Beer Fact Friday: Witbier

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Four Peaks White Ale, a Belgian-style witbier


The Belgian-born wheat ale known as “witbier” or simply “wit” is one of the most popular craft beer styles in America, but it wasn’t always so. Born in the Middle Ages, witbier nearly died out completely in the 1950s. It wasn’t until the mid-80s, when a man named Pierre Celis began brewing a beer called Hoegaarden, that the style was revived. 

What led to witbier’s rebirth? The style has several qualities that make it uniquely delightful to drink. First, just like the German wheat beer known as hefeweizen, witbier is brewed with a high percentage of wheat and is served unfiltered. (The Flemish “wit” in the beer’s name translates to “white,” describing the pale, cloudy appearance of the beer in a glass.) But whereas hefeweizen is made with only malted wheat, malted barley, and hops, witbier usually includes *un*malted wheat in the grain bill. 

Wits are also usually flavored with additional ingredients, such as citrus and spices. Orange peel and coriander (the spicy, dried seeds of the cilantro plant) are the most traditional additives, though brewers across the world have tooled with other ingredients to great success. 

Though Hoegaarden is still around, today the best-known wit in the U.S. is probably Blue Moon, brewed by Miller-Coors. Likely acting on advertising for this beer, bartenders will often garnish a glass of any wit with a slice of lemon or orange, though discerning drinkers who truly want to enjoy witbier’s zesty subtleties will ask for theirs sans-citrus.

The witbier we make is called, simply, White Ale, and is brewed coriander, orange peel, and Sonoran White Wheat grown right here in Arizona. (Shameless plug: Already love our White Ale and want to show it while giving back to struggling service industry workers? Grab a White Ale tee—all of the proceeds go to the One Fair Wage Emergency Coronavirus tipped and service worker relief fund.)

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