Welcome to Thirsty Thursday, a weekly column where we pick a beer from our fridge and review it, because in a world where two new breweries launch every single week, sometimes we need some help sifting through all of the hops.
If you are anything like me, you are excited at the prospect of warm weather approaching and, more often than not, this pining for spring-like weather heavily factors into what beer I am drinking. So, when I was putzing around the beer store amidst a rare 65 degree mid-March day, I felt as though it was time to sip on something that makes me think warm weather and this week’s beer, at least in my mind, is a classic – I’ve had it dozens of times. When I’m not sure what to get, it’s an easy go-to. I even recommend it to beer novices when I see it on the menu.
I’m talking about Allagash Brewing Company’s White, a Belgian-style wheat beer.
Started in 1995 by Rob Tod, a former employee of Otter Creek Brewery, Allagash back then was a small 15-barrel brewing system but Tod wanted to start with just one beer – White. It’s unique style and taste made it a beer that the United States really hadn’t seen, at least brewed locally. Within just three years, the small Portland brewery was gaining traction all over Maine and it’s signature brew managed to take home a gold medal at the World Beer Cup. Today, Allagash produces upwards of 100,000 barrels of beer each year and although it now creates eight year-round efforts, White is still responsible for well over half of the company’s production and sales. And with good reason, as it’s won practically every major beer award in North America, from numerous medals at the Great American Beer Festival, World Beer Cup and a gold medal at the European Beer Star back in 2017. It’s certainly been rewarded for being a trailblazer.
Given the importance of this beer, there’s a wealth of information available online, with some explaining it’s contribution to the beer world and others noting its marketability. One thing is for sure, almost anything you want to know about this beer, you can find. White, which is available in a 12-ounce bottle and a fairly new 16-ounce pounder can, is 5.2 percent alcohol by volume and is best enjoyed within six months of bottling – my particular batch is from late January. It contains three different kinds of hops, Nugget, Crystal and Czech Saaz and a variety of spices like coriander and orange peel.
The look of White’s physical appearance is fairly simple. It’s a stubby bottle with a yellow themed label, featuring the brewery’s leaf logo with trees and a river flowing through it. The label ingeniously gives a pouring explanation for how to “Rouse Your Yeast” to get the most flavorful pour, making sure all the settled yeast makes it to the glass. It also gives drinkers complete details of the beer’s flavor, stating:
Balanced citrus and spice come from the coriander and Curacao orange peel in this hazy, Belgian-style wheat beer. We recommend gently rousing your beer’s yeast to experience its full potential.
When I popped the top off the bottle, I noticed a nice change of pace in the aroma, at least from the past several beers showcased. White has a farmhouse type of smell to it, mixing maybe just a hint of floral with the potency of lemongrass – it’s easy on almost any nose. The true defining characteristic with this light-bodied beer is definitely it’s look. It pours a straw color, looking more like lemonade than beer, it’s significantly more hazy than typical wheat beers and while there’s little head, the carbonation is solid.
This beer is refreshing. I cannot state that enough. It’s one of the most refreshing beers I have ever had and even though it’s good any time of year, I prefer it this time of year, or around a bonfire in early October. There’s a slight sweetness to the taste, yet I also notice a little of the lemongrass and perhaps even some of the spices – it’s a little difficult to distinguish. The end is smooth and that might be what makes this beer dangerously drinkable, because once you start it, you kind of want to finish it and move to the next one.
I have one knock on this beer, well, Allagash in general. I hate when companies sell their beer in 12-ounce four packs. I’m not entirely sure why, but just make it six like most others. And it’s not about the money in this instance because the quality makes it worth it. The four pack was just under $11, so make it like $16 and add two more beers. Maybe I should find the pounders. The average score for White on BeerAdvocate is a 4.16 and that’s pretty spot on, as I would score it an 8.5 out of 10. Sure that sounds a little high but this beer paved the way for much of the craft efforts we drink today and it’s so simple and so refreshing that it’s a stellar beer. There’s a reason I called it a classic.
Stay tuned for next week, because I might just try something from your favorite brewery.