Tuesday, April 3, 2012

NOT Hoegaarden

I had a pretty busy weekend so I didn’t get to post anything on Saturday and Sunday. I did, however, drink some terrific beer. Sunday is a day free from fasting during Lent, so I indulged in a couple beers that have been in my fridge for some time.

I picked up a couple of Belgian Witbier, and interestingly enough neither happened to be Hoegaarden. It’s been a while since I’ve done a side-by-side comparison, so I poured Blanche de Bruxelles and Wittekerke into a pair of balloon tulip glasses from their 11.2 ounce bottles.

Blanche de Bruxelles poured a hazy, grayish yellow with a lively off white head. Beautiful clinging lace lingered as the head fell down the sides of the glass. The Wittekerke was just a hint brighter in color without that sort of dull gray—wonderfully bright yellow with a craggy cap of foam. The head wasn’t as lively as the Blanche de Bruxelles and it fell faster into a thin layer of bubbles around the sides of the glass.

For beers of the same style, the aroma and flavor could not be further apart. While it is true that the brewers employ many of the same ingredients, it is the use of the traditional coriander and orange peel that sets these beers apart.

The Blanche de Bruxelles was quite perfumy with a big dose of coriander in the nose with hints of orange lingering. The Wittekerke was altogether more subtle in aroma, with just a whisper of spice. The citrusy nature of Wittekerke was also well incorporated with more of a hop presence in the aroma. I also detected a hint of honey (although none is used in brewing) and a lemony tartness in the aroma from Wittekerke.

Both beers were both quite far apart in flavor as well with the more robust spiciness of the Blanche de Bruxelles dancing around the palate and the more mildly assertive hoppiness of the Wittekerke playing through to the finish.

It’s great to compare these two beers side-by-side. It exhibits the range that Belgian beers can have even within the same style parameters. If I were to award a winner of the taste test it would have to be the Wittekerke with its subtle spicing, refreshing tartness and aromatic hoppiness. While I did not prefer the Blanche de Bruxelles, it certainly had plenty of character with an abundance of spice and citrus and lively effervescence. Both beers would prove to be wonderful refreshers on a warm summer day and a great companion to seafood and other light fare.

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