Reviewed: Allagash White
Official description: Our interpretation of a Belgian-style wheat beer is brewed with oats, malted wheat, and unmalted raw wheat for a hazy, “white” appearance. Spiced with our own special blend of coriander and Curaçao orange peel, Allagash White is both complex and refreshing. Though it’s brewed in Maine, the recipe sticks to its Belgian roots. We’ve worked hard to make sure that the Allagash White in your hand tastes the same as it did back in 1995, when Rob Tod brewed the first batch. Malt: Allagash 2-Row Malted Barley Blend, Local Pale Malt, Red Wheat Malt, Raw White Wheat, Oats, Carapils. Hops: Nugget, Crystal, Czech Saaz. Yeast: House. Spices/Other: Coriander, Curaçao Orange Peel.
Allagash Brewing Company – Allagash White – 12oz bottle served in stemless snifter – 5.2% ABV
Allagash White needs no introduction. This is Allagash’s best-selling beer, a recipe brewed since 1995, making it an American craft beer legend. I’ve been bad about reviewing Allagash having written about just two beers from them, the fabulous Hoppy Table Beer as well as Farm to Face peach sour. Today, I wanted to revisit this classic and see how it fits into today’s craft beer scene. I should also note that Allagash now offers this beer in cans, though I haven’t seen them on store shelves yet in Southern California.
I’m sampling this from a 4-pack of 12oz bottles that I picked up for $11 plus tax. On each bottle is a small packaging date. In my case, this batch is from the end of April, which is well within the 6-month freshness window recommended by the brewery. I should note that Allagash White is not cheap since this 4-pack is more expensive than the 6-pack I just reviewed of Cigar City After-Sesh Ale.
Into my glass, Allagash White is a glowing pale straw color with high turbidity thanks to yeast sediment at the bottom of the bottle that the label instructs you to swirl and dump in. Bleach white foam rises up quickly and sticks around for well over a minute. The aroma brings a powerful mix of heavy esters with banana and yellow pear intertwined with angel food cake and lemon squares. I don’t review a lot of yeast-forward beers, so this is a nice change of pace. I do appreciate that Allagash White isn’t too phenolic compared to other witbiers out there.
Digging in, Allagash White is soft and mild with low sweetness and low bitterness. This beer is more about mouthfeel and letting the house yeast shine without distraction. Yellow apple, pear skins, and lemon peel combine for a perfectly refreshing beer for summer. Grassy hops mix with slight tannins perhaps from the Curaçao orange peel addition for excellent balance. The wheat and oats help bolster mouthfeel, but the overall beer comes across as dry and crisp – descriptors I don’t often use for wheat ales. There’s a bright zestiness to this beer that I adore. But perhaps the best part of the experience is a lingering sourdough flavor that sticks in the back of the palate with lactic-like acidity. The overall effect is soft and quenching.
Perceived Specs for Allagash White
Allagash White is exceptionally delicious and like Hoppy Table Beer is nuanced and well-refined for a style that is often overlooked. Though Allagash White hits it out of the park, it’s still a bit expensive in my opinion and has big macro competition with brands like Blue Moon, Shock Top, and Hoegaarden. In keeping up with craft beer trends, it really needs a format change to 6-packs of 12oz or 16oz cans and a price per unit drop to be competitive. With the announcement earlier this year that Allagash White, River Trip, and Hoppy Table Beer will be available in 16oz cans, Allagash is stepping in the right direction. But they haven’t made it to the West Coast yet. Once they do, these three will be epic summer beers. Until then, I will wait impatiently.
For something as delicate as Allagash White, try Hitachino Nest White Ale from Japan. If you want more body and even more esters and big phenols, try St. Bernardus Wit. Avery White Rascal is solid, but that one is more intense on the spice in my opinion. It’s been in cans for quite some time and is cheaper, giving it an advantage in our West Coast market. Bell’s Winter White is a winter seasonal only but nails the witbier style in my opinion. If you have to go macro, my choice will always be Hoegaarden. If you want crazy, try Anchorage Whiteout Wit or Jolly Pumpkin Calabaza Blanca, which add wild yeast into the mix.
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