White Beer: Exploring the Unique World of Wheat Ales

White beer, also known as witbier, is a unique and refreshing style of wheat beer that has its origins in Belgium. This unfiltered, top-fermented beverage is characterized by its pale and cloudy appearance, resulting from the high level of wheat and sometimes oats used in the brewing process. Frequently spiced with coriander and orange peel, white beers offer a delightful combination of flavors that set them apart from other beer varieties.

The low-alcohol and lightly carbonated nature of white beers make them an ideal choice for those seeking a crisp, easy-drinking option that still offers complexity and depth. Traditional recipes for white beer often include minimal hop content, keeping bitterness low and allowing the distinct characteristics of the wheat and added spices to shine through. This balanced flavor profile has made white beers a popular choice among beer enthusiasts looking for a refreshing and nuanced alternative to mainstream beer styles.

Some well-recognized examples of white beers include the Allagash White, which includes coriander and Curaçao orange peel, and The Nest White Ale Witbier, which boasts elements of nutmeg, coriander, and citrus zest. As a versatile and enjoyable style of beer, white beers continue to attract a growing fan base that appreciates their refreshing, flavorful qualities.

What is White Beer?

White beer, also known as Witbier or “white ale,” is an unfiltered, top-fermented wheat beer originating from Belgium. Due to its high wheat content, white beer typically has a pale and cloudy appearance when compared to other beer styles. It is known for having a low bitterness, as it contains few hops in its brewing process.

One of the defining characteristics of white beer is its unique flavor profile, which often includes a mix of spices, herbs, and fruit peels. Some traditional ingredients found in white beer include coriander, Curaçao orange peel, and occasionally, other spices or herbs. This combination of ingredients lends a refreshing and slightly citrusy flavor to the beer.

White beer is commonly associated with Belgian towns like Leuven and Hoegaarden, where it has a long history and strong brewing tradition. Due to its mild alcohol content and refreshing taste, white beer is often enjoyed during warmer months or as a thirst-quenching option on social occasions.

History of White Beer


White beer, sometimes also referred to as bière blanche, has its roots in the Middle Ages, originating from the Flemish region of Belgium. The availability of cereal grains from farms and spices from the Netherlands provided brewers with the necessary ingredients for this distinct style of beer. It is a blend of barley and wheat in its brewing process and is top-fermented, giving it a hazy or white appearance when cold due to suspended yeast and wheat proteins.

Evolution Over Time

Although white beer remained popular for centuries, its popularity began to wane in the early 1900s due in part to the rise of golden lagers. The low point in the history of white beer occurred in the 1950s, when the last active white beer brewery in Hoegaarden, Belgium closed its doors. However, the revival of this beer style can be attributed to Pierre Celis, who successfully resurrected the witbier tradition in the mid-20th century.

Modern white beers like witbier and Weissbier are now made with malted or unmalted wheat, giving each variation its own distinct character (Prague Beer Garden). Flavors in witbier are typically enhanced with ingredients such as Curaçao orange peel, coriander, and other spices, further distinguishing it from other beer styles.


White beer, primarily produced in Belgium and the Netherlands, is known for its unique and refreshing attributes. In this section, we’ll discuss its appearance, flavor, and aroma.


White beers, are light in color, unfiltered, and top-fermented. The cloudiness of these beers comes from the suspended yeast and wheat proteins. When poured, white beers create a crisp white head that adds to their visual appeal. The color of this beer ranges from pale straw to golden hues. Although it may vary based on specific recipes and brewing techniques, white beer typically presents a hazy or cloudy appearance.


The flavor profile of white beer encompasses a refreshing balance of spices and fruity notes. This distinctive taste is achieved by incorporating spices like coriander and citrus peel, often from oranges. Despite its full-bodied texture, white beer remains thirst-quenching and enjoyable to drink. As an example, many white beers offers a fruity yet spicy flavor that sets them apart from other wheat beers.


Aroma is an essential characteristic of white beer, contributing to its overall appeal. These beers often exhibit a tart, fragrant scent thanks to the combination of wheat, yeast, and the spices used in brewing. Additionally, white beers often display citrusy and floral notes due to the presence of orange peel and coriander. The fresh, spicy, and fruity aromas make white beers an inviting and appetizing choice.

Main Ingredients

White beer is a unique style that is defined by its specific combination of ingredients. In this section, we will discuss the main ingredients used in white beer production: wheat, hops, yeast, and water.


Wheat is one of the key ingredients in white beer. Replacing part of the traditional barley with wheat contributes to the beer’s light and creamy body. Wheat also enables the beer to have a low hop bitterness, which is characteristic of this style. While barley is still used as the base malt, the combination of wheat and other grains adds a distinct character and flavor to the beer.


Hops are an essential ingredient in all beers, but white beers usually have fewer hops than other styles, resulting in a low bitterness. The milder hops allow the other flavors of the beer, such as the spices and yeast character, to shine through. Different varieties of hops can be used depending on the brewer’s preference, but overall, the hop content in white beer is typically low.


Yeast is responsible for fermenting the sugars in the beer, converting them into alcohol and CO2. The specific strain of yeast used in white beers contributes to the fruity and spicy esters that are common in this style. The yeast also helps create the characteristic haze and cloudiness found in unfiltered white beers, which is a result of the proteins and yeast remaining suspended in the beer.


