Tag Archives: Weissbier

Beer Travel Off the Beaten Track: Austria’s Innviertel

When you think of beer destinations in Central Europe, certain cities and regions stand out as iconic.

Rauchbier from Bamberg. Budweiser from Budweis. Kölsch from Cologne. Pilsener from Pilsen. Altbier from Düsseldorf. Berliner Weisse. Gose from Leipzig. Light and dark lagers from Munich. And the beer riches of Bavaria in general.

Austria? Vienna Lager may well be a thing again as we celebrate the 175th anniversary of Anton Dreher’s brewing virtuoso this year. But even as the tide of “craft beer” slowly engulfs the Tyrol, Carinthia, Styria, Salzburg, and even Vienna, the country is still, largely, a patchwork of Gösser green, Ottakringer yellow, Puntigamer blue, and Stiegl red. Few beer enthusiasts beyond Austria’s borders think of it as a beer destination.

For the intrepid beer traveler, though, the Innviertel of Upper Austria is a gem of bucolic scenery, colourful towns, and top-notch breweries that don’t see wide distribution. In many ways, the Innviertel’s status as one of the few bona fide beer regions is not surprising, given its proximity to Bavaria. Indeed, the region was a part of Bavaria until it briefly became part of the Habsburg realms in 1779 and then continuously part of what would eventually become the Austria we know today in the wake of the Napoleonic Wars. Today, the brewing tradition of the region pays tribute to these historical connections with beers that would not be out of place in any Franconian tavern.IMG_7092

The Innviertel is roughly equidistant between Vienna and Munich, and a mere stone’s throw from Salzburg, but it’s off the major train lines. In fact, the diesel-driven train that runs between Neumarkt and Braunau am Inn is naught more than a bus on rails. If you want to stop at one of the smaller towns along a line, you have to push a button to alert the engineer. As you get further from Linz, the industrial center of Upper Austria, the landscape starts to undulate, and the houses take on a more rustic character. Verdant rolling fields spread out northward across the Inn and into Bavaria, and the tops of snow-capped peaks loom up above the hilltop forest stands to the south.

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My first stop is Ried im Innkreis, the administrative center of the Innviertel region and the largest market town in Austria in the mid-nineteenth century.IMG_6887

With a town square awash in colour and charming alleys radiating in every direction, Ried invites visitors to spend some time on the many terraces sipping a coffee, eating ice cream, or … drinking a beer.IMG_6880

Ried was once home to a handful of breweries, but since the Kellerbrauerei cooled its kettles in 2013, Rieder Bier is now the sole hometown hero.

The best place by far to hoist a tankard of the local brew and much else besides is the Biergasthof Riedberg. Karl Zuser, the sommelier-owner, is something of a local celebrity, criss-crossing the region offering and promoting his well-stocked cellar broad in brand selection and deep in vintage verticals.IMG_6829

Riedberg’s head server, Susanne Schimpf, is also a trained beer sommelier. She set me up not only with superb beers, but also a hop soft drink (Hopster Hopfenlimo) that I’m sure we’ll see at some point in Kreuzkölln or Brooklyn. IMG_6863

Schnaitl, one of the region’s innovative breweries. Zuser sells his beers by the bottle, but also offers reasonably-priced flights of anything on tap –– a rarity in Austria and southern Germany.

Schnaitl, one of the region’s innovative breweries. Zuser sells his beers by the bottle, but also offers reasonably-priced flights of anything on tap –– a rarity in Austria and southern Germany.

The hop schnapps Susanne served at the end of the meal cut through the rich and delicious regional fare perfectly.

Local beef cooked in beer, smothered in a Bärlauch cream sauce, and topped with white asparagus. Bärlauch grows wild in the foothills of the Alps and in the woods ringing Vienna, and is closest to the garlic scapes of eastern North America.

Local beef cooked in beer, smothered in a Bärlauch cream sauce, and topped with white asparagus. Bärlauch grows wild in the foothills of the Alps and in the woods ringing Vienna, and is closest to the garlic scapes of eastern North America.

