Having just finished mowing the grass for the first time this year, I think it’s only fitting that we introduce a style normally associated with warmer weather- Witbier, or Belgian White. It’s one of my favorite styles to enjoy in summer, as it is light and refreshing…otherwise known as the opposite of everything I reviewed in the months of November-February…
Witbier and Hefeweizen (aka Weizenbier aka Weissbier) account for the majority of “wheat beer” produced today, with lesser known sour wheat varieties being Lambic, Berliner Weisse, and Gose. Whereas Hefeweizen is normally associated with Germany, Witbier is associated with Belgium. The name Witbier, or White Beer comes from the presence of suspended yeast and wheat proteins, which give it a hazy, sometimes white color. It is traditionally flavored with a spice blend called “gruit,” which commonly includes orange peel, coriander, and (less traditionally) hops.
Popular examples of the style that you may be familiar with are Blue Moon and Shocktop Belgian White in the domestic market, and Hoegaarden on the import side. Hoegaarden is a perfect visual example of the name “white beer,” while the most popular U.S. examples are normally orange in color, presumably due to the large amount of orange/orange peel used in the brewing process.
Style: Belgian White (Witbier)
Produced by: Dogfish Head Brewery, Milton, Delaware, USA
From Dogfish Head:
A Belgian-style White made with dried organic orange slices, fresh cut lemongrass and a bit of coriander. This beer will be a great summer quencher. Namaste was brewed with Leo from Birra del Borgo in Italy as a tribute to our friends at 3 Fonteinen brewery in Belgium, who recently had devastating production loss (1/3 of their annual production!) at their brewery.
Appearance – 4.5
Glassware – Libbey 16-Ounce Midtown Pilsner Glass
There is enough carbonation here that it doesn’t take too much effort to raise an inch think, bright white head. It sticks to the walls of the glass heavily as the head recedes to a thin layer over several minutes. It’s made up of small to large size bubbles, and is refreshed with tons of bubbles that form small at the bottom of the glass, and rise up growing is size until they reach the top. Now, I’ve noticed this effect many times before, but this time, it’s a bit different.
This Wibier is unfiltered, so there’s a fair amount of sediment left in the bottle (and glass). That sediment, mostly yeast particles, are what make the beverage cloudy. In this case they also serve to show you how strong the force of the rising bubbles is, as it is strong enough to keep the yeast particles consonantly circulating up through the center up the glass, and then down the sides once they reach the top. I suppose this happens with most beers, but you don’t normally get to observe it so clearly. Notice all of the sediment in the picture below:
Aroma – 3.5
The aroma is surprisingly reserved. For some reviews, I can pretty much complete this section without moving the glass closer, as the aromas practically fill the room. But that is not the case here. Closer inspection reveals the expected banana bread and typical Belgian yeast aromas. In general it smells much more lemon citrus compared to Blue Moon or Shocktop, which are much more Orange forward, though it carries the same coriander aroma as they all do.
Let’s get in even closer and see if we can discover anything more unusual. No. I can’t. I know the bottle says “orange slices, lemongrass, and peppercorns,” but I can’t distinguish any of those aromas specifically (aside from the previously mentioned citrus aroma). Let’s see if any of these flavors are more prominent in the taste…I’m tired of not drinking it yet anyway.
Taste – 8.0
The previous question is answered immediately with your first taste. Your first impressions are lemon/orange zest of the tangy-almost but not quite bitter variety, and a noticeable lemongrass finish. Like the aroma, the flavors are mild, straightforward, and are well balanced. It’s actually been quite a while since I’ve had a Blue Moon (which is notable considering it used to be one of my favorite mainstreams), but I can say with confidence that this is faaaar less sweet compared to that. This is like the savory lemon chicken dish, where blue moon is the orange sherbert… Or something.
That’s not a bad thing, as less sweetness is often desired when the temperatures rise, and when people drink more often because they actually need to hydrate, rather than just for recreation. I think the almost bitter, but not description is accurate. There really is no lasting aftertaste at all…just a thirst for more!
With respect to the peppercorns…I don’t get them. Maybe I’m confusing them with the mild corriander flavor that I am used to in beers of this style, or maybe the pepper flavor is contributing to the almost bitterness, but there is certainly no spiciness that often follows.
Palate – 4.0
Namaste is built for summer. It is light to medium in body, heavy in carbonation, low on alcohol, and refreshingly drinkable. The flavors are on the mild side, so I doubt you would get tired of this after just one glass.
After waiting a while to review this (I’ve tried every night this week, but something has always come up), I finally get why this is popularly reviewed highly: it’s well balanced, light, and with basic flavors that almost everyone would enjoy. I daresay many people turned off by the flavors of typical lite beers might enjoy this a lot, it’s that mild.
So there you go. Looking for a mild-mannered but totally summer beer a level above your ordinary ale? I suggest giving this a shot. But don’t just buy one like I did…
Score (out of 5): 4.0