My wife and I had enough time to do a blind taste test of 5 (American) Belgian-style Wit(white) beers.
Typically, your white beer is characterized as having the aroma of clove, banana, orange and peel, sometimes bubblegum, vanilla, or even cotton candy. Traditionally, German wit beers(Weissebier) are a mix of 50/50 malted barley and wheat. Belgian style is very similar but is derived from a gruit mash which had little or no hops at all. This has changed now, but the two evolved from very different places. Both styles are top fermented. The yeast tends to suspend in the liquid giving it a nice hazy look, while further fermenting in the bottle.
Thats all fine and dandy, but what about the beer?
Well, we were in for a treat. We blind tested 5 beers. Ranging from our personal favorite up to the more nationally available brand of things. Here were our contendors:
Angel City Eureka! Wit
Lost Abbey Witches Wit
Triple Voodoo Witopia
Avery Brewing White Rascal
A few things…
- We’d only previously had Angel City Eureka! of the five.
- We are big fans of Lost Abbey and Ommegang.
- Heard good things about Avery’s White Rascal.
- All beer was refrigerated for two days at the same temperature and served in a 5-oz taster.
Here’s how it went:
We each poured eachothers tasters. Sure, the color would give away some but being these were Witbiers we expected them to much less behave the same way. And that was part of the test. We’re these new tricks for old dogs or mere imitations of very long history of witbiers?
So, we drank them, one at a time from left to right and ranked each one. One through five. We compared notes and tallied our results, which were pretty unanimous:
(1 being the #1 and 5 being last place)
#5 – Triple Voodoo Witopia
The first thing we noticed was pine. Pine pine pine pine. My wife wrote down: “Lemon pledge? No… Pinesol…and pepper.”
My thoughts were equally deep and expressive: “Hoppy? And….pine?”
In my opinion, this beer should be stored until January, taken out of the cellar, affix a duct tape label on it, “Triple Voodoo
Witopia Holiday Surprise!” should be written on it and then consumed as a winter ale.
It wasn’t bad, just not a witbier as you think of them. Triple Voodoo describes it as earthy. That’s one way to put it.
#4 – Avery Brewing White Rascal
White Rascal was the most vanilla of the bunch. Not in flavor but just ok. It was less interesting than Witopia, but not engaging like Witopia. However, it was very belgian style. To us, it felt very formulaic. I certainly wouldn’t turn one down at a bar.
Typical citrus notes as well as nondescript fruitiness – berries, banana, Capri-sun, Jolly Rancher, etc… The beer was hazy. Low carbonation. This beer needs to be cold the entire time to avoid losing its edge.
#3 – Ommegang Witte
This witbier was very crisp out of the bottle. It had a very subtle sweetness. Like bubble-gum and simple syrup. A very small apple and citrus note as well. Medium carbonation and almost no head on our pours.
Witte started out very average but as time went on and we got to discover the beer it became much better. We both marveled at how the beer got better the more time we had with it, but we also hoped it would have kept impressing us. Instead, the beer went from good to great but never hit fantastic/amazing/holy moly-ness!
Not to say it wasn’t enjoyable, but it didn’t blow us away.
#2 – Angel City Eureka! Wit
Like states above. We love the Eureka! It’s the only belgian style of this bunch that we had tried before. It’s very crisp, clean. What I particularly enjoyed was that there is a very small subtle Southern California-ness hidden below a very obvious belgian style in the presence of a bit of hop flavor. Not a lot at all mind you, but just enough to say: “Hey, we’re still here.” Something lacking(for good reason) in the other beers. It had to be done just right, and that was in the Eureka!
Where the Eureka! scored 2nd place is that much like the Rascal, when this beer gets warmer it feels warm. I realize that sentence sounds like a no-brainer, but beersnobs will know what I mean. Warmer, it loses its crispness. And the crispness is what holds it all together for Eureka!
#1 – Lost Abbey Witches Wit
I love Lost Abbey beers. I first really learned about Lost Abbey from a special on some Discovery channel show. The owner or brewmaster(whichever, I cant remember) was showing how one of his ales was made and I was awestruck. This was enough inspiration to buy a couple despite the Devine Comedy-style artwork and naming convention.
This beer delivers. It was less hazy than some of the others but the flavors and mouthfeel were all very present. The carbonaton was perfect. The type that makes you want to drink and drink and drink.
Lost Abbey says about it on their website….a bunch of hocus pocus about lost souls and spirit dwellers… but at the very bottom of this witches tale that the beer has a toasted flavor due to the addition of flaked oats. Coriander, grapefruit zest and orange peel.
It’s truely a remarkable witbier. Go try it. Now.
Extraneous factors during this review:
1. Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows was on blu-ray
2. Our vegetable kabobs were hickory grilled.
3. The temperature was a nice 74 degrees out.
4. We used beer-bottle stoppers for the first time. They worked well enough.