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After a leisurely Easter Sunday buffet breakfast at Biergasthof Riedberg, I made my way to the train station to get the semi-regular train to Braunau am Inn, a pretty town that bears the unfortunate distinction of being the place where Adolf Hitler was born. As someone who has done a fair amount of work on the Holocaust and National Socialism, and who has traversed Europe to do research on the concentration camps, extermination camps, transit camps, forced labour camps, and the memorial sites that have sprung up as a witness to and warning against the murder of Europe’s Jews, I felt a certain ambivalence about heading to this particular town in search of beer on Easter Sunday. I’ll leave those thoughts open … They certainly refused to be bracketed as I tasted my way through Brauhaus Bogner’s stellar beer offerings.

Something on the lighter side ...

Something on the lighter side …

Be it the stellar Hefeweizen, the unique Fastenbier dark Bock brewed for Lent, the Frühlingsmärzen pulled straight from the lagering tanks before the rest of it goes down for the longer haul over the summer, or the dazzling Zwickl with its subtle aromas of pear, blossoms, artisanal bread, butter pecan, and fresh-cut meadows, Bogner knocks it out of the park.IMG_6938

Bogner is one of the smallest breweries in Austria, so you’ll need to journey to the source. It’s well worth the effort, though –– a real treat for fans of lagers and Weissbier.IMG_6942

Since the weekend was already winding down, I didn’t have time to linger in Braunau am Inn before retracing my steps in the direction of Schärding, a vibrant town perched on the banks of the Inn River.IMG_7085

For those who have been reading along since the early days of Tempest, you might remember a piece I wrote about Kapsreiter Landbier on the occasion of Craft Lager Day. Unfortunately, the owners of this much-beloved regional brewery also had money tied up in real estate, and are said to have been done in by the effects of the financial crash. The brewery and its inn were bought by Baumgartner, the brewery just across the street, but the legacy of Kapsreiter lives on.IMG_7040

IMG_7047Though Kapsreiter may be gone, Baumgartner is doing an excellent job of keeping the brew kettles stoked in Schärding. You can get their beer in just about any inn or tavern in town, but why not go straight to the source? The Baumgartner Stadtwirt Schärding (formerly Kapsreiter, as the barrels out front and stamped benches within attest) is conveniently located right across from the brewery, and the food is on point as well.IMG_6981

It’s early Monday afternoon, I don’t need to be in Vienna until nighttime, and I’ve already tasted my way through Schärding. I hadn’t thought of it while planning my weekend, but Passau is a mere fifteen minutes away on one of the main train lines out of Vienna into Germany via Linz. And a train happens to be leaving in half an hour.IMG_7100

Since it lies at the confluence of the Inn, Ilz, and Danube Rivers, it’s the perfect way to end my exploration of beers and breweries along the eastern portion of the Inn River. The Veste Oberhaus, erstwhile fortress of the Bishop of Passau, overlooks an Altstadt strewn with Gothic and Baroque architectural jewels and teeming with lively terraces.IMG_7113

Passau is also a university town, and it’s not long until I feel the pull of the inns and taverns at every street corner and in every square.

A beer with a view.

A beer with a view.

Satiated, I clamber I up to the fortress dominating the ridge overlooking the town, dip my toe in the water where the Inn and Danube come together, and stroll along the banks of the Inn back to the train station, just in time for my train back to Vienna. I barely scratched the surface of Passau, but in the immortal words of a certain Austrian from Graz, I’ll be back.

Related Tempest Articles

Prelude to a Drink: Vienna

Celebrating Craft Lager Day with a Landbier from Kapsreiter

Pictures at a Czech Beer Exhibition: Pilsen, Budweis, Český Krumlov

Endnote: Due to spotty bus and train connections to Engelhartszell, I missed out on Austria’s only Trappist brewery this time around. Now that I have my international driver’s permit, I’ll rent a car one of these weekends and let you know more about the town and the abbey.

© 2016 F.D. Hofer and A Tempest in a Tankard. All rights reserved.

Augurs of Spring: Wheat Beers Belgian, German, and American (Sat. 6-Pack, Vol.4)

Warmer days and cool nights. April showers on the horizon. The occasional spring frost following upon a stretch of summer-like days.

Time to lay those warming Russian Stouts and barley wines down to rest for another season.

