Separating the Witbiers from the Chaff 

Sipping some straw-colored Belgian brews

No country in Europe offers a more diverse array of beer styles than Belgium. From thirst-quenching pilsners and low-alcohol table beers to strong ales and heady lambics, there's definitely something for everyone. For summer consumption, one of my favorites is witbier. These refreshing wheat brews are marked by ample carbonation and are lightly flavored with a mixture of herbs called gruit (typically including coriander and orange peel). Here are three delicious examples, two from Belgium and one hailing from Missouri.

Boulevard Brewing Zon Beer

This Kansas City entry is named for the Flemish word for sun. It's a cloudy custard color in the glass with a thin, short-lived head. It offers lemon zest and freshly proofed yeast on the nose, with lightly floral hops and spice. On the palate, it has a pleasant sour tang with soft lemon and a touch of pepper. There is a bit more of a hop presence than is typical, but overall it's a nice nod to the style.

Hoegaarden Witbier

This beer pours a hazy, light straw color with a thick, whipped egg-white head that lingers. The aromas are a pleasant mix of fresh hay, ripe citrus and spice, while the flavors are a balanced mix of sweet fruit and sour mash. You get hits of fresh bread, apricot, orange and banana, with subtle spice and a long finish. Just a light kiss of hops lurk in the background in this completely refreshing brew.

Wittekerke Authentic Belgian Wheat Beer

This offering from Belgium's Bavik brewery has the same hazy color as the Hoegaarden, but the froth on top is less dense and collapses more quickly. The crisp, clean aromas are marked by soft citrus, wheat and spice. In the mouth, it's firm and dry with creamy Meyer lemon, yeasty grain. A touch of basil and spice linger nicely on the finish.

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