It’s okay to drink Blue Moon’s Belgian White. Hell, it’s even okay to enjoy it. And, as craft beer enthusiasts, we should actually embrace it. (DON’T CLOSE THIS WINDOW OR THROW ANYTHING AT ME UNTIL I HAVE A CHANCE TO EXPLAIN!)
I am well aware that Blue Moon Brewing Company is a faux craft brewer, a mask worn by MillerCoors to appear as an upstart microbrewery. Yes, I know that it’s served with fruit and that I mock my Corona swilling neighbors for murdering limes by dredging their wedges in terrible beer. I’m cognizant of my hypocrisy.
My advocacy of Blue Moon is its role as a gateway beer.
The power of distribution puts Blue Moon in bars, restaurants and stadiums nationwide. The territory of “mass-produced craft beer” was once exclusive to Samuel Adams Boston Lager, but the Belgian White is found regularly by its side at airport bars, national chain restaurants and your aunt and uncle’s house on Thanksgiving.
(You stopped bringing your own beer because Uncle Dick does his Mr. Roper and makes insinuations about your taste in “fancy beer,” and Aunt Barbara feels bad that Uncle Dick only keeps Bud Light in the house, and she thought the six-pack holder was pretty while shopping, and she is your favorite aunt so you will drink it but not check into it on Untappd even though you’ve been waiting years to make Uncle Dick’s House a location.)
Many of us have slugged back pints of the hazy orange wheat beer, with or without fruit, since its release in 1995. The snobs among us lifted our pints because, well, we all have an Aunt Barbara who loves us, or we've all been stuck at the airport. For the uninitiated, that first taste of Blue Moon was new and different. Here was this new beer and it didn’t have the sweet malt of a Samuel Adams Boston Lager or the hoppy burn of a Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. It was smoother and unlike anything we ever tasted in beer before.
Blue Moon, like Guinness, Samuel Adams, and Sierra Nevada, were onramps to craft beer for many drinkers. Guinness was likely your first stout and you wouldn’t be chasing trucks for Founders’ KBS or standing in line on Black Friday for Bourbon County Brand Stouts if not for that pint. You wouldn’t be planning field trips to The Alchemist or Russian River if not for the first time you tasted the hoppy burn from your first green-labeled amber bottle of Sierra Nevada Pale Ale.
The orange is like the clicking noise made by your turn signal, there only to reassure you that things are working correctly.”
No, Blue Moon isn’t the best wheat beer in the world (though it gets an 83 from The Bros at BeerAdvocate), but it was probably your first Belgian-style witbier and possibly the first Belgian-style beer you ever consumed.
The first thing you notice about a Blue Moon is the orange you will discard. Ignore Blue Moon’s website and the bartender’s opinion. The orange wedge does nothing to enhance anything but the curb appeal of this beer. The orange is like the clicking noise made by your turn signal, there only to reassure you that things are working correctly. Even its founder deemphasizes the impact on the flavor of the beer.
With the fruit on your bar napkin, check out that thick head of white foam that sits atop the glass. If poured correctly, you should get an inch or two of pillow topping the hazy orange brew.
It’s intentionally fragrant with flavors that match; lots of clove and coriander with the underpinning of orange peel. A bonus to your palate is a crackery, bready malt at an end that is dry and full. The mouthfeel is watery, maybe a little overcarbonated, but otherwise moderate.
Blue Moon is not aggressive or intense in its flavors or aromas beyond the orange, but that’s the intent, right? It’s a milder beer that gets you to visit the neighborhood of witbiers. If not for Blue Moon, would you have tried Ommegang Witte, Avery White Rascal or Allagash White? Maybe you would have, but you might not have gotten around to it as quickly. And that is what makes it an excellent gateway beer.
So, the next time you go to your Aunt Barbara’s and she points you towards the Blue Moon, say “Thank you” and actually mean it.