* * *

The quintessential beer for your rites of spring, be they seeding the garden or cleaning the cobwebs out of the grill, is one that’ll quench your thirst on a sunny afternoon yet stand up to an evening chill. You won’t go wrong with a hoppy and refreshing American brown ale, and nor would a porter be out of place on a cooler day. For this Saturday’s six-pack, though, I’m going to suggest a selection of beers that stays within one (admittedly broad) family, a family of beers that hits all the registers of spring in its arc between winter and summer: wheat beers.

Van Gogh - Wheat-Fields-at-Auvers-Under-Clouded-Sky_July_1890 (WikiCommons)

Weizenbock: Vitus, Weihenstephan (Germany)

Weihenstephan has been making beer in Freising near Munich since 1040, so they’ve had a few years more than most brewers to perfect their recipes. And this Weizenbock (wheat bock) recipe comes as close to perfection as you’ll get among a stable of beers that also includes Weihenstephan’s sublime Hefeweissbier. Weihenstephan-Freising (weihenstephaner-de)

Vitus is the epitome of unctuous, and makes for an ideal transition between seasons. Aromas of honeyed light brown sugar, wheat, clove, allspice, and white pepper cascade out from underneath the epic pearl-white mountain of foam, with the slightest trace of butterscotch and a suggestion of saline minerality lurking in the depths.Weihen-Vitus (weihenstephaner-de) Swiss milk caramel shines through on the palate along with spiced honey, all exquisitely balanced by ripe banana, clove, and cinnamon en route to a velvet finish of marzipan and pear-banana-allspice.

At a honeyed, aromatic, and richly textured 7.7%, Vitus hides its potency well. But fear not if you overindulge your inner entertainer after drinking a few of these, for Vitus just so happens to be the patron saint of dancers, actors, and comedians.

Three Tankards.

Witbier/Bière Blanche: Blanche de Namur, Brasserie du Bocq (Belgium)

Wheat has deep roots in Wallonia and Flanders. Records of wheat grown for beer brewing date back to the time of Charlemagne’s Holy Roman Empire. Established in 1858, the Brasserie du Bocq in the heart of the Condroz is a family operation that adheres to the traditional process of secondary fermentation in the bottleBrasserie du Bocq bldg (www-bocq-be). The name of their witbier, Blanche de Namur, also evokes local tradition. In August 1335, Blanche de Namur was married off by her father, the Count of Namur, to Magnus IV Eriksson. When she embarked on her trip to Scandinavia to become a queen, it would be the last time she saw the banks of the Meuse. Brasserie du Bocq dedicates their beer to Blanche de Namur’s “beauty, sweetness and delicacy.”

Sweet and delicate this ochre-complexioned beer is. Dreamy aromas of lemony coriander, mild grapefruit zest, and spicy-floral hops set the stage for a rich, mouth-filling showcase of creamy wheat and citrus-spice that finishes up with a flinty dryness.Blanche de Namur (www-bocq-be) Many a North American craft beer drinker tends to conflate richness of flavour and a high percentage of alcohol. At 4.5% ABV, this is just the beer to puncture such myths.

One Tankard.

Hefeweizen: Bräuweisse, Ayinger Privatbrauerei (Germany)

To me, nothing says spring or summer more than a Hefeweizen, but the signature clove and banana aromatics along with the periodic hint of vanilla and honeyed light brown sugar are at home in just about any season. Ayinger’s Bräuweisse is a hazy honey-golden Hefeweizen crowned by a towering, meringue-like foam cap, and is one of the most compelling examples of this southern German style of beer that is nothing if not unique.

Pushing one-hundred-and-thirty years young, Ayinger isn’t quite as storied as Weihenstephaner, but the brewery is no less respected in Germany and beyond for its array of lagers and wheat beers.Ayinger Brauweisse (ayinger-bier-de) 2 The Bräuweisse exudes a panoply of aromas ranging from creamed ripe banana and apple to lemon curd and light milky caramel. The spicing is subtle, more like a blend of baking spices that encompasses clove, cinnamon, and allspice. Creamy and mouthfilling yet still effervescent, the palate presents a harmonious mix of graham cracker, vanilla-banana, and a touch of tingly pepper and hop spiciness. For best results, drink in a beer garden, preferably in sight of the Alps.

Three Tankards.

American Wheat: American Wheat Beer, Choc (U.S.A.)

