Beer Styles Defined

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Part One: Keeping Your Wits About You

Practically everybody knows what an amber or an IPA are. But what about all those really unusual beer styles that we get in at Bailey’s from time to time? Ya know… the beers that are a strange color or have funny names or just taste… different? What are these beers, how are they made, and most importantly, will you like them?

For our first entry, let’s talk about Witbier aka White Ales. We’ve got one on tap right now from the Portland brewery Captured by Porches. It’s a solid version of the style and a lot of folks are digging it right after they get past their initial confusion over the name.

A Witbier is, essentially, the Belgian version of the German Hefeweizen. If you like Hefeweizens, you’ll probably like White Ales too. Both styles use a fair amount of wheat in the recipe instead of all barley, which helps impart a lighter taste and adds to the creaminess and head retention of the beer. But where a Hefeweizen has a strong banana taste, a white ale goes for the citrus notes instead, with coriander and orange being the most dominant flavors. The Belgian yeast strain is another factor in the difference, adding just a little hint of sourness and hanging around unfiltered to give the style its characteristic whitish yellow color.

White ales are great beers for the spring or summer. They’re light, refreshing, and relatively low in alcohol. If you’ve ever had a Blue Moon before, you’ve had a pseudo-white ale, a dumbed down version of the style brought to you by the same geniuses who invented Coors Light and ZIMA. Much better is the traditional Hoegaarden, or American craft versions like Allagash White, Celis White, Southampton Double White, and of course, our hometown Captured by Porches Wit.

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