Witbier is a refreshing, elegant, moderate strength wheat-based ale perfect for summer drinking.
A 400-year-old Belgian beer style that died out in the 1950’s and later revived by Hoegaarden, Witbier has been rebranded as white ale and has grown in popularity with modern craft brewers. The Belgian Witbier is unique because of its history of being brewed with ‘gruit’ rather than hops. Gruit was a concoction of herbs and spices to flavour and preserve the beer. Today the Witbier is brewed with some hops but is most often flavoured with orange peel and coriander. Witbier can appear very pale straw to light gold in colour. The wheat in this beer causes a white haziness and a dense white moussey head, hence the name Witbier, wit = white.
The aroma should have a malty sweetness, often with subtle notes of honey or vanilla. The coriander notes and the citrusy-orangey fruitiness should be moderate and any herbal – spicy hop aroma should never overpower the other characteristics.
A white ale should have a medium to light body with a smoothness and light creaminess coming from the use of unmalted wheat. The belgian yeast used in a white ale creates a distinctive flavour which is slightly sweeter and a smoother mouth-feel.
The flavour should be pleasantly malty and sweet with the zesty, orange-fruitiness and despite the creaminess should give a refreshingly crisp, dry, and often tart finish.
Pairing and Storing
Witbier tends to be fragile and doesn’t age well so is best-enjoyed young. It is a great beer for food pairing. Whit ale pairs well with most lighter meals or spicy dishes. For example, fish and chicken dishes, Thai and Vietnamese food, herb-infused soft cheeses or fruity desserts. It is also a great base to get more experimental if you are brewing it yourself. It provides a great background for further fruit additions or some asian ingredients like lemon grass or lime leaves.
If you’d like to sample a Witbier, Hoegaarden Witbier or Einstock White Ale are good commercial examples and a personal favourite is the Japanese Hitachino Nest White Ale which has some nutmeg used in addition to the standard orange peel and coriander resulting in a more flavourful and impactful beer.
Home Brew a Witbier
If you want to brew your own Witbier you can get a recipe pack here. If you’re a slightly more experienced brewer why not get creative by dry hopping with fresh raspberries, clementine or even some dried chamomile flowers.
If you’re new to home brewing you can buy a Home Brewtique starter kit which gives you everything you need to brew tasty beer easily at home and comes with a recipe pack of your choice.