This type of beer is commonly referred to as witbier in Dutch, blanche in French and wheat beer in English. This beer originated in Flemish in Belgium in the middle ages and it is usually popular in the summer. This is because it has a slightly honeyed taste and high carbonation levels.
It was originally brewed in monasteries and was spiced with various flavorings which included coriander, orange peel and other spices or herbs. White ale is popular not only in Belgium but throughout the European continent and the world at large.
The initial brands were produced without hops but used spice blend called gruit in order to impart flavor to the brew. Some used equal proportions of barley and wheat as a substitute to the local grain. This imparted to the beer its crispness and slight twang characteristics. Technically, Belgian white beer is an ale; this is because it uses top-fermenting yeast and wheat particles which remain suspended in the final product giving it a pale cast when served cold.
The beer had a good reputation and many brewers produced it especially in Hoegaarden around the 18th century. But in the next century it was overtaken by lagers and hopped beers. In the 195os, there was no brewing of white beer but later in 1966 Pierre Celis revived the production of witbier. He used the techniques he learned as a boy in farming. In the 1990s Celis founded a brewery in Austin, Texas and introduced Belgian white beer to America.
White ale in character is usually compared to the German hefeweizen because of its fruity and slightly sweet taste. In modern production of white beer, hops are incorporated as they will help in imparting that bitter taste. But still the traditional spice blends are used for that characteristic original flavor. The drink is unique as it uses raw wheat instead of malted varieties. It has a pale straw color which is a result of the pale barley used. The beer has a thick head and silky body to compliment the smooth taste of the drink.
The Belgian white beer’s characteristic flavor, taste, and mouth feel is due to the various ingredients that are used in its production. Examples of white beer include: Celis white, Blanche de Namur and Watou’s Wit. The alcohol content of these beers varies from brand to brand. Commonly the alcohol content ranges from 5-6 percent ABV.
Here is an “incomplete” List of Popular Belgian White Ales:
1.) Belgoo Magus (6.6%)
2.) Blanche D’Ardenne (4.3%)
3.) Blanche de Bruxelles (4.5%)
4.) Blanche de Hainaut Biologique (5.5%)
5.) Blanche des Honnelles (6%)
6.) Blanche des Moines (4.5%)
7.) Blanche de Namur (4.5%)
8.) Blanche des Neiges (5%)
9.) Blanche des Saisis (5.9%)
10.) Brasserie de Brunehaut
11.) Brugs (4.8%)
12.) Brunehaut Blanche (5%)
13.) Dentergems Witbier (5%)
14.) Floris Wit-Blance (5%)
15.) Foret Blanche (5.5%)
16.) Hoegaarden Original White Ale (4.9%)
17.) Hoegaarden Grand Cru (8.7%)
18.) Hoegaarden Speciale (5.7%)
19.) Grimbergen Blanche (6%)
20.) La Grande Blanche (7.5%)
21.) St. Denise La Blanche (5%)
22.) Struise Witte (5%)
23.) Titje Blanche (4.7%)
24.) Troublette (5%)
25.) VlasKop (5.5%)
26.) Vuuve (5%)
27.) Witte Noire (7.5%)
28.) Wittekerke (5%)