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The name means simply "White Church", in Flemish (the language of Flanders, the northern part of Belgium. This language is a form of Dutch). An imaginary small town called Wittekerke is the location of a popular soap opera on Flemish television. In the series, the local beer served is Wittekerke, but the brew is not imaginary: it can be found in Belgian bars and cafes. The name of the series neatly ties in with the term Witbier, the Flemish way of describing a wheat beer.

Wit means "white". Wheat beers are often described as "white" in Belgium, Germany and elsewhere, possibly because the head formed is unusually pale, or perhaps because they are traditionally served yeastily cloudy. The Belgian style of "white" beer is usually made with equal proportions of raw wheat and unmalted barley, and traditionally also included a small proportion of oats. Today, few examples retain the oats, but Wittekerke does. The oats impart an extra silky smoothness to the beer. Like most Belgian "white" beers, it is spiced with ground coriander seeds and dried Curacao orange peels. This beer has never before been imported to the Unite. Like Belgian Hoegaarden and the American Celis, Wittekerke is a beer of conventional strength (it has 4.0 per cent alcohol by weight, 5.0 by volume), intended primarily as a summertime refresher.

Wittekerke was created simultaneously for the television series and consumer by the De Brabandere family brewery, in the small town of Bavikhove, near the old linen city of Kortrijk (also known by its French name Courtrai), in West Flanders. The brewery is better known for its Petrus Oud Bruin ("Old Brown"). That is a reddish-brown, wood-aged, ale in the sweet-and-sour style of the region, and a competitor to the famous Rodenbach. Several other styles are made by the brewery, under the Bavik and Petrus names. The latter sounds suspiciously similar to a famous Bordeaux wine. "Our name was inspired by the oldest Pope, explains chief executive Ignace De Brabandere.... "and the holder of the keys to heaven".

The brewery is in the fourth generation of the De Brabandere family, who were originally farmers. They established the business in 1894, and still display in their guest bar the original application to the town council for permission to build the brewery. Also on display are a family tree and a glass case more than a yard wide containing a copper model of the present, 1950s, brewhouse.

Tasting note:
Wittekerke pours with a dense, creamy, head, and has an attractive, opalescent, greeny-gold, colour. It is very aromatic indeed, with a clean, teasing, perfumy fruitiness and a faintly herbal tartness. The body is light but smooth. The flavours are rounded, with much subtlety and complexity. At first it seems spicily dry, but there is also a light, underlying creamy sweetness.

Food pairings:
A refresher but also a delightful aperitif. Or try this beer with a creamy, fruity, dessert or pie.

Published: MAY 31, 2000
In: Beer Hunter Online

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