Blue Moon Belgian White is an affordably priced and widely available American take on a timeless Belgian style that promises bold fruit flavors and spicy aromatics. Unfortunately, something is lost in translation with this beer, which offers middling flavors of citrus rind and bubblegum that don’t brighten the palate without help from an added orange slice garnish.
Style Belgian-style witbier
Company Blue Moon Brewing Company (Molson Coors)
Brewery Location Golden, Colorado and Eden, North Carolina
MSRP $10 per 6-pack
Awards Gold, 1995 World Beer Championship, White Beer category; Silver, 1996 and 1997 World Beer Championship, White Beer category
A well-priced domestic take on a timeless imported style
A widely available product with unique appeal to some who don’t often drink beer
Falls short on the bright, fruity flavors that make the style remarkable
Strange vegetal notes, atypical of the style, are found on the aroma and finish.
Yeast characteristics are overwhelmed by grain on the palate.
Some fans of traditional wheat beers may find it lacking in flavor.
Color: This beer pours a hazy golden orange in the glass, immediately throwing off a thick, tall, foamy head of fine bubbles that lingers for about a minute.
Nose: Citrus zest and herbaceous notes such as crushed coriander seed come through, but not as prominently as you’d expect from a beer of this style. Atypical vegetal aromas of pumpkin flesh or yams are also noticeable.
Palate: The flavor is medium-full bodied on the palate, washing across the tongue with soft carbonation and flavors of bubble gum, orange pith, white pepper, and banana. But while they’re noticeable, the yeast-driven characteristics of the beer fall flatter than usual, and the brightness normally afforded by citrus is muted to the point of nearly being non-existent.
Finish: A velvety, round finish lingers on the palate, where grain elements become more noticeable after swallowing. Typical herbaceous notes are absent save for hints of muddled coriander, and rubbery hints of pencil eraser come through.
Thanks to its wide availability, Blue Moon is often the first experience a drinker has with a beer that’s not a light lager. First released in 1995 by a subdivision of the Coors Brewing Company (now part of Molson Coors), the beer used ingredients not often found in American brewing at the time such as orange peel, wheat, and coriander. The domestic take on the Belgian witbier eventually skyrocketed in popularity, becoming the most popular pseudo-craft product on the market by 2009.
It’s important to note that part of what helped fuel public interest in the beer was the company’s understated approach to marketing it as a Coors product. Coasting on the tailwinds of the craft movement, Coors instead sold the beer under the name the Blue Moon Brewing Company; many drinkers noticed this new unfiltered option at bars or saw signs advertising the “Belgian-style” brew in their grocery store’s beer aisle before trying one themselves. At the time, the beer was basically stand-alone in the American market, making its relatively bold and unique flavors a draw. The tradition of serving each pint with a fresh slice of orange helped to disarm some who were typically beer-averse.
Unfortunately, fans of traditional Belgian witbiers would likely find plenty wrong with this American facsimile. While it’s not easy to make a beer with such aromatic ingredients at a large scale, other products on the market have proven it’s not impossible. By comparison, Blue Moon Belgian White is traditional in its self-given name only, lacking the heady aromatics driven by yeast and other herbaceous ingredients that define the style. Most of the noticeable flavor elements like crushed coriander seed and citrus zest ring hollow; the beer instead suffers from bizarre flavors of pumpkin flesh and yams that are atypical of witbiers. And while the wheat and oats used in the mashbill make it a sturdy medium-full-bodied beer on the palate, it lacks the the brightness that could make this the invitingly complex style it’s known to be.
Blue Moon Belgian White’s affordable price point does put it at an advantage over many imported versions of this style. But at this stage of the American craft beer boom, locally made and far tastier versions are likely to be available. That being said, its wide availability means that it might be the most “flavorful” option at stadiums, sports bars, and chain restaurants, especially as a warm-weather option, meaning it likely won’t disappear anytime soon.
Blue Moon Belgian White may have built its success on customers assuming it was an independent or craft product, but the marketing misunderstanding has also come back to haunt the Molson Coors product. In 2015, one customer went so far as to file a lawsuit against the company for making misleading claims about Blue Moon’s status as a macro-brewed beer before a judge threw the case out later that year.