I find myself honored and humbled. Our good friends at Pensacola Bay Brewery have made a beer based upon a suggestion I made a while back.
Now, I’m sure that Mark Robertson and Rogers Connoly – Brew Master and Head Brewer respectively – had already given thought to such a beer. The twist was continuing their tradition of tying in local history to a classic style.
We were enjoying a couple of beers on the brewery’s front patio when the Seville oranges growing in the yard of the historic Old Christ Church across the street caught my eye. I mentioned to Mark how they should use those oranges to make a Belgian witbier. After all, witbier’s recipe has always included dried orange peel and coriander. And you can’t get more local and historic than ten paces north of your front door.
Well, the brewery, at the time, wasn’t keeping Belgian yeast around as most strains have a nasty habit of proliferating everywhere and have the potential to inadvertently alter every single batch of beer to be made. The microscopic fungi can literally flourish in every nook and cranny in the brewing room. One must exercise caution when using Belgian yeast lest it infect their non-Belgian beer styles.
Recently, some fellow brewers traded special Belgian yeast with them so Pensacola Bay could make a batch of Belgian abbey ale. There was enough left over when they noticed that those Seville oranges were ripe and numerous once again. Hmmm.
Mark told me that “despite the water not being Belgian, this is pretty spot-on!” as I examined my pint. “About 24 oranges went into each barrel. Just enough to let you know it’s there.” I concur. For me, witbier should be a subtle and refreshing beer. Were there too much orange, the lemon notes from the wheat would be buried. The hallmark of a great beer, no matter its subtleties or loudness, is balance and this one has it just right.
Its cloudy, pale daffodil color is topped by a soft, frothed egg-white head that takes a minute to fade away into a thin cap. Citrus zest, wet straw, faint pepper and coriander greet the nose while a ridiculously creamy body delivers soft-but-tight carbonation and juicy flavors of fresh orange and lemon peel plus a tiny bit of banana and a drop of clove putting the period on the sentence. Thoroughly crushable, thoroughly refreshing.
When Mark said he didn’t even have a name for it yet, I offered “White Church Wit.” He gave a slight smile. “I like it. Yeah, that’s not bad!” Heck, I don’t care what he ends up calling it. A beer this good and balanced, what’s in a name?
This is available only at the brewery, so take a stroll and enjoy a witbier on a pleasant, warm afternoon at Pensacola Bay.