We continue our summer blitz with another Commonwealth Witbier that may be flying under your radar. As part of my whirlwind tour these past few weeks, I made it down to visit Hamilton in my old stomping grounds in the 757. Such a visit would not have been complete without a stop by his new favorite bromantical spot, Virginia Beer Co. After years of planning these guys kicked off in ambitious style, and on Father’s Day no fewer than 10 beers were available to try (with others having just kicked), which is insane only a few months past a grand opening. Some were good, and a few were really good. This, predictably, was my favorite, and a “man can” of a growler was therefore snatched up for the trip home.
Wit & Measure, Virginia Beer Co. (Williamsburg, VA)
Witbier, 6.9% ABV, 17 IBU
Presentation: Growler pour into tulip.
Appearance: Pale yellow with only the slighest hazy pretense. No lattice and a swiftly dissolving head. VBC Head Brewer Jonathan Newman isn’t a fan of either the currently raging New England style or outright filtering his beers. Instead, they push for visual appeal by slowly treating the beer until it’s as clear as possible without losing any of the flavors that large bits of reside or sediment might provide.
Taste: Even though it may not look like one, this is a quintessential Belgian-style Witbier. Refreshing but evasive citrus on the nose is augmented by coriander zest in the body. If your nose hairs (or whatever the smelling equivalent of taste buds is called) guide you to orange as the citrus flavor, you’re approaching canine territory as orange peel is in fact the other adjunct (or added ingredient). A Blue Moon this is not, as even though the two share both the orange peel and coriander in common, VBC maintains all the refreshing notes indicative of Witbiers without allowing those adjuncts to dominate the palate. This allows a sort of symbiosis with the Amarillo Hops even if you never can really do more than tease out any resin or bitterness.
Mouth Feel: Fresh from the source, but that zest is from the process rather than any added CO2 in the presentation. It’s a very clean, efficient palate.
Overall: As much as it may feel blasphemous to sip on a Witbier that, visually at least, has more in common with a Pale Wheat Ale it doesn’t end up as straightforward as its appearance. In a way I don’t think that may be Jonathan’s point though – how we interact with our beer may have less to do with a certain universal visual appeal as how it sits on our nose or tongue, or the lingering finish. I would have thought the opposite of this line of thinking: in my mind at least, my first image of a beer is highly predictive of how much I may enjoy it. Blonde vs. Amber, clear vs. cloudy, saturation, and all the rest should matter more, but a beer like this is suggestive that maybe it’s not. So maybe if it smells like a Witbier, and tastes like a Witbier, and is as satisfying as a Witbier, it is a Witbier. And a mighty fine one at that.