Tag Archives: Schneider-Weisse

The Beer Gallery: Highlights from Belgium, Bavaria, and Bohemia

Cologne, Sunday, 11:30 in the morning. The server, called a Köbes in Cologne, brings me my second glass of Kölsch and makes another mark on my beer mat. I’m not the only one here. Around me sit a mix of regulars populating the area around the bar, elderly couples who have come to sip on a few beers after mass, a family stopping in for a light snack and a beer before their afternoon outing, and a handful of English-speaking beer enthusiasts at a nearby table who, like me, are here for the Kölsch. It’s a scene that plays itself out endlessly in the traditional taverns of Cologne and Düsseldorf.

Regensburg, Monday, 2:30 p.m. It’s almost too cold on this late spring day to sit out in a beer garden, but we’re rewarded with a magical view of Regensburg’s gothic cathedral and medieval town center on the opposite bank of the Danube. The Steinerne Brücke dates from the middle of the twelfth century, and was the only bridge across the Danube when it was built. Regensburg may not be Munich, but the beer’s just fine and it’s an ideal base from which to visit two of Bavaria’s more iconic breweries: Schneider Weisse in Kelheim and Kloster Weltenburg a half an hour from there by boat.

Kloster Weltenburg, Tuesday, 9:30 a.m. We made it to Kelheim in time for the first sailing along the Danube in the direction of the Donau Durchbruch, the stunning gorge that serves as a gateway to the equally marvelous Kloster Weltenburg. The Assam brothers designed the opulent church and monastery; Kloster Weltenburg brews a Doppelbock in their honour. It’s one of my favourite Doppelbocks, but it tastes even better underneath the chestnut trees of Kloster Weltenburg’s beer garden, rain be damned.

Goes great with Spargel

Prague, Wednesday, 6:00 p.m. From the terrace in the shadow of the Strahov Monastery the Malá Strana and Staré Město districts spread out beyond a stretch of urban orchards and vineyards. Once we’ve imbibed the view, we head off to rub shoulders with the early evening drinking crowd at the Pivnice u Černého Vola, one of many traditional Prague pubs. Fortunately, you’ll still find plenty of these gems amid the deluge of tourists and the bars that cater to them.

Prague: more than just pivo

Bruges, Thursday, 4:00 p.m. We walk past the place where I first encountered Belgian beer, way back on a misty late-autumn eveing in 1991. The beer looked like the pilseners and lagers I had just learned to appreciate in Germany, but something was just a little different. I downed it and ordered another. I drank this one a few seconds more slowly and noticed that the beer had a certain richness and residual sweetness to it. Not long into my third beer I noticed something else – a bit of an unexpected kick. This time around I discover a nice twist on this beer they call Tripel: Cuvée Soeur’is, an oak-aged triple kriek from Brouwerij de Leite served up in the dimly lit surroundings of ’t Brugs Biertje.

De Halve Maan brewery in the background

Bellegem, Friday, 8:30 a.m. After a night exploring the beer cafes of Brussels, I head out with an old friend to western Flanders. We were there for the Flemish red ale, and for a tour of Brouwerij Omer Vander Ghiste. Neither disappointed. And I made a new friend named Le Fort Tripel.

Foeder room, Omer Vander Ghiste

Munich, Saturday, mid-morning. The weather has finally turned the corner, and the Aumeister beer garden in the northern reaches of the Englische Garten is just the perfect place to be. It appears we’ve beaten the crowds this morning, but it won’t be long before we’re joined by three thousand like-minded folks on this balmy summer day.

Tea for two

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This itinerary combines four different beer-related journeys upon which I’ve been lucky enough to embark over the past few months. Now that the “field research” is behind me (somebody’s gotta do it, right?), I’ll have time over the summer to put pen to paper and round out these sketches of life in Europe’s beer centers.

Here’s to hoping that you, too, will be able to dust off your travel gear and head out somewhere – anywhere! – in search of good beer. Prost!

Related Tempest articles:

The Colour of Fall Leaves: Tasting Notes on Märzen, Oktoberfestbier, and Vienna Lager

Let Us Now Praise Famous Lagers: Your Saturday Six-Pack (Vol.3)

Where the Wild Beers Are: Brussels and Flemish Brabant

All images by F.D. Hofer.

