To follow up with a brief history on Belgian white wheat beers, here is one on two other beers we have just brought in.
First, the Saison, Ithaca Ground Break Americanized Saison (from NY)
Saison, French for “Season,” originated as a homebrew in Wallonia, Belgium. It was brewed typically by the French speaking population there in a similar manner to biere de garde, which are beers made to be aged and perhaps a topic for another day. Saisons were brewed in the Spring to last until the Summer (remember, no refrigeration yet!) and so its characteristics are refreshing and with a medium body. The beers were hopped more heavily and had a higher alcohol to help in their preservation. It typically has a mild malt taste to it, allowing the yeast, hops, and other additives to shine. It has fruity notes from the yeast, especially apricot, and is very thirst quenching. This one is “americanized” meaning it has stronger hop characteristics.
Stouts, Sly Fox O’Reilly Irish (Dry) Stout (from PA)
Stouts started as porters, which are dark ales. The malts were roasted longer which created the darker colors and the burnt/coffee/chocolate taste. They where called stout porters, stout meaning “strong,” reflecting a higher ABV and the other style in the area, the pale ale. This style hails from London and the name porter was actually after the river porters who would commonly drink the stuff. At first, stout and porter were used with the same meaning, but over time, stout began to refer only to the darkest of porters until they are known only as stouts today. If you have never had a saison, I would recommend this one to start.
There are many styles of stouts, Irish stouts being more dry and a lower ABV, Baltic stouts have a higher ABV and use a lager yeast, Imperial stouts are high in ABV, and Milk stouts have the addition of lactic acid, making them sweet and creamier. There are many others, oatmeals stouts, coffee stouts, chocolate stouts…. the list goes on.
Quick side note because I like the story, Imperial stouts, or Imperial Russian stouts, came from a request from Catherine the Great to have some brown ales sent to her from an English Brewery. However, due to the cold, it would freeze before arriving. The solution? Higher alcohol levels!
This particular style has some hop notes to it, which lighten the overall body of the stout, making it more drinkable. With a 3.8% ABV, it is very much sessionable! Notes of chocolate and coffee abound and end with a slight bitterness from the hops. Definitely worth trying if you like the world renowned Guinness or Murphy’s.
That’s all for now! -Kevin
We have just brought in Harpoon Brewing’s UFO (Unfiltered Object) White ale on draft. This is a Belgian-style white ale, a style of beer that was started by the famous Hoegaarden Brewery in 1445.
Harpoon brings to it the idea of unfiltered beer, creating a hazy look but it has more nutrients (flavonoids and polyphenols due to the wheat) and a variety of flavors that would be lost due to filtration. They also use several spices that are traditional to the style and some that set them apart.
Traditionally, there is a particular debate amongst beer drinkers of this style, fruit or no fruit. Some say all witbeers like this need a slice of orange in them, others say no way, no fruit in my beer. The orange or lemon was originally added to help offset the taste of the yeast in the beer with its citric acid, since Belgian beers tend to be a bit more yeast forward than other brewing nations. Some say the tradition was originally a lemon, and was added in some German bars about 25 years ago, who prefer the crisper lagers than the yeasty ales.
The traditionally used Belgian yeast creates a citrus note already in the beer, and this is especially noteable in Harpoon’s white. Oh and adding the fruit instantly destroys the head of the beer, which is where most of the volatile molecules that contribute directly to our sense of smell are located… In other words, I would love for you to try it without the fruit first.
For me, I will pass on the orange because I love the yeasty notes offered by beer and think it has enough citrus in it to make it very drinkable and thirst-quenching, but to those who need the orange, we will have plenty waiting for you!