Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Have Your Wits About You: Alaskan White Ale

As you are no doubt aware (or maybe you aren't aware, I sometimes forget whether people know these things or not), Alaskan Brewing Company has entered Wisconsin. The opening salvo consists of product staples Amber and White (Red and White? In Wisconsin? Coincidence? Probably.).

First up is the Alaskan White, a hazy wheat beer spiced with orange peel and coriander. The style ranges from dry and crisp (Wittekerke) to malty and heavily spiced (Great Lakes Holy Moses). The classic for the style is, of course, Hoegaarden [ed note: Hoegaarden is NOT pronounced "Ho Garden", it is properly pronounced "Who KHarden"]. Here in Wisconsin it is not a terribly popular style: Tyranena, Potosi, and Vintage [ed note: Vintage made theirs based on votes here at MBR!] are the only ones I know of that make one consistently.

I don't know about you, but wheat beers, and witbiers in particular, are a mixed bag for me. I love some of them but dislike others. I definitely prefer the dryer, crisper versions; though the more heavily spiced can be OK if the carbonation is high enough. Some, though, can be unbearably spiced and fruity and the wheat can often take on a musty quality; the especially fruity versions can be cloyingly sweet.

The BJCP classifies witbier in Class 16a and has this to say about the flavor profile of the style:
Pleasant sweetness (often with a honey and/or vanilla character) and a zesty, orange-citrusy fruitiness. Refreshingly crisp with a dry, often tart, finish. Can have a low wheat flavor. Optionally has a very light lactic-tasting sourness. Herbal-spicy flavors, which may include coriander and other spices, are common should be subtle and balanced, not overpowering. A spicy-earthy hop flavor is low to none, and if noticeable, never gets in the way of the spices. Hop bitterness is low to medium-low (as with a Hefeweizen), and doesn’t interfere with refreshing flavors of fruit and spice, nor does it persist into the finish. Bitterness from orange pith should not be present. Vegetal, celery-like, ham-like, or soapy flavors are inappropriate. No diacetyl.
Alaskan Brewing Co. White Ale
BA (B-) RB (49)

Appearance: the color of an early fall tall-grass field, hazy, with tints of orange, yellow, and tan; a lazy white foamy head sits and the slumps over on top
Aroma: muted coriander dominates, orange peel comes through later, a lemony aroma from the yeast asserts itself and a faint wheatiness is also prevalent; the aroma hits all the right notes, though isn't as assertive as I might like
Flavor: although restrained, the wheat and malt are most noticeable, with a slight peel-i-ness, a hint of rind, coming through; the spices are subtle at first, but come through in force later: grassy, coriander, cumin, lemon balm all seem to make appearances
Body: medium-light body with a crisp, semi-sweet finish
Drinkability: I could drink a whole 22 of this in one sitting and have room for more
Summary: I really enjoy this white ale; it has great flavor but doesn't hit you over the head with it; the body is right on and finishes nicely; I don't understand why it doesn't rate well, except to say that RateBeer's statistics might tell you something: while it has a 49 on RateBeer, the average for the style is a mere 60. It's not a trendy style, it's not a trendy brewery, it's not a trendy flavor profile, or use trendy ingredients; but it is a good beer that I have enjoyed drinking.

I did receive this bottle in the mail from Alaskan Brewing Co. However, they made their money with bottle since I will most definitely be buying more.


  1. Lakefront brews a Wit as its summer seasonal. However, General Beer hasn't picked it up for the last two summers so you don't see it in Madison.

  2. Right! Thanks Jennifer, I had forgotten about Lakefront's Wit:

  3. Thanks for the mention, MBR! I prefer a more citrusy slant on my Witbier, Alaskan White hits me a little heavy on the peppery coriander. Great beer, but not a personal fave. Having said that, their amber (altbier) and smoked porter are 2 I'd put among the world elite- we're lucky to have them in WI!

  4. You southerners... can't conjure anything north of State HWY 60, can you?


  5. Anon, another great ... er ... point. Add Point Belgian White to the list, too.


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