Beer: Whip-Poor-Will (Witbier, brewed with organic oranges, coriander and Earl Gray tea)
Brewery: Fonta Flora (Morganton, NC)
I often avoid witbier. Actually, that’s dishonest. More accurately, I struggle with the question, will wit wit again?
Before Whip-Poor-Will, Witbier and I had a thing–long and full of love and heartbreak. Our love sprouted in the Allagash White days of summer visits to Brooklyn, then blossomed into Blanche de Bruxelles days where I had found something that made even my most macro-loving friends appreciate how craft was worth the additional two smacks over a Blue Moon. It grew from affection to infatuation when Wittekerke Wit showed up in packaging that could join me by the pool. This chapter would come to an abrupt close when a tattooed dive bar barman physically yanked a bottle of Hoegaarden from my hands and unceremoniously dumped the entire thing into a non-hexagonal glass that I was (and still am) unsure of whether it was frozen or actually just cold and fucking filthy. You’re damned right I’m still pissed about the whole thing. There is, in fact, a diagram on the label that explains HOW to pour this beer. Yet he managed to fuck it up WHILE mansplaining. I digress…
I guess if you’ve read this far, you see that Wit and I have a history. It is lengthy and joyful, while also full of longing and well-intentioned mistakes. As North Carolina craft beer makers open more taprooms in places as metropolitan and sofauxticated as Charlotte, and as humble and far flung as Ocracoke, brewers and beertenders are asked mind-numbingly often, “What do you have like a Blue Moon?”
Any business that gives 3.14 fucks will attempt to give the people what they want. Increasingly, bigger malt bills, more adjuncts, and more fruit got into wits. When Imperial Wit made its appearance, face planted into a barrel, rolled around in kumquats, then soured, I bid the style a wistful “Boy, bye.”
But DAMN, do I LOVE tea. I suffer from caffeine sensitivity, so I avoid coffee like anyone with any sense would avoid a racing heartbeat and the other side effects of a natural laxative. But a perfectly steeped Earl Grey, a first flush darjeeling, or pretty much any oolong and I’m here for it. So when I saw Fonta Flora drop a tea witbier, I HAD to put it in my mouth.
The big perfume on the nose made me nervous to start. Beers as floral as this one bring back memories of my grandmother’s garden, full of forced labor and brambles in your unmentionables with just the reward of a few wet, crumpled ones and an even wetter, but still somehow sticky, kiss. The first sip of Whip-Poor-Will, however, told me THIS beer would be like the fun kind of day where you chase a few butterflies, get cookies, and maybe even find a new kitten.
Despite adding Earl Grey, Fonta Flora stays true to witbier. Fonta Flora excels at keeping the tea in check so that it doesn’t overwhelm the peppery esters of the yeast and leaves room for the orange and coriander to sit comfortably on both the nose and palate. The hazy straw color is spot on for the style while the lacy head threatens to boop your nose as the aroma pulls it into the glass. Organic orange gives this beer an up front sweetness which then yields to the spiced earthiness of bergamot. Great for tee time or tea time, in Whip-Poor-Will Fonta Flora makes the most of uncommon ingredients to deliver an artful take on a classic style. Lovers of classic styles or the more wild stuff can trust this brewery to always deliver something interesting and well crafted.
Whether you’re just putting your toe into craft, completely over wits that can’t stand up without leaning heavily on a cloying fruit, or a bit under stimulated by your standby Belgian, this interesting blend should hit you in the appropriate feels.
Featured image courtesy of Beer Advocate.