pairing.profile: Witbier

General description and suggestion:  Witbiers are one of the oldest beer styles in Europe, nearly 500 years old.  This style would have became another casualty of the lite pale lager invasion if not for the efforts of Pierre Celis who brought the beer style back from the brink of extinction with the popular Hoegaarden.  Since then witbiers have become popular in the US with many brewpubs and microbreweries because they are a pale lager substitute in brewpubs that many “Budmilloors”  drinkers can tolerate.  However, expertly crafted witbiers are a thing of complex beauty to behold and drink.

Witbiers should pour a pale straw color and depending on how long it has been in the bottle or how it is poured it may be quite cloudy.  A common misconception is that the yeast causes this cloudiness and while there is some yeast in suspension the majority of the cloudiness is caused by wheat starch.  These will also pour with a thick, frothy head.

Witbiers are a medium-light bodied beer with light sweetness – reminds me of a delicate honey.  The beer’s sweetness is usually balanced by spices (generally coriander but others may be used), dried bitter orange peal as well as earthy spicy flavors produced by the yeast and hops.  Did you notice the bitter orange peal?  Orange-citrus flavoring has already been added to the beer, with careful consideration to the beer’s balance I might add, so there is no reason for that orange or lemon wedge on the rim of your glass.  Unfortunately these wedges have become standard accompaniments for witbiers thanks to advertising campaigns by Shocktop and Blue Moon. In fact, if you squeeze that citrus wedge into your beer it not only knocks the beer out of balance but it also kills that beautiful head.  So be sure to order your next witbier, “NFO” or “NFL” (No “effing” Orange or Lemon)!

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