Brown beers may well get no luvin’ on the sites that gauge the barometric pressure of the North American craft beer scene. For American wheat beers, though, the fate is even worse: silence. One of the longer-standing indigenous American beer styles, American wheat beer doesn’t even merit a mention in Tim Webb and Stephen Beaumont’s recent World Atlas of Beer. For my part, I have to admit that if I were to list my favourite beer styles, American wheat beer would not make it too high up the ladder. That’s no reason to pass on this typically effervescent and easy-drinking beer style in the springtime, though. The style is fairly ubiquitous across North America, and you can find the occasional intriguing example like 3 Floyds’ Gumballhead, but for this Saturday’s sixer, I’m going to go with a solid example from Oklahoma’s quiet powerhouse, Choc Beer Company.

Choc traces its roots back to a time when Pete Prichard (né Pietro Piegari) served up beer to the English, Irish, Welsh, and Italian immigrants who flocked to the area in search of jobs in the nearby coal mines. Prichard operated through Prohibition out of Pete’s Place, his family-style Italian eatery that fast became an institution in southeastern Oklahoma. Today, Choc brews a slate of solid and affordable beers alongside a small roster of respectable specialty releases.

Formerly known as 1919 Choc Beer, the hazy straw-gold American Wheat Beer weaves together malt and hops into a delicate canvas of lemon grass and coconut aromatics reminiscent of Thai cuisine.Choc - American Wheat (label) Malt anchors the beer unobtrusively, with notes of fresh bread, nougat, and toasted toffee. But that’s not all: the hops contribute a pineapple-tangerine quality that melds well with the nougat, along with a subtle spiciness and a breath of spring flowers in bloom. Clean and crisp, the beer finishes with the slightest bitterness that leads into a lingering aftertaste of dried apricot and cinnamon-dusted white raisins. The aromatics and flavours of Choc’s American Wheat Beer are many but subtle, and come together like the individual brush strokes of an Impressionist painting. Indeed, this is both the strength and weakness of this beer that eschews bold gestures in favour of nuance. No show-stopper, Choc’s American Wheat Beer is, nonetheless, a pleasant drink that rewards patience. Drink cool but not cold.

Gose: Original Ritterguts Gose, Brauhaus Hartmannsdorf (Germany)

Even if it took a few decades for the North America craft beer cognoscenti to bestow its seal of approval on this tart and refreshing beer most closely associated with the city of Leipzig, Gose is now one of the hottest summertime beer commodities. Summer aside, Gose is, like Hefeweizen, a versatile beer eminently suited to spring’s capricious weather.

IMG_4828

The past few years have witnessed many an intriguing Gose crop up in beer stores across North America, but none of these excellent beers quite matches the peerless Original Ritterguts Gose. Despite how the name may look and sound to English speakers unacquainted with German, Ritterguts Gose traces a rather noble history back to the Rittergut (manor) of Döllnitz, where Gose production started in 1824. As part of the general Gose revival underway in 1990s Leipzig, Tilo Jänichen developed a Gose that was based on this original Döllnitzer manor recipe, but could barely keep up with demand.Rittergute Gose Labels Production shifted to ever-larger breweries, and in 2007 Brauhaus Hartmannsdorf took on the brewing of Original Ritterguts Gose.

Brauhaus Hartmannsdorf’s iteration of this classic recipe is a deep, burnished golden beer with a luminescent haze. Out of the hazy mist float complex aromas of fresh raw almond, wheat cereal richness, a quinine-like sourness, and a coriander-clove spiciness buffeted by a gentle sea breeze carrying green plum scents not unlike Japanese ume-boshi. Mouth-filling, silky, and with just enough lassi-like saltiness and moderate acidity to whet the appetite, our Döllnitzer classic builds to a mineral-crisp and dry finish of almonds, stone fruit, and spiced apple that made me think, briefly, of chutney. Compared to other examples of the style, the honeyed nougat-like malt depth lends this beer a certain gravitas, and the very low level of hops (with a herbal note suggestive of dill) meshes well with the savoury coriander and brine notes.

A standard bearer. Three Tankards.

Berliner Weisse: Berliner Style Lager (Sour Wheat Lager), Jack’s Abby (U.S.A.)

