER BREWVIEWS:
October 7, 2015: ST. BERNARDUS WIT
July 13, 2015: UNIBROUE’S ÉPHÉMÈRE PEAR
2014 CHRISTMAS BREWVIEW SPECIAL: UNIBROUE’S ÉPHÉMÈRE CRANBERRY
August 2014 Brewery of the Month (BOTM) Beer Review 1: ADELBERT’S BREWERY- NAKED NUN WIT
Witbier characteristic descriptives from 2008 BJCP (Beer Judge Certification Program) style guidelines. (http://www.bjcp.org)