White and red beers

victor steinbok aardvark66 at GMAIL.COM
Thu Sep 1 07:14:22 UTC 2011

comments interspersed:

On Thu, Sep 1, 2011 at 2:34 AM, Benjamin Barrett <gogaku at ix.netcom.com>wrote:

> My bottle of Blue Moon says
> Belgian White
> Belgian-style wheat ale

Being a bit of a beer snob, I consider Blue Moon to be a mutt and a
poseur... but people said that about White Zinfandel...

> Although I guess whites are a form of wheat, nobody wanting a white would
> ask for a wheat.

What?? Nobody? That just doesn't sound right. People certainly ask for
"Weizen" more frequently than they ask for "Weissbier". In my experience,
I've never heard anyone ask for "white" in this context--but maybe I hang
out in the wrong company...

> Also, I think it's fair to say that coriander is a common ingredient in
> white beers, though not necessarily present.

In witbier, this is true. Coriander was a common /original/ bittering agent
in beer, before hops became dominant. So traditional witbiers often have
coriander, although other herbals as well as orange bitters are often also
present. I've seen mutts that combine all sorts of spices AND hops (often
labeled as "holiday ale"). Weissbier almost never has herbal bittering
agents other than hops. Some have no bittering agents at all--and are cut
with sweet lemon sodas, lemonade, lemon syrup for summer drinks. And people
think Corona is the only "beer" one drinks with a slice of citrus! (Whatever
Corona and Tecate are, they are not beer.)

> AFAIK, Weissbier or just weiss is marketed as that; I had never identified
> weisses as being whites, though I'm well aware that wits are whites.

Weissbier is quite often is marketed and sold as "weizen"--hefeweizen,
dunkelweizen, etc. Most people have absolutely no idea what's in their beer
(barley in most; rice in mass-produced American brands; wheat in a few,
including all whites), so marketing "wheats" as such would be
counterproductive. But most people who prefer weissbier do know that it's
wheat beer. Most people who drink witbier have no idea whether it's wheat or
wheat and barley or that there is a distinction--this is not a knock against
these drinkers, as this information is very hard to find in most cases. So
going by "white" may be the only alternative.

> The problem with beer/ale applies also to brown. I think it's reasonably
> common to interchange the two.

Really? No, seriously, I am not a brown drinker, so I am not aware how they
are marketed. I know nut-browns and they always seem to be ales (properly
so). Other "browns" may be identified by color, so if it's a dark brown
lager, usually it's marketed as "dark beer" (e.g., Heineken, Becks). Perhaps
some are "browns"--I wouldn't know. But once you get past dark lagers and
browns, it's all stouts and porters--and there is a lot more confusion
between those than between ales and beers. Generally, top-fermenting yeast
and warm fermentation corresponds to ales. Bottom-fermenting yeast and cold
fermentation is a sign of lagers and other "beers". Weizen are in between,
plus "wild yeast" lambics can be either--but these are known in the
Netherlands and Belgium as "woman's beer".

> I see also that hefeweizen is not in the OED. It has become very much a
> standard type of beer (in Seattle, anyway). Also, I think it is time to lose
> the hyphen of "barley-beer."

Lose the hyphen? Why not lose the "barley"?

Weizen is not in OED either. Nor is witbier nor weissbier nor wit (in this
sense--and that's how the Dutch order it, I believe). Nut-brown is listed as
color and, under c., "esp. ale"--not a word concerning the special
characteristics of nut-brown ales, which are /typically English/! Scotch ale
is listed in OED, but it's described as "spec. any of various strong pale
ales"--a bit odd since Scotch ales are generally classified as browns. Pale
ale is listed as "a light-coloured ale"--missing the main distinction, but
relatively ok. But pale beer is "a light-coloured ale; (also) a lager"--what
kind of lager? Whatever! Same for "pale sherry"--but is that the main
distinction of a "pale sherry"? And is "pale cream sherry" characterized by
its color, compared to other sherries? Or is that another bastardized mutt?
(It's generally sweetened fino sherry and has nothing to do with color, but
the experts say it's color...)


On Aug 31, 2011, at 11:22 PM, victor steinbok wrote:

> Wiki has no article on "white beer", but it redirects to "wheat beer".
> claims two types of "wheat beer" both named "white beer" in their native
> environment--the Dutch/Belgian witbier (spiced top-fermenting wheat beer)
> and German (Bavarian) Weissbier (traditionally unfiltered, but available
> many other forms). Each uses a particular kind of yeast--and, obviously,
> both are distinguished by having wheat as the main malting agent. The
> Belgian witbier is often sold in the US as "white ale"--and the label is
> fair because witbier is top-fermenting, warm temperature beer. Weissbier
> usually goes by weizen (which is, of course, a more accurate
> representation), with additional nomenclature distinguishing different
> types. Unlike darks, brown ale, pale ale and red ale/beer, "white" is not
> the color of the brew (in fact, dunkelweizen is technically a dark "white
> beer" and virtually all "white beers" are darker than pale ales). Nor is
> a denomination representing lighter alcohol content. When we tried brewing
> (undergrads at MIT), we found wheat beer to be among the most difficult to
> make (we never succeeded with ginger beer either but for entirely
> reasons), the easiest being stout (given proper malt and hops). I am at a
> loss for the reasons behind the association of wheat and "white beer".
> As for "red beer", AFAIK, all red beers are also ales--i.e., "red ale" is
> more accurate. This does not mean that people don't use "red beer"
> moniker--just that the proper nomenclature would be "red ale" (Irish or
> Belgian). Any red beer that claims NOT to be an ale is likely to be
> essentially fake--light beer with additional non-standard coloring agent
> (e.g., caramel color). Purists will reject the existence of "red beer"
> (except as a misnomer for "red ale").
> VS-)

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