If the weighty Weizenbock is perfectly suited to those days when you can still hear winter’s echo, the Berliner Weisse is its antipode: crisp, sour, and refreshing. Where Weizenbock makes a fine accompaniment to an evening après-ski, Berliner Weisse is more at home when the late-spring mercury is pointing toward summertime.Jacks Abby Berliner (jacksabbybrewing-com) Like the historic Gose, this northern German beer style is another that has enjoyed a renaissance of late among North American craft beer enthusiasts smitten with sour beers.

In a nod to the traditional practice of using a neutral ale yeast, Jack’s Abby of Framingham, MA, ferments its Berliner Weisse with a lager yeast after souring the mash. The results are an impressive rendition of what Napoleon once called “the Champagne of the north,” and what the ever-pragmatic Berliners dubbed simply “the workers’ sparkling wine.” Jack’s Abby combines aspects of both champagne and white wine with its bread dough-like yeasty character and its zesty green apple-lemon acidity. Aromatic tart-sour notes tend toward Asian pear and crisp peach that lend this light-bodied thirst quencher a steely mineral crispness. Meanwhile, a sherry-like nuttiness and a touch of clean, honeyed wheat holds the balance long enough for cinnamon-spiced apple to make an appearance in the dry finish. The one flaw that keeps this beer merely excellent? An all-too-ephemeral effervescence.

Take your Berliner Weisse straight up, or with a shot of syrup. Traditional choices are green or red: woodruff or raspberry.

One Tankard.Bild 11

What are some of your favourite wheat beers? What are your springtime go-to beers? Let us know in the comments.

Sources and Further Reading

For all things wheat in Germany, see the German Beer Institute’s entry on Weissbier, and on Berliner Weisse.

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 Blanche de Namur: http://www.bocq.be/english/ownbrands/blanche_namur.php

On the pros and cons of various souring methods, see Michael Tonsmeire’s informative American Sours: Innovative Techniques for Mixed Fermentations (Boulder, CO: Brewers Publications, 2014).

A brief write-up on the Shelton Bros. website, along with an entry on the Ortsteil der Gemeinde Schopau im Saalekreis, help disentangle the production history of Original Ritterguts Gose and its relationship to Döllnitz.

Tim Webb and Stephen Beaumont’s The World Atlas of Beer: The Essential Guide to the Beers of the World (New York: Sterling Epicure, 2012) offers up a visually-pleasing panorama of regions, styles, and labels.

Related Tempest Articles

Gose: A Beer Worth Its Salt

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

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

A Taste of Oklahoma in Six Glasses

Brown Beers Get No Luvin’: Your Saturday Six-Pack (Vol.2)

Your Saturday Six-Pack (Vol.1)

Images

Vincent van Gogh, “Wheatfield at Auvers under Clouded Sky” (1890), Oil on Canvas, Carnegie Museum of Art Pittsburgh. Wiki Commons/Public Domain.

Freising and Vitus. http://weihenstephaner.de

Brasserie du Bocq and Blanche de Namur: www.bocq.be

Ayinger Bräuweisse: http://www.ayinger.de/?pid=262

Choc American Wheat: https://www.petes.org/

Leipzig: F.D. Hofer

Salts: F.D. Hofer

Original Ritterguts Gose: www.sheltonbrothers.com

Jack’s Abby Berliner Style Lager: http://jacksabbybrewing.com/beers/

Berliner Weisse in traditional glass with woodruff syrup: German Beer Institute.

© 2015 F.D. Hofer and A Tempest in a Tankard. All Rights Reserved.

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.

So You Wanna Brew a Weizen

In this post, we’ll explore some of the ways you can brew up a 2.5-gallon batch of German Wheat Beer in your kitchen. I’ve included a recipe below for a variation on the Weizen theme: a Roggenbier (rye beer) that you can easily convert into a Dunkelweizen. If you’re new to homebrewing, consider picking up a starter kit from one of the many online homebrew suppliers, and take a glance at a book like Charlie Papazian’s The Complete Joy of Homebrewing.

If you haven’t already read it, check out my “Hefeweizen: A Beer for All Seasons” for some historical and stylistic notes on Weissbiers. Also included in the “Beer for All Seasons” article is a brief set of tasting notes spanning some of the more widely available Hefeweizens, Dunkelweizens, and Weizenbocks so you can get a sense of the style.

