Sunshine, cool breezes, fields of green grass and wildflowers below fat clouds hinting at possible rain showers drifting across blue skies. Spring is one of my favorite seasons and heralds a time to put away dark stouts and smoky porters and turn to fresh, effervescent beers that give one the same sense of revival that this season offers the soul.
The Belgium beer Hoegaarden is one of my favorite spring beers. This traditional “wit” or white style beer is similar to a German hefeweisen in that it’s made with wheat, but instead of notes of banana and vanilla in the finish, Belgian whites have surprising and delectable hints of spices such as coriander and other flavors like orange peel.
Hoegaarden is rather common in the states these days, but I remember the first time I saw a tap handle of the brew was in ’04 when I was bouncing around Europe with a couple of buddies. We saw the name in a London pub and asked for pints of “Ho-garden” with the requisite immature giggle and jokes about having a ho in a garden and what not. In the dark and smoky pub, the beer tasted sour and a little weak. We quickly went back to ordering English ales and lagers.
Later when our trip took us to Amersterdam in late May we were sitting at a outside cafe in the Vondelpark. It was a brillant, sunny day and the cafe served Hoegaarden in the traditional flat sided glasses. It was there and then that I learned to appreciate “Hoo-gaar-den.” Not only how to pronounce the beer but to appreciate the seasonality of it. Sure, Hoegaarden can be enjoyed in the dead of winter, but for me this beer is at its best when quaffed outside in the sunshine.
To enjoy a Hoegaarden, first muddle a slice of lemon in your glass. Then pour out most of the beer into the glass leaving a small amount in the bottle. Swirl this remaining beer a little before pouring it on the top of the glass. The swirling helps stir the residual yeast in the bottle and will give your beer a lively head of foam and as much flavor as possible. Gezonheid!