Beer has been brewed in the small town of Hoegaarden, Belgium, since about 1445. Originally the work of monks, the brewing of wheat beer eventually took off in the village, and by the end of the 19th century, Hoegaarden had 36 breweries. And only 2,000 villagers. But this little plot of Beervana wouldn’t last. Due to the post-World War II economy and the rise of competitors brewing clear lagers with industrial methods and new refrigeration techniques, the small wheat breweries fell one by one. In 1957, Tomsin, the last wheat beer brewery in Hoegaarden, closed its doors.
In 1965, a group of Hoegaarden villagers, led by the village milkman, Pierre Celis (who had worked at the Tomsin brewery before it closed), decided to revive the beer.
Celis was successful, and today Hoegaarden is enjoyed in numerous countries around the world.
The beer is a traditional Belgian white, brewed with the classic coriander and orange peel. It is pale yellow in color and hazy, due to being unfiltered. Hoegaarden says that the beer is best served in its traditional hexagonal glass, but I chose to drink it straight from the 11.2 ounce bottle. (I just can’t help but feel a little cheated by those missing 0.8 ounces, but then again, I’m an American, with my sense of entitlement and need for overconsumption.)
The beer was well carbonated upon opening the bottle, but went flat quickly. The beer starts off with a nice hit of citrus that gives way to an oatmeal-like flavor. It’s about medium on the sweetness scale, and tasted slightly watery. The brew had a funky wheat aftertaste; not really skunky, but sort of like bran flakes that have sat on the counter for a day or two.
Hoegaarden is a decent beer, and fairly refreshing, but personally, I think there are a couple other imports that do the style a little better.
But those other beers might not have such a good story. The milkman who saved a town’s beer: I’ll drink to that.