The very first “craft beer” that I ever tried was a wheat beer brewed in the Hefeweizen style. After that single experience my eyes were opened to a world of better beer and I haven’t been the same since. So, by default I’ve always had a soft spot for them. I never realized that beer could be so flavorful, intense, and beautiful to look at. After I began to explore different types of brews I kind of let the Hefeweizen/Weissbier go by the wayside. Whether it was because I didn’t find them adventurous enough, I became bored with them or because I began to see more popular macro brewers delving into the realm I sort of turned up my nose at them for a while. It wasn’t until a few years ago that I really began to appreciate the drink for what it is…. a really great beer!!!
It seems that every brewery under the sun brews some type of India Pale Ale and for good reason because who doesn’t love a great, hoppy IPA? Just as well, most also produce some kind of Hefeweizen or Weissbier. However, the IPA gets all the limelight. The “Hefe” almost always gets overlooked by beer enthusiasts (me included). I find that somewhat puzzling considering that this style is among the oldest, most popular, delicious and recognizable in the history of beer. Taking into account the ease at which this beverage can be quaffed, the refreshing qualities and the lack of strain that is put on ones palate when drunk I would think that it would be at the top of most any beer drinkers list.
It’s no wonder the brew pairs so well with the warm days of Spring and Summer either. The pleasing fruity notes of banana and citrus combined with the clean, smooth and bright flavors make for a satisfying concoction and easy drink for beginners who are learning to gravitate toward better beer and enthusiasts alike. As the days lengthen and begin to warm this brew goes down as gentle as mother’s milk.
One of my lifelong goals is to be able to travel to Germany and visit an authentic beer garden and enjoy a tall glass of this fine beverage. The Germans really need no introduction when it comes to brewing a Weissbier. After all, they practically invented the thing!!! Breweries like Weinhenstephaner, Schneider Weisse, Franziskaner and Ayinger have seemed to be the guys from which most try to copy. Weinhenstephaner has been well documented as being the worlds oldest brewery dating back to 1040 A.D. and it has been said that they were brewing a type of Weissbier since the very beginning. Either way, they have had a great deal of practice in perfecting the style. For me, when I think of a Hefeweizen or Weissbier… I’m thinking of Germany and more specifically, Weinhenstephaner. Now, the Belgians know how to do it up right too. Although, from my experience, the “Wit” beer seems to be a bit more spicy, yet no less delicious. On the other hand, don’t overlook the American brewers either. I’ve had several American versions that totally delighted my liver.
Why do we tend to overlook the Hefeweizen/Weissbier? Could it be that it’s not as sexy as say, a Lambic that has been stored and aged like wine for many years? Could it be that it’s not as bold and “manly” as a barrel aged Stout? Either way, when evaluated at great depth, the wheat beer has as many characteristics and nuances as any and I strongly urge anyone to order up a fresh pour from a tap if they haven’t done so in a while and just ponder all that this wheat beer has to offer. I’d be willing to bet that you won’t walk away disappointed. Heck, throw an orange slice on the rim if you want. Now, is a wheat beer my favorite style? No, but there are times when it fits the mood as well as any other and in some ways I become nostalgic and hark back to a time when my virgin taste buds were awakened and no longer blinded by the ways of stale, mass produced beer and for that I am forever grateful.
Thanks for reading everyone. Is the Hefeweizen/Weissbier one of your favorites? Feel free to comment and let me know what you think of the post. I’d love to hear from you.
Photos courtesy of:
3 beers: http://www.bayern.by
beer garden: http://www.oktoberfissa.nl