WheatHarvest Idaho (Wiki)

Now that we know something of the general characteristics of Weizenbier, how do we go about brewing one? I’ll focus on Hefeweizens and Dunkelweizens, but you can find recipes for Kristalls and Weizenbocks online or in other published sources. (Refer to the BJCP Style Guidelines for brewing parameters.) The vital statistics for both Hefeweizens and Dunkelweizens are similar: 4.3-5.6% ABV; low noble hop character from varieties such as Hallertauer, Tettnanger, Spalt, or Perle; a moderate starting gravity of 1044-1052 for Hefeweizens and 1044-1056 for Dunkelweizens; and a finishing gravity in the 1010 to 1014 range. Wheat typically makes up more than fifty percent of the grain bill in these refreshing medium-light to medium-bodied beers, imparting a creamy richness and sometimes a peppery, citrus-like acidity. The grist composition is usually rounded out by Pilsener malt in the case of Hefeweizens, and augmented by specialty malts such as Munich and crystal malts in the case of Dunkelweizens.

BJCP LogoWhat does this translate into on the palate? Here’s what the BJCP guidelines have to say:

Medium-light to medium body; never heavy. Suspended yeast may increase the perception of body. The texture of wheat imparts the sensation of a fluffy, creamy fullness that may progress to a light, spritzy finish aided by high carbonation. Always effervescent.

As with all beers in BJCP Category 15, the key to brewing an “authentic” German-style wheat or rye beer is yeast selection. Two of the more popular yeasts are Wyeast’s 3068 Weihenstephan strain, and White Lab’s WLP380 Hefeweizen IV. Bavarian wheat beer yeast strains give the beers both a fruity character often associated with bananas (and sometimes with apples) and a spicy character most often associated with cloves (and sometimes cinnamon).White Labs Yeast (thebrewhut-com) As I mentioned in the “Beer for All Seasons” article, “Hefe” means yeast; agitating the yeast in the bottle and pouring it into the glass at the end contributes to the classic hazy appearance of Weizens.

In his Brewing Classic Styles, Jamil Zainasheff suggests that the simplest malt bill formulations are the best: at least fifty percent wheat, and the rest a good Continental Pilsener malt. I have also used moderate amounts of Munich malt (less than ten percent of the grain bill) to give the beer a slightly toastier and breadier malt accent. Single-infusion mash temperatures should be in the 152-154F range (around 67C, give or take) so that you get sufficient body. The Weissbier yeast strains attenuate fairly well (around 73-77%), so you don’t have to worry too much about the beer being cloying.

Dunkelweizens exhibit a greater degree of malt richness and complexity due to the addition of Munich malts. Crystal malts may also feature in the malt bill along with small quantities of roasted malts like Carafa malts. The malt bill results in beers that are light copper to mahogany brown in colour. As with all beers in this style, the head is tall, dense, and mousse-like. Yeast and aromatics are similar to those of Hefeweizens – banana esters and/or clove phenols. Dunkels tend to be sweeter than Hefeweizens, with notes of toast, caramel, nuts, and even chocolate in the aromas and on the palate. Despite the additional sweetness, Dunkelweizens are rounded beers with a relatively dry finish.

After yeast selection, fermentation temperature is probably the single most important factor in brewing a tasty Hefeweizen. And that goes not only for Hefeweizens, but for all the beers in this category. Watch those fermentation temperatures! It’s best not to let these beers ferment much above 70F (21C), even if the stated range for the given yeast strain might fall between 62-75F (17-24C). Higher temperatures yield more banana esters, and lower temperatures yield more phenolics.

A Brief Word on Other Weizenbiers

Kristallweizen does not constitute its own BJCP category. These beers are very similar to the more ubiquitous Hefeweizens, but are filtered (hence the modifier, Kristall), and are generally fruitier, less phenolic, and more delicate than Hefeweizens.

Weizenbocks are strong, malty, fruity, and spicy wheat beers that combine elements of Hefeweizens and Dunkelweizens with the rich body and warming alcohol character of a Bock. These beers are typically dark, with a grain bill resembling an amped-up Dunkelweizen. That said, Weihenstephan does produce a compelling honey-gold version called Vitus. Schneider’s Aventinus is, technically, a Weizen Doppelbock, but it tends to get lumped in with the Weizenbock category. If you’re brewing a clone, check out this recipe in Brew Your Own.

