Style Details

Bel­gi­an Ale
BJCP Style Code
24 A
Very pale straw to very light gold in color. The beer will be very clou­dy from starch haze and/or yeast, which gives it a mil­ky, whitish-yel­low appearance. Den­se, white, moussy head. Head reten­ti­on should be quite good.
Mode­ra­te mal­ty sweet­ness (often with light notes of honey and/or vanil­la) with light, grai­ny, spi­cy wheat aro­ma­tics, often with a bit of tartness. Mode­ra­te per­fumy cori­an­der, often with a com­plex her­bal, spi­cy, or pep­pery note in the back­ground. Mode­ra­te zes­ty, citru­sy-oran­gey frui­tin­ess. A low spi­cy-her­bal hop aro­ma is optio­nal, but should never over­power the other cha­rac­te­ristics. Vege­tal, cele­ry-like, or ham-like aro­mas are inap­pro­pria­te. Spi­ces should blend in with frui­ty, flo­ral and sweet aro­mas and should not be over­ly strong.
Plea­sant mal­ty-sweet grain fla­vor (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 brea­dy 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, 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. 
Medi­um-light to medi­um body, often having a smooth­ness and light cre­a­mi­ness from unmal­ted wheat and the occa­sio­nal oats. Despi­te body and cre­a­mi­ness, finis­hes dry and often a bit tart. Effer­ve­s­cent cha­rac­ter from high car­bo­na­ti­on. Refres­hing, from car­bo­na­ti­on, light aci­di­ty, and lack of bit­ter­ness in finish. No harsh­ness or astrin­gen­cy from oran­ge pith. Should not be over­ly dry and thin, nor should it be thick and heavy.
Over­all Impression
A refres­hing, ele­gant, tasty, mode­ra­te-strength wheat-based ale.
Typi­cal Ingredients
About 50% unmal­ted wheat and 50% pale bar­ley malt (usual­ly Pils malt) con­sti­tu­te the grist. In some ver­si­ons, up to 5-10% raw oats may be used. Spi­ces of fresh­ly-ground cori­an­der and Cura­çao or some­ti­mes sweet oran­ge peel com­ple­ment the sweet aro­ma and are quite cha­rac­te­ristic. Other spi­ces (e.g., cha­mo­mi­le, cumin, cin­na­mon, Grains of Para­di­se) may be used for com­ple­xi­ty but are much less pro­mi­nent. Ale yeast pro­ne to the pro­duc­tion of mild, spi­cy fla­vors is very cha­rac­te­ristic. In some ins­tances a very limi­t­ed lac­tic fer­men­ta­ti­on, or the actu­al addi­ti­on of lac­tic acid, is done.
A 400-year-old Bel­gi­an beer style that died out in the 1950s; it was later revi­ved by Pierre Celis at Hoe­gaar­den, and has grown ste­adi­ly in popu­la­ri­ty over time, both with modern craft bre­wers and mass-mar­ket pro­du­cers who see it as a some­what frui­ty sum­mer sea­so­nal beer. 
The pre­sence, cha­rac­ter and degree of spi­cing and lac­tic sourness varies. Over­ly spi­ced and/or sour beers are not good examp­les of the style. Cori­an­der of cer­tain ori­g­ins might give an inap­pro­pria­te ham or cele­ry cha­rac­ter. The beer tends to be fra­gi­le and does not age well, so youn­ger, fres­her, pro­per­ly hand­led examp­les are most desi­ra­ble. Most examp­les seem to be appro­xi­m­ate­ly 5% ABV.
Com­mer­cial Examples
Alla­g­ash White, Blan­che de Bru­xel­les, Celis White, Hoe­gaar­den Wit, Omme­gang Wit­te, St. Ber­nar­dus Wit­bier, Wittekerke
Ori­gi­nal Gravity
1.044 - 1.052 SG
Final Gra­vi­ty
1.008 - 1.012 SG
2 - 4 SRM
4.0 - 5.0 %vol
8 - 20 IBU