People often ask about my favorite beer, and I’ve found I can’t answer that easily. It depends on the season, what I’m doing and what I’m eating. But there are several styles that I’m particularly fond. Belgian Wit is top-five. When I’m in the mood for a refreshing, easy drinking beer, I grab a Wit.
Belgian Wit (aka Witbier) is a 400-year-old Belgian wheat ale. In French speaking areas it’s referred to as Biere Blanche. The style faded after its height of popularity in the 1800s, but thankfully was revived in the 60s by Pierre Celis.
Wit simply means white, from it’s pale color, which may be enhanced by a haziness from the wheat and yeast. Wit beers should not be filtered. Wits are brewed with curacao orange peel, coriander and other secret spices. Pass a Wit under your nose, take a few quick sniffs and you’ll notice citrus, floral and peppery aromas. Take a drink and you’ll taste orange and floral flavors, and a light spiciness from the Belgian yeast. Wits have a very light body, are highly carbonated and usually finish dry and tart.
Wits are on the low end of all the quantitative beer specs with a SRM* (color) of 2-4 (for reference, Amber Ale is around 15 and a black Stout is pushing 40). Likewise bitterness and alcohol are low, coming in about 15 IBU* and 5% ABV*.
The oldest and most common example of a Wit is Hoegaarden White, from Belgium. Rekindled by Celis, the beer is now part of the AB-InBev family. It’s still a classic… pale yellow, with orange, lemon, coriander and grainy wheat flavors. A modern American Wit is Harpoon’s UFO. It’s darker than Hoegaarden, more of an orange color. The orange flavor is sweeter, but UFO finishes dry and with less spice than many Wits from Belgian. American Wits tend to be “softer” around the edges from their Belgian cousins, probably to appeal to broader American tastes.
Other examples to try are Blanche de Bruxelles, Wittekerke, Ommegang Witte, Avery White Rascal and Tennessee Brew Works Southern Wit. Allagash White is one is one of my favorites, I just wish they distributed in Tennessee. And there’s Blue Moon too, America’s favorite Wit style beer; whether they know it or not. Props to MillerCoors for converting Lite drinkers into craft beer fans. Blue Moon has been a gateway beer for millions of people.
Belgian Wit is light, crisp and citrusy, so you need to be careful to match intensity. Most foods will overpower this adorable little beer. Wit is an ideal match for salads, especially pairing nicely with light vinaigrette dressings. It can also go with lighter foods like mussels or salmon. Chicken works well too, but be careful with the type. Wit will be fantastic with lemon pepper chicken, but blindsided by BBQ or Buffalo chicken.
*Standard Reference Method
*International Bitterness Units
*Alcohol by Volume