© 2017 F.D. Hofer and A Tempest in a Tankard. All rights reserved.

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Not Your Average Wheat Beer: Schneider’s Porter Weisse

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.2 Georg I Rezept 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,SchneiderWeisse - Hopfenweisse 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.IMG_1805 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.3 WBM nachts blau 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

A Coal Town and a Cold One: My Hefeweizen Craft Beer Conversion

Hefeweizen: A Beer for All Seasons

So You Wanna Brew a Weizen

Sources

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.

Images

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.

Hefeweizen: A Beer for All Seasons

Recently my local homebrew club had its monthly meeting. Every month we try to bring beers that have been brewed to a particular style. The style on the agenda for March was BJCP (Beer Judge Certification Program) Category 15 – German-style Wheat and Rye Beer. What follows is an expanded version of my short presentation to the club on this fascinating style, along with some tasting notes from a few nights later. A subsequent segment (click here) will introduce you to a few Weissbier brewing parameters in case you feel like whipping up a batch.

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WeizenGlass (www-ukhomideas-co-uk)The first thing that struck me on that evening in Saarbrücken about this beer they called Hefeweizen was the tall glass, slender at the bottom and fluted at the top. Then came the art of pouring, an elaborate ritual peculiar to German Weissbiers. Before I had even taken my first sip of this beer crowned by a majestic cap of foam, aromas of clove and banana seized my attention, suggesting that my sense of taste was about to be transformed. Several years have passed since that moment of conversion (which you can read about here), but German wheat beers have lost none of their charm.

Weizen? Weissbier? Weihen-what?

German wheat beers present the occasional terminological challenge for the uninitiated, especially since some of the terms are used interchangeably. Weissbier, Weizenbier, Hefeweizen, Dunkelweizen, Weissbier Dunkel, Weizenbock, Doppel Weizenbock. What’s going on here? Throw in a few brand names like Weihenstephaner, and it’s no wonder that these beers can languish in the tap lines of North American bars till well past their prime.

Weissbier means, literally, white beer. Now, none of these beers are actually white (but nor are any white wines for that matter), with colours ranging from straw all the way to russet. The high levels of protein in wheat make for a hazy drink, as does the suspended yeast. This is one style where you really do need to pour that sediment into the glass – hence the ritual attending Weissbier presentation. The one exception is Kristall Weissbier, which (in my opinion) has much of its character filtered out. Weizenbier is the most straightforward, translation-wise. It means what it says: wheat beer. Hefe means yeast, and Weizen means wheat. Put the two together and you have a Hefeweizen. A Dunkelweizen is a darker version of a Weizen, but nomenclature takes a decidedly paradoxical turn with beers like Franziskaner’s Weissbier Dunkel: dark white beer. Rounding out the German wheat beer category are the luscious Weizenbocks (wheat bocks).

Southern German Weizenbiers are nothing if not unique. Northern Germans also evolved different interpretations of wheat beers, the most famous being the tart and sour Berliner Weisse. But these styles, including the recently-rediscovered Gose of Leipzig,Gose - Label merit a separate discussion. Over the years, Bavarian brewers developed a top-fermenting ale yeast that links the lightest Kristall with the weightiest Weizen Doppelbock. The yeast produces phenolic notes usually associated with clove, but occasionally reminiscent of nutmeg, allspice, and cinnamon. Ester production is also high, imparting not only the typical banana aromatics associated with Weizenbiers, but also apple in some iterations. The interplay of scents can also come across as bubblegum. Unsurprisingly, the wheat itself leaves its stamp on the beer, with a peppery citrus acidity and a creamy fullness that manages to stay light and crisp on the palate. To me, nothing says spring or summer more than a Hefeweizen, but the spice and fruit flavours along with the periodic hint of vanilla and honeyed light brown sugar bespeak autumn and winter as well.

Wheat into Beer: The Vaguest Outlines of a History

If yeast expresses the spirit of a German Weizenbier, wheat anchors its corporeality. Malted wheat must comprise at least fifty percent of a Bavarian Weizenbier’s grist,Malted Wheat - Northern Brewer with the classic Munich proportion as high as seventy percent. Wheat has been used since Babylonian times to brew beer, but because of its lack of a husk in its malted form, it has posed many a challenge for brewers. What makes wheat excellent for baking bread tends to gum up brewing vessels, especially at the mash and lauter stage of the process. But that didn’t stop some brewers from refining their processes, and wheat beer eventually became a popular and profitable drink in 1400s Bavaria.

