When I ask someone what their favorite beer is, by far the most common response I get is, “I like Blue Moon.” The Belgian-style wheat ale, made by the Miller-Coors company, is a go-to beer for many.
My go-to Belgian-style wheat ale is Allagash White, and it has very little to do with the fact that Allagash is actually craft beer and Blue Moon is not. I like Blue Moon. It’s a tasty beer. It’s a beer that has done a lot to change the palates of people who’ve never had craft beer and may never try it (if you’ve only had Blue Moon, you still haven’t had craft beer). But if I’m going to have a Belgian wheat, it’s going to be Allagash.
I’ve had both beers many times, but I wanted to do an official taste-test comparison. The results confirmed my initial hypothesis: Allagash is the superior beer.
A Belgian-style white ale, or witbier, is a beer that is cloudy in appearance. The beers are generally flavored with citrus and with spices like coriander, sometimes with herbs. They are refreshing and crisp, making great summer beers, though they can be enjoyed year-round.
The Blue Moon pours orange, with very little head. The beer is filtered, without the traditional cloudiness of wheat beers. Take a whiff and you get orange peel.
Blue Moon goes down easy. You get more oranges, and then, nothing. Just a nice, pleasant taste. It’s an enjoyable beer, though there’s nothing complex in the flavor.
Allagash White, which is brewed in Portland, Maine, pours cloudy, hazy, with a big, off-white head. It smells of lemony citrus and spice. Upon first sip, you can taste the wheat. You taste the spices, too. It’s peppery, but not too much so. There’s orange in there, too, but it doesn’t steal the show. The beer finishes clean, while the Blue Moon leaves you with a lingering sweetness.
The stats: Blue Moon is 5.4 percent ABV, while Allagash is 5.2 percent. I bought a six-pack of Blue Moon for $9.99, the same price I paid for a 4-pack of Allagash White. Because it’s made by Coors (don’t get me started on Blue Moon’s misleading marketing), Blue Moon is more widely distributed and is generally more affordable.
You aren’t wrong to like Blue Moon. But one goal of this column is to get relative beer novices to try something new. If you’re new to craft beer and you try Allagash White, tell me what you think. If you’ve had both, why do you like one more than the other? As always, it’s just beer.
Limited edition brews
Backlash Beer and Night Shift Brewing, two rising stars in the Boston brewing scene, are collaborating on a limited-edition beer project.
The ONCEMADE project will result in two sour imperial saisons crafted by the two breweries. The Backlash beer — a pale saison with a pilsner and wheat malt base — will be hopped with Nugget and Willamette hops. Night Shift’s red saison will have a complex malt bill that includes caramel, wheat, rye, and acid malts and will feature Saaz and Willamette hops. The beers will be aged with Massachusetts raspberries and Brettanomyces yeast in local Red Wine Barrels and California Brandy Barrels.
“The barrels themselves are really expensive and we normally wouldn’t be able to take on that cost outside of a project like this,” said Backlash brewer Helder Pimentel. “There will be a considerable amount of evolution in the beer that occurs over time.”
The beers will come packaged together in hand-numbered pinewood boxes. Each package will also include two handmade wooden coasters, a piece of one of the barrels, and a signed letter from the brewers. You can pre-order the beers, which will sell for $45, on the ONCEMADE website.
This is the first in what will be a series of collaborations between two local breweries. Pimentel said the idea “really appealed” to him.
“This project really opened some doors to doing things that we normally can’t,” said Pimentel. “Brewing on a smaller scale allowed us to get more creative than we would normally by using Brettanomyces and barrel-aging the beer.”