Spring Warmers?

Now that the days are getting longer and it’s warming up outside, we’re beginning to move further away from the days of hearty imperial stouts and potent barleywines. The need for these wintertime warmers is quickly vanishing as crisp thirst-quenchers are on the minds of most Philadelphia craft beer nerds. However, breweries are not quite yet releasing their warm weather offerings, but we’ll see these brews arriving to Philadelphia over the next few weeks. For now heavy, roasty beers are widely available at craft beer-serving establishments around the city. On my most recent beer-scouting trip to the Plymouth Meeting Whole Foods (the only PA location to offer beer), I was in search of some beers that would suit these late-March/early-April transitional weeks before spring is in full-swing. These brews, I thought, should be crisp and golden, but should still be full-bodied with a somewhat warming ABV around 6-7%. I was pleased with what I found.

One of these early springtime beers I came away with was Voodoo Brewing Company’s White Magick of the Sun, a cleverly spiced Belgian-style wheat ale. Opened in 2007, this Meadville, PA brewhouse boasts a line of craft brewed, oak-aged rarities available in large bottles and on-tap. Some of their lineup includes Black Magick – a 15% ABV imperial stout aged in 13-year-old bourbon barrels, Pilzilla – a complex unfiltered Pilsner, and Love Child – a strong fruit ale aged on passion fruit and berries and fermented with a Belgian yeast strain. I chose White Magick because having tasted it on several occasions previously, I knew its crisp bite and fragrant spicing would be the refreshing selection I was after. Spicing, however, typically reminds me of pumpkin ales and Christmas beers from autumn and winter from which I was specifically trying to depart. Yet the poetic flowery and earthy spice blend which enlivens White Magick, consisting of coriander, orange peel, juniper berries and peppercorns, perfectly reflects the spring season. Once the beer is decanted, an aromatic explosion occurs with no single spice taking a backseat to another. Despite the powerful spicing, a refreshing malted wheat character comes through along with funky Belgian yeast.

I was also impressed by the other components of this ale. It has a stunning appearance: hazy, yet vibrant golden with remarkable head retention that one rarely comes across (great head retention/carbonation I think is the hallmark of Voodoo’s bottle brews). The taste develops opposite of the aroma; wheat and yeast funk strike first followed by juniper and sharp peppercorn bite, finishing moderately bitter and slightly sour – perhaps because of the Belgian yeast or barrel aging (natural bacteria and wild yeast found in oak barrels contribute to souring while a myriad of flavor characteristics can be contributed to Belgian yeast strains). White Magick of the Sun is very crisp on the tongue yet it’s on the lighter side in terms of body.

Overall, this beer is super drinkable despite its potent, fragrant spicing. I think that it accomplished what I was hoping it would – serve as a bridge between winter and spring beer. The spicing reminded me of winter, but wasn’t anything typical of cold weather ales. The bright golden color was very enticing and visually quenched my thirst like a warm weather beer should. Also adding to its high drinkability and refreshing nature was the wheat malt backbone. Wheat is used in the highest percentage for this beer and was certainly an excellent choice of grain for this beer. I don’t think that these particular spices would suit non-wheat-dominated styles of ale. It didn’t quite hit the mark in terms of body – for a 6% ABV beer, I would expect something a little heavier. Because of this, it drinks a little more like a light summertime Hefeweizen. Regardless, I’ll have one of these in my fridge, ready to go, at all times throughout the spring and summer.

– Dan

Voodoo graciously gives us the ingredients of White Magick of the Sun and here they are as listed on the bottle’s label:

Wheat, 2 Row Belgian Barley, Unmalted Wheat, Spalter Select Hops, Coriander, Juniper Berries, 12 Varieties (of) Peppercorns, Sweet Orange Peel, Our House Belgian Trippel Yeast. 14 degrees Plato O.G. 3 Plato F.G. 30 IBUs, 6% alc.

Some additional details you should know:

  • Brewery/location: Voodoo Brewery; Meadville, PA (287 mi. from Philadelphia)
  • Name/style/ABV: Voodoo White Magick of the Sun; Witbier, 6%
  • Availability: Uncertain; most likely year-round
  • Serving temp. and glassware: 50F; tulip
  • Pairing suggestion: Beets and herb goat cheese salad
  • Standout quality/area(s) for improvement: Beautiful appearance and eloquent spicing; too weak in the body and mouthfeel
  • Bold statement: Drink and you’ll forget all about winter warmers.
  • My BeerAdvocate rating/BA community rating: A-/B+
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