Summer is an awesome time for the beer drinker. But one need not settle for those crystal clear, light bodied, fizzy lagers that so many tend to think ideal for the heat of July and August, as quite an array of hefeweizens and Belgian Wit beers can be found around Madison. The styles are similar, each with cloudy golden hues that seem to contradict their light body and citrus flavors. I've done what I can to enjoy a few of these, in searching for the best seasonal offerings over the last couple of months. Last weekend my travels took me to the Grumpy Troll in Mount Horeb, a visit that coincided with the community's annual art fair.
What is it? Norwegian Wit from The Grumpy Troll Restaurant and Brewery in Mount Horeb.
Style: The Belgian Wit (white) beer is a style that dates back more than 400 years. It is commonly made with unmalted wheat and pale barley malt, though some brewers may even use raw oats to make this beer. A distinctive spicy, almost peppery flavor is a trademark of this brew, while coriander and sweet orange peel are added for aroma and finish. Originally, such spices were used before hops became a common component in beer. The Wit is light to medium-bodied, a hazy pale straw to light golden color, with a smooth or creamy texture from the unmalted wheat malt, and it is unfiltered so it should be cloudy. Some brewpubs will serve a Wit with a slice of orange to accentuate the citrus flavors.
The Wit (pronounced "vit") style of beer nearly died out in the mid-1900s until Pierre Celis brought it back nearly single handedly a few decades back with his Hoegaarden witbier from Brewery De Kluis in Flanders, Belgium. Celis eventually went the way of Anheuser-Busch and sold his brewery to Interbrew, now named InBev. He then used the proceeds to found the Celis Brewery near Austin, Texas, and launched Celis White, modeled itself after Hoegaarden. This became the company's flagship beer and was well-known through the '90s, but the brewery was acquired by Miller shortly after the turn of the century and shuttered. The Celis brands are were later acquired by the Michigan Brewing Company and are produced today.
Background: The Grumpy Troll began making this beer for the annual Mount Horeb Summer Frolic, which was held over the first weekend of June, and is a regular summer seasonal for the brewpub. Despite being a traditional Belgian Wit, the brew's name pays tribute to the Norwegian heritage and wit of local townsfolk. Norwegian Wit won a silver medal in 2007 from the Beverage Testing Institute.
- Aroma: Light, spicy, hints of coriander.
- Appearance: Hazy, light golden with a thin, soft white head.
- Texture: Light bodied and soft.
- Taste: Smooth yeasty start with a firm fruit background.
- Finish/Aftertaste: A light, sweet orange fruitiness.
Glassware: The Grumpy Troll serves this in a common Shaker pint glass. However, if you take home a growler this beer's color and delicate nose would be wonderful in a weizen glass.
Pairs well with: Wit beers go well with crisp, cool summer salads, while light, cold deli sandwiches and the refreshing qualities of this beer make great companions for a picnic.
Rating: Three Bottle Openers (out of four).
The Verdict: This is a great summer beer, perfect for the brewpub's outside seating, or your own patio at home. Refreshing, spicy, and distinctive flavor characters make this a great choice when visiting the Grumpy Troll.