Belgium's Great Beers
Understanding the beer styles
The best-known Belgian Witbier or Bière Blanche is the principal product from Hoegaarden, a small town in a wheat-growing region east of Brussels and Leuven. The Hoegaarden beer, which in the 1960s revived a traditional style of the region, has inspired many other examples throughout Belgium. This style is usually made from equal portions of raw wheat and malted barley, spiced with ground coriander seeds and dried Curaćao orange peels, and fermented with a fairly conventional yeast. The fruitiness imparted by the wheat, sometimes with suggestions of plum, apple or banana, melds well with the orange and coriander. Beers in this style, usually with a conventional alcohol content, are regarded especially as a summertime refresher, though they also make a good accompaniment to fruity desserts. They are typically served in chunky tumblers. Wheat beers are identified as being "white" in several brewing nations. The designation may refer to the pale head formed during fermentation, or to the fact that these beers are often unfiltered, and therefore hazy. Wheat beers can be filtered, but less easily than those made from barley malt.
Good examples: Hoegaarden itself, the creamy Limbursge Witte, the honeyish-tasting Brugs Tarwebier, the cinnamon-spiced Steendonk, the Lambic-based Witte (two t's), from Timmermans, and Wittekerke Wit, smoothened with oats. The last is named after a Flemish tv soap-opera.
Variations on the theme:
Restaurant in the producing region: The Hoegaarden brewery, in restored buildings variously dating from the 1500s, 1750s and 1830s, has on site its own public restaurant, offering the full range of its beers, and dishes prepared with them: Het Kouterhof, 24 Stoopkensstraat, Hoegaarden, (Fri-Sun.11am-11pm, rest of the week 11am-8pm) tel 016-767433.