G. Schneider & Sohn is a southern German brewery that knows a thing or three about Bavarian-style wheat beers. Founded in 1872 just after Bavaria had joined a recently-unified Germany under Bismarck and Kaiser Wilhelm I, Schneider Weisse has since produced rivers and lakes of top-fermenting wheat beers. When Georg Schneider I purchased the right to brew Weissbier from the Wittelsbach monarch, King Ludwig II, he was the first since shortly after the enactment of the Reinheitsgebot in 1516 to found a private Weissbier brewery in Bavaria. A century-and-a-half later, a Schneider––Georg Schneider VI––is still at the helm.
A brewery owned by the same family for generations. A brewery dedicated to tradition with a near-exclusive focus on wheat beer. But not a brewery clinging to the formalities of tradition. Schneider Weisse brewmaster, Hans-Peter Drexler, collaborated with Garrett Oliver of Brooklyn to produce the Hopfenweisse, a hoppy wheat beer that brings 40 IBUs to the table. If that doesn’t sound like much compared to your standard-issue IPA, consider that the Scheider Weisse Original hovers around a restrained 14 IBUs. A few years back, Schneider Weisse also released a blond Weizenbock made with Nelson Sauvin hops––quite a radical departure, considering that German “noble” hops such as Hallertauer carry the bulk of whatever small hop charge there is in typical Bavarian-style wheat beers.
So when I saw that Schneider Weisse had released a Porter Weisse, I was, to say the least, intrigued. According to the “Tasting Note” signed by none other than Georg VI. Schneider and hung around the bottle’s neck:
It was one of those unforgettable nights in a London Pub. I was with some English brewing artists […] and we had a funny discussion about who of us brewed the better and more traditional beers. My friend and colleague Alister admired especially Tap 7 Unser Original while I had fallen in love with a London Porter. Some beers later the idea was born: why shouldn’t we try to brew a combination of both beer styles?
A perfect union of two very different beer styles, or a train wreck in the making? “Some beers later” is always a bit of a risky proposition, so I decided to find out.
And now here I am, contemplating my inky black beer with its mahogany and pecan-brown highlights and huge tan wheat beer cap of rocky foam. Truly a hybrid right from the start. First impression: Plenty going on. Vanilla liqueur-spiked banana, with some bitter-sweet baker’s chocolate mixed in. A dash of Hallertauer spice combined with cloves and a hint of cinnamon. And Bock-like with its port and brandy notes. Am I detecting a family resemblance with Schneider’s Aventinus here?
Porter Weisse is more Weissbier than porter, but even that’s not entirely accurate, especially once the berries chime in. Then comes the plum-prune character, which, along with the cocoa/baker’s chocolate, builds the bridge between the two styles. As the beer warms up, it exudes some of that marzipan-like nuttiness mingled with banana that I associate with certain kinds of daiginjô saké.
If the bouquet is expansive, Porter Weisse’s palate is taut and restrained. Paradoxically, though, this medium-bodied ale remains full-flavoured throughout, with a peppery carbonation that manages the dual feat of being effervescent and creamy at the same time. The aroma symphony reprises itself, adding layers of fruit cake/Black Forest cherry cake and dates. Marzipan and spiced maraschino cherry make a cameo appearance near the off-dry cocoa finish. A berry-like acidity gives the beer lift, and a Kirsch-like alcohol ensures that the beer will warm you on a cold day.
As I’m draining the last drop from my glass, I’ve decided that Schneider’s Porter Weisse is a unique and complex ale, if not exactly a seamless convergence of porter and wheat beer. Southern Bavarian wheat beer yeast is a prominent player, and there isn’t much in the way of coffee/mocha roastiness typical of porters, even if some cocoa and bitter-sweet chocolate makes its way into the mix. All in all, the Porter Weisse is not quite as impressive as Schneider’s Mein Nelson Sauvin, but it does have a singular charm about it. If anything, though, I’d like just a bit more “something” in the mid-section––maybe a touch of toffee or caramel to round things out.
At the moment, Porter Weisse is a limited-edition offering, but hopefully that will change. If you can find it, Porter Weisse is a beer that you can lay down in your cellar for later. When you break it out, serve it starting at 50F (10C) and then let the beer evolve as you sip it with friends and family.
A beer worthy of a special occasion. Two Tankards.
Related Tempest Articles
Horst D. Dornbusch, Prost! The Story of German Beer (Boulder, CO: Brewers Publications, 1997).
The Schneider Weisse website contains a wealth of information, much of it available in English.
With the exception of the bottle of Porter Weisse (F.D. Hofer), all images are from the Schneider Weisse website.
© 2014 F.D. Hofer and A Tempest in a Tankard. All Rights Reserved.