Beer of the Week – Waterloo Wheat

This article was originally written in July 2007 for the food & drink website Taste T.O., and republished here in October 2011 (but back-dated to match the original publication date) after Taste T.O. was shut down and taken offline.

A decade or so ago, I tried my first wheat beer. It was Celis White, a Belgian-style witbier (white beer) created by Pierre Celis, the man who saved the style from extinction with his creation of Hoegaarden in 1966 (The “Since 1445” claim on the Hoegaarden label refers to when the town of Hoegaarden was founded, not when the beer was first brewed). After a series of acquisitions and mergers led to Hoegaarden being owned by the multinational beer monolith Interbrew, Celis retired, but soon returned with Celis White and other beers brewed in the unlikely location of Austin, Texas.

In 1997, Celis White came to Ontario in a version contract-brewed by Waterloo’s Brick Brewing. At the time, Brick was one of the most diverse breweries in Canada, with a line-up that included Brick brands such as Brick Premium Lager, Red Baron, and Waterloo Dark; the brands from the Algonquin, Conners and Laker breweries that they had purchased in the previous few years; and several international contract-brewed beers including Germany’s Henninger and Andechs Spezial Hell, Greece’s FIX Lager, and Celis White.

The intervening ten years saw Brick moving away from their eclectic craft brewing roots with the discontinuation of most of their interesting brands, including all of the foreign contract-brews. Their main portfolio was stripped down to a bunch of indistinguishable and undistinguished lagers, and they helped create the buck-a-beer trend with their Laker discount brand. Last year, however, they went back to their roots somewhat by killing off most of the main Brick line-up and replacing them with the higher quality J.R. Brickman series.

And now, Brick has come full circle with the introduction of Waterloo Wheat, a limited edition beer brewed to mark the 150th anniversary of the city of Waterloo that they describe as a Belgian-style witbier, although as I discovered, it’s not perfectly on-style.

It definitely looks the part, with a hazy golden-orange colour and a large snow-white head, and the aroma is pretty much on point, with light malt and wheat, and hints of citrus and spice from the orange peel and coriander used during the brewing. The body is quite creamy to start, but has a fairly crisp finish. But the flavour seems like a hybrid of a Belgian witbier and a German weissbier: it has the citrus and spice notes expected from a wit, but also a bit of the banana and yeast that’s typical of a weisse. The flavours are also a bit subdued, giving the beer a slightly watery character in the middle. It’s no Celis White, but it’s still a solid summer brew, and another step back in the right direction for Brick.

As mentioned above, Waterloo Wheat has been brewed in limited quantities, and is available on draught in several Waterloo bars and in bottles in LCBO outlets in the Kitchener-Waterloo area (LCBO 56762, $3.25/650 mL). While it was supposed to be available until August, sales have been strong since it’s introduction at the beginning of July, so any Torontonians hoping to try it out should plan a trip to the K-W area soon.

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