Sunday, 4 March 2012

HEAD-TO-HEAD #4: Blanche de Namur (Brasserie du Bocq) vs. St. Bernardus Wit (Brouwerij St. Bernardus)


This one will be a battle of wit(bier)s.... I'll need my wits about me to review these beers...

I'll start with the weaker Blanche de Namur (BDN) ("White of Namur"). Pours an attractively milky, wan yellow with plain white head and decent level of fizz. Very fragrant nose full of lemon, lavender and lemongrass. Lemon & orange citrus factor up front in the taste, along with a hint of soapy wheat. The beer leaves a zesty, sherbert feeling on the tongue and features some delicate acidity. All flavours are in balance, none go over the top. This is one of the most thirst quenching beers I've tried.

Next, the St. Bernardus Wit (SBW). This one pours a much deeper, denser orange with very short-lasting white head. A more orangey and yeasty aroma than BDN. Quite strongly carbonated, despite the lack of head. Slightly more malty and bigger bodied than BDN; a higher alcohol and 'bigger' beer in general. White grapefruit & citrus notes up front plus pungent yeast due to careless pouring, oops (unlike German weissbiers, I think yeast is better left out of most witbiers). Again a slightly soapy but acidic finish with wheat flavours reminiscent of icing, cream and cookie dough.

Both of the above beers are award winning examples of witbiers. It is said that St. Bernardus Wit is the closest thing we have left to the original Hoegaarden, due to the influence of Pierre Celis in its creation. I guess Van Steenberge's 'Celis White' may argue that point though! I am tempted to say I prefer Blanche de Namur, due to a subtler character and more floral aroma, but there is little in it. The wheat used in the witbier ("white beer") style is often a mixture of malted and unmalted, to best convey the flavour of the cereal grain. Being Belgium, all sorts of adjuncts and/or flavourings may be used in the production of the beer; something forbidden in German weissbiers. Oats are often used in witbiers (not in these ones though) to enhance smoothness, body and to complement the flavour of the wheat.
  • MALTS: bdn = wheat & barley (MUNICH MALTS?)/ sbw= wheat & barley (MUNICH MALTS?)
  • HOPS: BDN = ? / SBW = ?
  • IBU: BDN = 12 / SBW = low
  • ABV: BDN = 4.5% / SBW = 5.5%

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