WildRye (Wiki)Roggenbier is similar to a Hefeweizen or Dunkelweizen, the major difference being the replacement of malted wheat with malted rye. I have had one commercial German example only, and have yet to see a German Roggenbier in North America. Rogue produces a Roguenbier Rye Ale, but I have not been able to find it in my distribution area.

I did, however, take a stab at brewing my own Roggenbier in March, and just cracked my first bottle last night. One problem that I encountered was a high level of viscosity that didn’t dissipate much from mash through post-fermentation. Fortunately, the high levels of carbonation for these beers managed to tame the slickness of the rye somewhat. The viscosity comes from a high level of beta glucans in malted rye, and its persistence through to the finished product likely has something to do with mash temperatures. I have three years of home-brewing experience under my belt, and started formulating my own recipes only this season, so I’m by no means a pro at this. Once I get the beer into the hands of an experienced brewer who can provide advice on the mash schedule, I’ll let you know how to keep the viscosity in check. If you’re an experienced brewer and have any suggestions regarding process or recipe formulation, please leave a comment.

*Once fermentation’s all said and done and the bottles have conditioned, don’t forget the proper glassware to keep that towering foam cap in place! It’s tempting to drink these beers on the cold side – and that’s just fine – but at 48-54F (9-12C) you’ll be giving the subtle malt characters of these beers a chance to expand.

Post-Script: Keep On Roggen’ Rye

IMG_0143Vitals:

  • 2.5 gallons (pre-boil volume: approx. 3.3 gallons)
  • OG (Original Gravity): 1.052
  • FG (Final Gravity): 1.014
  • ABV: 5%
  • 90-minute boil

Grain Bill:

  • 3.3 lbs (1.5 kg) Rye Malt, 3.5ºL
  • 1.5 lbs (680 g) Munich Malt, 10ºL
  • 1 lb (454 g) Pilsener Malt, 1.8ºL
  • 0.6 lb (272 g) CaraMunich III, ~55-60ºL

Like wheat, malted rye will gum up a mash. Add about 2-3 ounces of rice hulls to the mash tun to ensure a happy brew day.

Hop Additions:

  • ½ oz (14 g) Northern Brewer (9.4%), 75 minutes
  • ¼ oz (7 g) Spalt (5.2%), 75 minutes
  • ¼ oz (7 g) Tettnanger (4.5%), 20 minutes
  • ¼ oz (7 g) Tettnanger (4.5%), 5 minutes

When I brew another Roggenbier, I’ll likely keep the bittering additions to 60 minutes, and will use Perle or Hallertauer in place of the Northern Brewer. I found that a slightly higher hopping rate compared to a Hefeweizen or Dunkelweizen helped counter some of the sweeter malts, but the Northern Brewer’s bittering qualities seemed to accentuate the peppery quality of the rye a bit much.

Yeast:

Wyeast 3068 Weihenstephan (One pack will do for 2.5 gallons, but making a small starter wouldn’t hurt.)

Process:

Step-mash the grains for 60 minutes total. Perform a protein rest for 20 minutes at the high end of the range – 130F (54C) – followed by a 40-minute saccharification rest at 154F (68C). I added more hot water to my mash tun at this point in an attempt to hit a 168F (76C) mash-out temperature, but only got things up to 162F (72C). You could easily skip the mash-out step and begin recirculating the wort and sparging after the saccharification rest. (One step I would add next time is a 10-minute ferrulic acid rest at the outset of mashing to break down the beta glucans.) Boil for 90 minutes to reduce DMS. Ferment at 63F (17C). Carbonate the fermented beer to between 3.3 and 3.5 volumes of CO2. Since you want all that aromatic yeast in your glass, this is one style for which you might want to forego kegging in favour of bottle-conditioning.

*Substitute wheat for rye and add a bit of chocolate malt and/or carafa malt, and you’ve got a Dunkelweizen.

Prost!

________

Images:

Wheat harvest in Idaho: Wikipedia

BJCP logo: BJCP

Yeast vials: www.thebrewhut.com

Rye: Wikipedia

Tempest’s Roggen: F.D. Hofer

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