I’m sure this is a familiar story to others, but one thing I’ve learned about during social distancing is flour. As I’ve made pasta, pastries and a copious amount of pizza dough, I’ve educated myself about protein content and softness. I own more types of flour now than ever before in my life.
Wheat isn’t the only thing flour is made out of, however. Rice flour, garbanzo bean flour, almond flour and a whole plethora of others exist. The idea of taking a food and grinding it until it’s a small particle is really popular. The results, from rice noodles to Indian Socca, are delicious.
Beer is a similar. Malts have different strains and produce different flavors. Carapils malt gives you something different than Vienna malt, which will differ from pale malt. Does your beer taste like a pretzel or like caramel? This largely can be a function of the malt.
Just like flour, however, beer doesn’t stop with the type of malts. Germany passed the purity law for beer in 1516, limiting beer ingredients to barley, hops and water. This didn’t stop the rest of the world from brewing traditional styles and experimenting with new ones, using rice, oats, corn, sorghum and more. Sometimes it was a necessity, as malt wasn’t always available. Other times, it was just cheaper to use other grains to bulk out the mash.
Tradition and flavor also play into the mix. Hitachina Nest makes a cool brew with red rice. There are some neat options out there.
A style many of us likely are familiar with is wheat beer. Belgium is known for its white ales, a spiced, low-alcohol variety. They’re dry and flavorful, a perfect accompaniment for a hot day. Take a sip and you’ll know immediately it’s not a pale ale. The wheat makes an impact.
This week, I’m drinking Allagash Brewing Co.’s Allagash White. I imagine it comes as no surprise that it’s a Belgian-style wheat beer. It’s brewed with coriander and Curaçao Orange, which is used in the liquor of the same name.
The pour came out a hazy, pale yellow. Because of all the wheat particulate, these types of brews usually look cloudy, so this was to be expected. Half a finger of white foam topped the brew and left lacing down the entire glass.
The scent leaned heavily toward the citrus end of things, with lemon quite prevalent. It was bright, with wheat and coriander hanging around the outskirts. Banana and yeast also played in there, making fast friends with the rest.
The first taste I noticed was aspirin, not uncommon in dry brews. The Curaçao Orange peel accentuated this greatly and gave it a grapefruit-like astringent bitterness. The lemon came through as well, though nowhere near as prevalent as it was in the nose. Wheat and spice rounded it out with just a touch of white pepper to give it spice. It was at once somehow subtle and diverse in its flavor profile.
This brew didn’t do anything out of the ordinary, but it did what it set out to do. A hazy wheat beer always is a welcome treat. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go grab a slice of bread.