Water makes up the majority of the beer’s content and plays a crucial role in defining the overall character of the final product. The mineral content in the water can affect the beer’s flavor, body, and overall mouthfeel. White beer requires a specific balance of minerals that complement the light, refreshing nature of the style.

Section 6: Brewing Process

White beer, also known as unfiltered, top-fermented wheat beer, is a popular style that employs a variety of brewing ingredients like unmalted wheat, oats, and spices, in addition to wheat, barley, and hops. Let’s take a closer look into the stages of the brewing process for white beer.


Mashing is the first step in brewing white beer, where the grist, or milled malt, is combined with water, also known as liquor in a vessel called a mash tun. This mixture is then heated to mashing temperature usually between 100°F up to 170°F, causing the enzymes to break down the starches and proteins in the malt.  In most cases, a mash out is performed.


After mashing, the liquid is first recirculated back over the grain bed a process referred to as vorluaf.  The grains are then rinsed in order to get all of the sugars into the wort (sparging) and then the liquid is drained and transferred to the boiling kettle. Hops are added to the boiling wort to provide bitterness, aroma, and flavor. For white beer, spices like coriander and orange peel may also be added during this stage for extra depth of flavor. The boiling process generally lasts around 60 to 90 minutes, depending on the recipe and beer style.


Once the wort has been boiled, it is cooled and transferred to a fermentation vessel, where yeast is added. White beer fermentation involves top-fermenting yeast strains that impart fruity and spicy flavors, which contribute to the beer’s unique character. Fermentation typically takes 1 to 3 weeks, depending on the yeast strain and temperature.


After fermentation is complete, the beer is conditioned for a duration of about two weeks to several months. During the conditioning phase, flavors mature and unwanted off-flavors are reduced, ensuring a smooth and balanced taste in the finished white beer.


Finally, once the white beer has been properly conditioned, it is packaged into bottles or kegs, and then carbonated, either naturally or with the addition of carbon dioxide. The packaging process must be done carefully to avoid contamination and maintain the beer’s quality.

Popular White Beer Brands

White beer, also known as Witbier or White Ale, is a style of Belgian beer characterized by its pale and cloudy appearance. It typically contains wheat in the grain bill, giving it a refreshing and crisp profile. Additionally, white beers are often brewed with spices like coriander, orange peel, and sometimes other herbs or spices. To help navigate this beer style, here are some popular white beer brands worth trying:

  • Witbier Belgian: Originating from Belgium, this classic white beer is known for its high wheat content, cloudy appearance, and spiced flavor profile.
  • The Nest White Ale Witbier: This refreshing white ale offers a perfect balance of nutmeg, coriander, and citrus zest, making it a great choice for those looking for a fresh and complex flavor.
  • Hitachino White Ale: Surprisingly, one of the best Belgian-style white ales comes from Japan. Hitachino offers a nutmeg flavor combined with traditional white ale ingredients, creating a unique and enjoyable taste experience.

When it comes to pairing white beers with food, they usually complement light dishes, such as salads, seafood, or chicken. The citrus and spice notes in the beer can enhance the flavors of these dishes, creating a delightful pairing.

With so many options available within the white beer category, exploring different brands and flavor profiles can lead to some exciting new discoveries for your taste buds. Remember to savor the unique characteristics of each brew and enjoy the refreshing flavors of these popular white beers.

Food Pairings

White beers, also known as witbiers or wheat beers, are known for their refreshing taste and citrusy, spicy notes. When it comes to pairing these beers with food, the goal should be to complement the beer’s unique flavors and textures.

Seafood dishes are an excellent choice for pairing with white beers. The lightness and subtle citrus flavors of the beer can provide a balance for seafood dishes, such as grilled shrimp, crab, or white fish. Additionally, white beers can complement the flavors of sushi and various shellfish plates.

Spicy foods such as Asian cuisine or Mexican dishes can also be delightfully paired with white beers. The beer’s fruity and spicy notes can help to enhance the flavors in these dishes, while its crisp and refreshing qualities can help to cool down the palate after each bite.

Light salads with vinaigrette dressings are another excellent choice for a white beer pairing. The crispness of the beer can cleanse the palate, making the flavors of the salad more pronounced.

When it comes to cheese pairings, consider soft, mild cheeses like goat cheese, brie, or Camembert to complement the beer’s lighter taste and texture.

Overall, when selecting dishes to pair with white beers, it is important to keep the flavors light and fresh. Avoid heavy, greasy dishes, as these can overwhelm the beer’s delicate taste and subtle nuances.

Last Call

White beer, a popular style mainly produced in Belgium and the Netherlands, is characterized by its unfiltered, top-fermented, and cloudy appearance. The haze in these beers can be attributed to remaining yeast and proteins, giving them a distinctive and refreshing taste.

Maintaining a low bitterness level, white beers often incorporate spices such as coriander and Curaçao orange peel to balance and enhance the flavors. This style of beer has a unique crispness and lightness, stemming from both its wheat content and the signature white head formed when poured.

In conclusion, white beer offers a refreshing and flavorful experience for beer enthusiasts. Its delicate balance of spices, low bitterness, and hazy appearance make it a go-to choice for those seeking a lighter, yet satisfying beer option.

P.S. Be sure to pick up your gift of Big Robb’s top 5 favorite beer recipes from his brewpub.  Details are on the side of the blog or at the bottom if you are on your phone.  Cheers!

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