What's Brewing: 4 Hefeweizen beers you need to try
It’s a funny name, but a tasty beer — it’s a Hefeweizen.
The word hefe, in German means yeast. Weizen, in German means wheat. A Hefeweizen is a traditional wheat beer from — you guessed it, Germany. The Hefeweizen style originated in Bavaria from Weizenbier (wheat beer) in which brewers replaced much of the malted barley with malted wheat.
The makings of Weizenbier
The Weizenbier is a bit of a rule breaker because according to Reinheitsgebot, the German Beer Purity Law enacted in 1516, the only ingredients to be used in beer were water, barley, and hops. Limiting brewers to only using barley ensured that there would be enough wheat and rye reserved for baking bread. However, the Dukes of Wittelsbach had to have their Weizenbier so they purposely introduced a loophole into the law five years later, which allowed for one single brewery to brew Weizenbier. The brewery was in the village of Schwarzach near the Czech border and was overseen by the Dukes of Degenberg. Years later, Duke Maximilian I showed his loyalty toward the beer by making it legal to produce Weizenbier at breweries all over Bavaria. Inevitably, this lead to a higher quality beer until the sales of Weizenbier accounted for one-third of all revenues in the State of Bavaria.
When brewers began to use yeast in 1860, Hefe was added to Weizen to indicate that the beer was bottle-conditioned, meaning one should expect contents of sediment from the unfiltered yeast. Often described as round and fruity, the authentic Bavarian yeast strain used in Hefeweizens produces distinguishable, unique spiciness and fruity aromas. Flavors often associated with Bavarian yeast are typically described as banana, clove, citrus, vanilla and even bubblegum. Nuances in taste range from being dry and sometimes tart. Despite the abundance of aroma and flavor characteristics, Hefeweizens are extremely well balanced and complex. No one flavor dominates another.
They are poured into a tall vase glass, which is specifically designed to accommodate the large frothy head from this highly carbonated beer while allowing room for aromas to escape on each sip. Hefeweizen’s have a medium-light to medium body.
They pour yellow and are cloudy due to being unfiltered. There is very little hop bitterness as a traditional Hefeweizen only offers around 15 IBUs. Alcohol by volume (ABV) is moderate and typically ranges from 4.3% and rarely exceed 5.6%. These qualities have helped make Hefeweizens a favorite choice for many consumers during the summer months. In recent years, Americans have added a lime wedge to the rim of the glass, which unbeknownst to many consumers, actually cancels out the depth of flavor that this particular liquid delicacy has to offer.
I’ve included just a few of the many local Hefeweizens you can find on tap. Cheers!
All Saints Brewing Co. (Greensburg) Heavenly Hefe Weizen Hefeweizen (5.2% ABV). Pours opaque yellow from being unfiltered. Aromas of wheat and spice. Balanced flavors of banana and clove. Light-medium body. Light, crisp and has a refreshing aftertaste.
Couch Brewery (Pittsburgh) HiFi Hefeweizen (4.7% ABV). Pours opaque yellow color with a fluffy white head. Fruity aromas and flavors of banana, spice and a hint of citrus. Medium-light body with good carbonation. Nice classic-style Hefeweizen.
Hofbräuhaus (Pittsburgh) Hofbräu Hefe Weizen Hefe Weizen (5.4% ABV). Pours hazy light yellow-orange color with a white fluffy head. Smells of banana and clove. Crisp. Flavors of banana, spice and a candy-like sweetness. Medium body and well carbonated. Well balanced, rounded and smooth.
Pennsylvania Brewing Co. (Pittsburgh) Penn Weizen Hefeweizen (5.2% ABV). Bavarian-style wheat beer pours cloudy yellow. Large white head which leaves a ring around your glass. Aromas and flavors of banana, clove, spice, and a hint of bubblegum. Effervescent which makes this light-medium bodied beer refreshing, especially during the hot days of summer.
Mark Brewer is a Tribune-Review contributing writer and the author and illustrator of Brewology, An Illustrated Dictionary for Beer Lovers.