Viru Blanc 0% is an alcohol-free wheat beer from Estonia, though the company that owns the Viru brand is the UK-based Baltic Beer Company Ltd. The beer is still brewed in Estonia however, at the A. Le Coq brewery in the city of Tartu. Having been in the business since 1807, and being the country’s oldest brewery, we expect them to know a thing or two about beer. And with the country being the fourth highest beer consumer in the world, we expect Estonians to be picky about what they drink. So, expectations are high before we even look at the bottle.
And the bottle is indeed something to be looked at. It’s striking design grabs your interest immediately, with a sleek octagonal pyramid shape which is nothing like any beer bottle I’ve ever seen. The shape is apparently intended to represent the medieval turrets seen in Estonian towns and cities, though my in-depth research into this (a minute or two on Google images) showed that these turrets seem to be rectangular or cylindrical in shape. Oh well, it makes for a good story anyway, and the bottle is pretty enough for you to reuse it as a lamp or vase. So, is Viru Blanc all style over substance? Lets give it a try!
Pouring the beer from the bottle we get a pale straw liquid with some slight haze to it. We get about a finger of frothy head on pouring, though this recedes to some patchy splotches soon enough. On the nose, well this is where it gets interesting. As you’d expect from a wheat beer there is a fair amount of bready aroma there, but so much more is packed in here; floral, citrus, honey sweetness – even a touch of soap and flour. I think I spent longer inhaling this beer than any other of my reviews so far.
The interesting flavours continue as we taste, but initially we get smacked with sweetness, which verges on cloying. This does become less intense thankfully, and leads into wheat malt and citrus territory which is more like a traditional wheat beer. However it then takes a sudden turn into leafy floral bitterness which then leaves you with a sweet, slightly creamy finish. The body is quite light and the carbonation is quite high.
Viru Blanc certainly has substance to match it’s style, but I’m undecided as to whether it’s actually pleasant substance. For me, the flavours and sweetness are pretty wild for a wheat beer, and it’s lacking the classic depth of a standard wit. It’s easy enough to drink, but I’m not sure I’d want to drink more than one in a sitting. Maybe not a ‘love it or hate it’ beer, but I suspect it’s strong flavours and sweetness more likely to put people off than turn them into fans. One last thing though, is you really could not tell that it was alcohol free.
Nutritional Information (per 100ml)
0.3% alcohol by volume
21.5 calories energy
(taken from the side of the very nice looking bottle)
Water, Wheat Malt, Malted Barley, Wheat, Hops, Coriander, Citrus Peel
Viru Blanc 0% Alcohol-Free Wheat Beer Review
A strange beast, packed with flavour but maybe not the flavours people will be looking for in a wheat beer. Give it a try though for the bottle alone.