It may be American, but Allagash White is one of the best expressions of Belgian witbier available anywhere in the world. The beer has the bright fruit flavors of citrus, banana, and bubble gum you’d expect from the style, but spice notes and a slight bitterness on the finish create a uniquely balanced take.
Style Belgian-style wheat beer
Company Allagash Brewing Company
Brewery Location Portland, Maine
MSRP $12 per 6-pack
Awards Gold, Belgian-style Witbier, 2020 Great American Beer Festival; Gold, 2017 European Beer Star; Gold, 2012 World Beer Cup
An exemplary version of Belgian-style witbier made by a pioneering American brewery
Bright, fruity, and refreshing flavors are well integrated.
Complexity stands up to pairing with bold cuisine.
Limited distribution helps reduce the likelihood of spoilage or out-of-code product.
Slightly higher price point than most macrobrews
Some may find the herbaceous or spice notes too intense.
Color: This beer pours a hazy golden yellow in the glass with a thick, mousse-like head of pure white foam that lingers beyond two minutes and laces the glass between each sip.
Nose: Vibrant and enticing fruity aromas of citrus zest, bubble gum, banana, tart strawberries, and cardamom burst forth and fill the nostrils before you even swirl the glass. A soft, doughy hint of wheat-y malt provides a subtle backbone behind the upfront fruitiness.
Palate: A complex array of flavors are both lush and exciting and instantly comforting on the palate. Herbaceous and spicy chamomile, white pepper, and cardamom come through early; subtly sweet fruity notes of fresh orange, peach, and bubble gum provide fullness and are brightened by a hint of fresh lemon.
Finish: A slight citrus-pith-like bitterness balances the fruity lushness found on the palate for a surprisingly crisp and refreshing finish. A symphony of citrus and herbaceous flavors lingers long after each sip.
Allagash White has rightfully earned its place in the craft beer pantheon: It’s a gold standard of the Belgian witbier style that is now emulated by breweries from coast to coast.
Nearly 30 years ago, however, witbier was almost unheard of in the U.S. After setting up shop in an industrial warehouse in a sleepy corner of Portland, Maine, Allagash Brewing Company founder Rob Todd took what in 1995 was a huge chance and decided to brew just one type of beer: Allagash White. Locals were initially confused by the hazy, fruity, and rich style—it was, after all, a huge departure from the crystal-clear, crisp lagers that dominated the market at the time. But its uniqueness also helped the beer win a deeply devoted fan base. Three years later, it took home its first major award at the World Beer Cup, winning gold in its category and disproving any initial doubts that American brewers could handle a historic Belgian style.
Soon, Todd dove deeper into the playbook of historic Belgian beers, broadening his portfolio in a way no other American brewery had ever tried. Allagash founded one of the country’s first wild ale programs and installed the first coolship in the U.S. in 2007, making it the first brewery to produce spontaneously fermented Lambic-style beers stateside.
Even as Allagash’s portfolio has broadened and diversified over the years, its original product remains as valuable to the brewery as ever, perhaps because it has something for everyone: Its bright, fruity aromas make it a good “gateway” beer for those who are intimidated by the intense bitterness of craft IPAs while also differentiating it from bland macro lagers.
In contrast to other breweries, which often expand their physical footprint as soon as they see a spike in popularity, Allagash still limits its distribution to just over a dozen states along the East Coast, plus Chicago and California. This limited availability makes it hard for a good portion of the U.S. to get their hands on the beer, sure, but it has also helped ensure that the product being sold is fresh and has helped the brewery maintain its reputation for quality control. And while Allagash White is slightly more expensive than macro options, it certainly surpasses them in terms of quality and flavor.
As a style, Belgian witbier has a year-round seasonality thanks to its bright yet complex flavors. As such, Allagash White is just as perfect on a warm summer’s night as it is savored by the fireplace come wintertime. The beer’s relatively hefty mouthfeel and complex flavor profile also make it an almost unrivaled pairing option for a wide range of dishes like roasted white meats, seafood, and brunch spreads. Whether you enjoy it with food or sip it solo, we’d argue the beer can rest on its merits as one of the best ales on the market.
Allagash is one of the few craft breweries to avoid seasonal releases, instead opting for annual drops of its barrel-aged and blended beers and keeping its list of year-round offerings to just eight beers. The one exception is Haunted House, a critically acclaimed dark ale released in October each year.