It’s funny – this marked the week one my best friends returned to the states from an extended stay in Germany. Coincidentally, I spent the week on a tasting tour of the Munich area, trying out the world’s best Hefeweizens. I’d been toying with the idea of a “theme week” and finally pulled the trigger with one of my favorite beer styles. Over the past 7 days, I found there was a lot to learn about Hefs, keeping to the theme, and German pronunciation. Lass uns gehen!
Hefeweizens, literally translating to “yeast wheat”, are cloudy beers that use malted wheat in addition to the traditional barley. They’re slightly creamy with nice carbonation, have great big pillowy heads thanks to the yeast, and usually taste of banana, citrus, spicy cloves, and bubblegum. They also have an interesting history of suppression, corruption, and redemption, which I made into an easily digestible comic strip.
Now on to the beer.
I went into this week thinking for sure Weihenstaphaner was going to take the prize as “Top Hef”. I’d had it before and loved it, the rest of the world apparently loved it just as much, and it seemed to be the standard for the style. So sure was I it would come in first that I saved it for the very last day – I didn’t want an inferior beer to have to follow such an untouchable act.
That’s why I’m so surprised that it didn’t win! In fact, out of the entire week of beer, I’d have to say my favorite hefeweizen was the one brewed in California: Sierra Nevada’s Kellerweis. It’s not that the German offerings weren’t great, because they definitely were, but the Kellerweis seemed to have the whole picture. It could be that Sierra Nevada addresses the American palate more so than the German breweries. It could also have something to do with the very peculiar but extremely alluring “pizzeria” flavor that I kept getting from it. Either way, I was beyond impressed by the Kellerweis, and I highly recommend you try it for yourself.
My least favorite of the week was the beer that I was most excited about, and the one that made me decide to do a themed week in the first place – the Heavy Weizen by Southern Tier. I know they were trying to do something different with the beer, but to me the style was almost completely lost in their efforts to make it bigger. Instead of putting an exclamation point on hefeweizen, it just sort of diluted the message. I’m still a huge fan of the brewery, but to me this wasn’t a success.
As far as the Weihenstaphaner goes, it was still a fastastic example of the style, but I wouldn’t even say it was my favorite of the Germans. That title probably goes to the Franziskaner Hefe-Weisse, which I went out and got after I mistakenly bought the much darker Dunkelweizen the first time around. The Hefe-Weisse wasn’t quite as dynamic as the Kellerweis, but I’d say it was as pleasant a beverage as I’ve ever had.
As for the week itself, I think this might be the last time I do an honest theme week. It was fun being able to compare the beers so closely, but after a while I just wasn’t in the mood for another hef, and I was drinking more out of intellectual curiosity than enjoyment. Nothing against intellect – but I’m still in it for the fun of it.
The history lesson was in large part thanks to the fantastic blog, Beer Beats Bites.