From here the story gets hopelessly muddled, and no online source or beer book in my possession paints a clear picture of how Weissbier fit in – or not – with the famous Reinheitsgebot (Purity Law) of 1516 restricting brewers to the use of malted barley, hops, and water.Reinheitsgebot - Briefmark (Wiki-de) By all accounts, it appears that the Wittelsbach dynasty that controlled Bavaria managed to skirt the law of their own promulgation and maintain a Weissbier brewing monopoly at their Hofbräuhaus (Royal Court Brewery) in Munich. There’s much more to it, but I’ll refrain from venturing an interpretation based on a slim stack of sources. Instead, I’ll pick up the thread in the late 1870s with a promise to conduct some proper research into the subject at a future point in time.

In 1872, Georg Schneider (1817-1890), scion of what would become today’s Schneider brewing concern, used his position as lessee of the Hofbräuhaus since 1855 to negotiate an end to the royal prerogative on Weissbier brewing.Georg Schneider (brauerei.gesternheute.geschichte) schneider-weisse-de His purchase of the rights to brew wheat beer from King Ludwig II gave Weissbier a new lease on life, paving the way for Bavarian brewers to focus on rejuvenating a style that had lost ground to the novel and sparklingly clear styles then sweeping Bohemia and Bavaria. By the 1950s, Weissbier had again fallen into disfavour, seen by many as a drink of the pre-war generation. Production ebbed, but a younger cohort rediscovered the light and refreshing charms of this ancient beverage, and today Weissbier accounts for roughly thirty percent of all beer consumed in Bavaria.

Tasting Notes

If you’ve visited Germany, chances are you’re already well aware of the vast selection of excellent Weizenbiers available in tobacco shops and at newsstands, in supermarkets, and at hole-in-the-wall corner stores. Over on this side of the Atlantic, the selection is quite good, depending on where you live. Keep an eye on how much dust has accumulated on the bottle, though. Weizenbier is a somewhat underappreciated style, and that bottle you just picked up might have been sitting on the shelf for some time.

For this particular tasting, I got together with a few friends for blind flights of Hefeweizens, Dunkelweizens, and Weizenbocks available in our distribution area. Over the course of our epic session, we sampled seven Hefeweizens, three Dunkelweizens, and three Weizenbocks. Here are a few highlights.

Of the Hefeweizens, the two most compelling beers we tasted were the Weihenstephaner Hefe Weissbier and the Ayinger Bräu Weisse.Weihenstephaner Hefe (weihenstephaner-de) The Weihenstephaner was elegant and delicate, melding mild banana and apple-cinnamon with leather-like clove and vanilla-accented light brown sugar. On the palate, its peppery effervescence was met by rich honeyed malt and a touch of nuttiness before finishing crisp and spicy (nutmeg-clove). The Ayinger was the most complex of the Hefeweizens, with a panoply of aromas ranging from creamed ripe banana and apple to lemon curd and light milky caramel. The spices were subtle, more like a blend of baking spices that encompassed clove, cinnamon, and allspice. Creamy and mouthfilling yet still effervescent, the palate presented a harmonious mix of biscuit, vanilla-banana, and a touch of tingly pepper and hop spiciness. The refreshingly crisp finish left us wanting another before moving on to the subsequent flights.

We didn’t have a Weihenstephaner among the Dunkelweizens, but I’ve had it often enough to assume with a fair degree of confidence that it would have been among our top Dunkelweizens if tasted blind.Ayinger Ur-Weisse (ayinger-bier-de) The Ayinger Ur-Weisse Dunkel Weizen was by far the most impressive of the Dunkelweizens we did taste, and was the most malt-forward of all the Hefeweizens and Dunkelweizens we sampled – reminiscent, in many ways, of Ayinger’s profoundly malty Märzen. The luminescent orange-hued bronze beer exuded aromas of fresh bread, malted milk, cream, milk caramel, mild toast with honey, and even a hint of cherry before giving way to fresh-cut apple and banana and a subtle but beguiling “spice box” character. Smooth and unctuous, the Ur-Weisse isn’t as carbonation-prickly as some Weissbiers, but a subtle tangy acidity emerges to balance out the rich malted milk, dark cherry, marzipan, spiced banana, and caramel-light brown sugar sweetness. This is a beer suited less to summer and more to the changing of the seasons.

