It's a tough job. Over the last month I assembled this collection of Belgian white beers which are cloudy wheat based ales flavoured with dried orange peel, corriander seed and other traditional spices. It is the best form of beer that perhaps reflects what beer might have been like 400 years ago. The four beers are made (from left to right) in Belgium, New York state, Quebec and Belgium and if you click on the name in the title for the picture above you will find the Beer Advocate reviews for each.
Left to right: Hoegaarden, Ommegang, Unibroue Blanch de Chambley, Brussels White
Not content to read about what people thought I decided to rate them each myself in an entirely scientific process:
- Hoegaarden - this is a beer you can pick up in a six for about $11.00 CND at the Beer Store in Ontario. It is mass manufactured, available everywhere but pretty loyal to the original revival of the style. In fact if this beer had not been saved some years ago the entire style may have been lost. It is the standard, yellow and cloudy, retains a good head and has the most pronounced orangey flavour but it is a subtle difference.
- Ommegang - This rural micro-brewery sits a few miles west of Cooperstown NY. It is the least citrusy and freshest tasting, I suppose something I should expect as I bought it at the brewery. It has a nice rocky head that for me is indicative of home style ales. There is something sweet about it in the US micro style that makes me think that it may have a small amount of corn in the mash. At about $9.00 CND for a 750 ml it is the most expensive. I have had both of Ommegang's "dubble" and "quadrubble" and enjoyed them but, compared to Unibroue or Chimay products, they are too hoppy. These beers, the homebrew guides tell us, should be massively malty with two year old hops drained of all their biting acids.
- Blanche de Chambly - The Canadian entry from Quebec's Unibroue is again available at the Beer Store in Ontario for about $11.00 CND a six pack. It is the least yellow, has a great head. It is a little more lemony than orangey and a bit drier in the Canadian style of ales of having graininess as a pronounced flavour. I have never met a Unibroue ale I have not admired greatly.
- Belgian White - it is a bad thing when the first thing you think of when you sip an ale is minwax furniture polish. Sorry Brouwerij Sint-Jozef. The citrus flavour was like a lemon drop, a yellow lollypop. Gak compared to the rest. It is also the least cloudy and only a skim of yeast at the end of the bottle. The cap was a bit rusty on the edge so it may have been an old bottle but I can't imagine that caused the lemon drop thing. Put this beer down and walk away backwards slowly. At $2.35 CDN for one 330 ml bottle, it is far more expensive than the Hoegaarden and Blanch de Chambly and far worse.