Posted by: Michael | 14 January 2009

Brew Review #5 – Hoegaarden Witbier

Today’s review is of a Belgian classic, Hoegaarden Witbier. I’ll give you the links up front – Hoegaarden now has an official site in English.

Let’s begin with a shot of the beer and its appropriate glass, the gigantic Hoegaarden piece:

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I really like this bottle for its rather pretty simplicity.

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The ring around the neck reads “Anno 1445” and then “Unfiltered, Naturally Cloudy” in what I’m guessing is Belgian, English, and French. The main label features “Hoegaarden,” with “witbier-biére blanche” underneath. The bottom of the label reads “Wheat beer brewed with spices / Origineel Belgisch Witbier.” The top half of the label is circumscribed with “The Original Belgian White Beer-Bière Blanche Belge Originale.” I especially like the little logo on the label, of (what appears to be) a farmer’s hand holding a spade and a bishop’s hand, forearm clad in maniple, holding a crosier. This is also embossed on the neck itself.

The back label tells us “A delicious and surprising refreshing taste, naturally cloudy and brewed using a unique recipe of wheat, malted barley and a subtle hint of coriander and orange peel.” It’s brewed and bottled for N.V. Br. Hoegaarden S.A., Altenaken 7, B-3320 Hoegaarden Belgium. I also love this label for its instructions – I like a beer that tells you how to pour it properly.

Here’s the pour. I apologize for the quality and size – my camera ran out of battery right before this shot, so I switched to the Blackberry:

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It’s got a straw-coloured and cloudy appearance (we were told it would), with a decent head on it. It smells nice and hoppy on the nose, but that’s about it. I dove right into the first sip.

The Hoegaarden has a nice mouthfeel – bubbly, but not overly so, and not too heavy. I liken it to a heavy champagne feel. It was sweet on the swallow, and the aftertaste was the same until about a minute later when it turned bitter. I caught a distinct flavour of fruit, although it wasn’t orange I have to admit. After the sip, the head dissipated to about 1/8 inch.

Here’s the kicker: the flavour didn’t change after that first sip. I didn’t find any improvement or backsliding, and even the head stayed about the same. I took about 20 minutes to drink this beer, and throughout the experience I didn’t find any development. I think this would be fine if Hoegaarden was outstanding, but I don’t think it is. I was slightly disappointed – I had hoped it would develop more through the session. This may be an issue of white beers and my own taste, but I finished the beer without being too impressed. I expected more out of it, to be honest. I can only rate this a C+, maybe a B-, for its lack of outright flaws. It’s fine if you’re going to have a few with friends who don’t like anything heavier or more flavourful, but it’s nothing to get too excited over.

The receipt I was using to keep track of prices has faded away, but I can tell you I found this beer at Big Red Liquors in Bloomington at less than $3.00 for an 11.2 fl. oz. bottle. Try it out, see how you like it – you may taste something totally different from me!

Don’t forget – alcohol is meant to be enjoyed, but it can hurt you and those around you. Drink responsibly – buzzed driving is drunk driving, too. Enjoy your fine brews in moderation, and don’t be afraid to know when it’s time to stop. As they say over at Beer Advocate – Respect Beer!

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Responses

  1. 20 minutes huh….well we have to take into account you are an American :-)

    I think it’s a fair review Michael – it’s not to everyone’s taste. The thing I always find (when not using the official glass, and do people have different glasses for different beers?) is that this is a beer that is really hard to pour without an enormous head. A bit is OK, but not half the glass!

  2. […] we begin with a shot of the bottle and the glass I used to drink it. I thought the Hoegaarden Witbier glass was huge; check out this Spaten monster of a stein. It’s got large dimples all over […]


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