Essential Info

  • Color: Very pale yellow; cloudy
  • ABV: 4.5%-5.5%
  • Commercial Examples: Hoegaarden Wit Blanche, Allagash White, Hitachino White Nest Ale

Witbier was popular for centuries, but it was actually almost wiped out by the explosion of the lager style. One brewer, Pierre Celis of Hoegaarden, is responsible for bringing it back. A Belgian classic, Witbier actually means “white beer,” so-called because the finished product can have a slightly milky look and mouthfeel to it. Not that Witbier isn’t wheaty; by law it incorporates at least 50% of unmalted wheat (whereas a German Weissbier would use malted wheat). The resulting flavor profile retains some light grainy sweetness, with added coriander and bitter orange peel (brewers can also use other spices, including things like peppercorns, ginger, and grains of paradise, but orange and coriander are the classics). Oats are sometimes added to the malt to add silkiness to the mouthfeel, which is surprising for a beer that actually finishes pretty dry. (Some Witbiers might even get some tartness from the use of lactobacillus in fermentation.) Definitely a layered beer, with citrus, spice, ultra-low hops, and a surprisingly smooth mouthfeel. A style worth reviving, so thank you, Mr. Celis.