Also meriting attention in our Dunkelweizen flight was the Franziskaner Weissbier Dunkel, not so much because it was particularly stellar, but because at $1.86 for a 500mL bottle, it has to be one of the better beer deals out there. Its caramel-clove, brown sugar, banana bread, and grassy-peppery aromas build up to a piquant, wheat-spicy palate that reprises the mild banana and caramel notes. This is a solid beer that won’t disappoint your guests or break the bank – something to consider as the price of good beer creeps ever higher.

Aventinus (schneider-weisse-de)The Weizenbock segment of our tasting revealed to me what I already knew: Schneider’s Aventinus and Weihenstephaner’s Vitus remain two of my favourite beers. In this sense, the Weizenbock flight wasn’t as blind as it could have been: I can pick the Aventinus out a mile away, and the Vitus, which I’ve had more times than I can count, stood out from the other two russet-brown beers with its burnished honey-golden colour. But the tasting was eye-opening insofar as it reminded me (yet again) not to write off a brewery based on a few underwhelming products. Erdinger is one of those breweries whose Weissbier and Weissbier Dunkel I’ve had on a few occasions (including as part of our blind Hefeweizen and Dunkelweizen flights), but the beers typically fail to hold my interest. Their Weizenbock, Pikantus, is a different story. Rich and intense aromas of fig, honey, plum-prune, dark caramel, toasted toffee, and molasses, with a vibrant toasty caramel palate featuring dark bread, rum-raisins and hints of baking spice made for a pleasant surprise.

With that many beers on the table, there were bound to be a few duds, two of which were Widmer’s Hefeweizen (which, to be fair, seemed to have been improperly stored at the local bottle shop), and Flying Dog’s In-Heat Wheat. This is not to suggest that all North American attempts to brew a German-style Weissbier are doomed to fail. Live Oak’s Hefeweizen is a case in point. So, too, are some of the home-brewed examples I’ve tasted. On the weekend before our blind tasting, I participated in the first round of judging for the Bluebonnet Brew-Off homebrew competition in Dallas. One of the flights I evaluated was a flight of Hefeweizens. A goodly number of these home-brewed beers were of higher quality than the Widmer and Flying Dog offerings.

Now, if home-brewed versions of Hefeweizen are showing up some of the commercial examples brewed in North America, what’s stopping you from brewing your own batch of Weissbier? Find out how you can in my next segment, “So You Wanna Brew a Weizen.”

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Related Tempest Articles:

A Coal Town and a Cold One: My Hefeweizen Craft Beer Conversion

Sources:

Garret Oliver’s The Brewmaster’s Table (New York: HarperCollins, 2003) contains an extended introduction to German wheat beers, along with a comprehensive food pairing suggestions.

Michael Jackson’s The New World Guide to Beer (Philadelphia: Running Press, 1988) contextualizes the Weizenbier style within the broader sweep of German brewing, while his Great Beer Guide (New York: DK Publishing, 2000) focuses on particular brands.

On the historical role of the Schneider family in Bavaria’s Weissbier production, see the Schneider website, which has an English-language option.

Of the English-language sources available on the web, the German Beer Institute’s “German Beer Primer” has a section on the Purity Law of 1516. Helpful as this section is, it doesn’t shed much light on the status of wheat and Weissbier.

Images:

Hefeweizen glasses: www.ukhomeideas.co.uk

Gose: www.beersinthehouse.blogspot.com

Malted wheat: www.northernbrewer.com

Reinheitsgebot postage stamp: www.wikipedia.de

Georg Schneider: www.schneider-weisse.de

Weihenstephaner Hefeweizen: www.weihenstephaner.de

Ayinger Ur-Weisse: www.ayinger-bier.de

Aventinus: www.schneider-weisse.de

© 2014 F.D. Hofer and A Tempest in a Tankard. All Rights Reserved.