Now that it is officially spring it's time to lose the dark, high-alcohol beers and start enjoying light, low ABV beers like the Hefeweizen.
This German-style ale is light-bodied but can have some interestingly complex flavors and aromas. Let's first take a look at the name to get a better sense of what Hefeweizens are all about. "Hefe" means yeast and "weizen" means wheat in German so it's no surprise that these beers are yeasty and wheaty! The grain bill for brewing a Hefeweizen consists of at least 50 percent malted wheat as opposed to most other beers that contain 50-80 percent malted barley. Hefeweizen's are traditionally unfiltered which gives them a hazy look in a glass. There are filtered styles known as krystalweizen (crystal clear). The addition of so much wheat give these beers their traditional straw color, light & creamy palate, and thirst quenching finish. It is the yeast, however, that give Hefe's a majority of their character, imparting both flavors and aromas of bananas, bubble gum, vanilla, and spicy cloves. While hops are always an ingredient in beer they are not apparent in either the flavor or aroma of Hefe's. High carbonation and low ABV levels (4.5-5.5% ABV) make this an extraordinary spring/summer drinking style.
Hefeweizen's are traditionally served in a tall, vase-shaped glass at about 45 degrees Fahrenheit. When pouring a Hefe from a bottle it is best to pour down the side of the glass to keep from over foaming due to the high carbonation levels but then swirl around the last inch of the bottle to pick up the yeast sediment and pour right down the middle of the beer to give the hazy look that Hefe's are best known.
Hefeweizen's had established themselves by 1500 in the German state of Bavaria. Though in 1516 Germany had passed the Reinheitsgebot or German Beer Purity Law (only barley, water, and hops could be used in the production of beer) it did not hinder the popularity or growth of the Hefeweizen even though over half of its grain bill was wheat. This was due to the fact that the Bavarian royal family at the time had purchased (for a large tax) the exclusive brewing rights of wheat beers in Germany. They held this monopoly for nearly 300 years but the style began to fade by the late 1800's. Fortunately, a gentleman by the name of George Schneider purchased the rights to brew the wheat beers and are still produced in his Munich brewery today.
Nick's Picks and Pairings
Weihenstephaner Hefeweissbier - 5.4% ABV - Bayerische Staatsbrauerei Weihenstephan (Germany)
Hefeweizen - 5% ABV - Yazoo Brewing Co. (Nashville, TN)
El Jefe - 5.5% ABV - J. Wakefield Brewing (Miami, FL)
Weizen - 4.8% ABV - Naples Beach Brewery (Naples, FL)
Hefeweizen Unfiltered Wheat - 4.4% ABV - Schlafly The Saint Louis Brewery (St. Louis, MO)
When enjoying a Hefeweizen, try pairing it with food that is also light and citrusy. Here are some pairings to try out:
Fresh, Mild Cheese (Mascarpone, Queso Blanco, Feta, Ricotta, Chevre)
Seafood (Lobster, Crab, White Fish)
Lobster Mac & Cheese
Rich Dark Chocolate
As I enjoy the warm winter of Florida my friends and family back home in Pennsylvania are digging themselves out of 20+ inches of snow! My last post was about the heart-warming feeling of stouts but this week we need to get SOUL-warming with a heavy, high-alcohol barley-wine. This beer style will be sure to get the feeling back in their fingers and toes and help them to forget that though the calendar says spring is here, winter isn't quite over yet.
Barley-wines date back to the eighteenth century (the term "barley-wine" was not coined until 1903 by Bass Brewery) and was born out of a style of brewing called parti-gyle brewing. Parti-gyle brewing was a process of brewing two or more beers from the same mash. Each beer would have less alcohol content than the beer before it. Think of making two or three cups of tea from the same tea bag. The first beer (strong ale) out of the mash would be the highest in alcohol as it had the most fermentable sugars. Then the second runnings (called the "common beer") would have less alcohol and if a third beer was run it would be very low alcohol and called the "small beer". The lower alcohol beers would be consumed first as they would spoil the fastest but the first beer could be saved as it had a longer shelf life due to its high alcohol content. This style of brewing has since gone by the wayside but the beer style has stuck around. The barley-wine is usually the highest alcohol content beer that a brewery will offer and is typically aged prior to being released for consumption.
Barley-wines are characterized by a malty sweetness that resembles dark fruits, figs or dates, with a toffee/caramel aroma. Don't be fooled by your sweet tooth as these boozy beers will pack a punch with an ABV between 8-18%! These beers are copper to dark-brown in color with an IBU between 40 and 100.
There are two main styles of barley-wines: English & American. English-style barley-wines tend to be more rounded and balanced with slightly less alcohol content and less bitterness. Is it any surprise that the American barley-wine is more bold and brash?! American barley-wines tend to be more hop-forward but don't expect an IPA bitterness as the sweetness of the malt will balance out the hop bitterness. Because of the complexity and alcohol level of these beers they age very well. A lot of breweries have taken a liking to aging barley-wines in bourbon barrels.
You may be wondering why it is called a barley wine and I do get this question a lot at the brewery I work at (our brewery won a gold medal at the 2016 Best Florida Beer Competition with our barley-wine: Twisted Cap. While the name can be deceiving there are actually no grapes used in the fermentation of this style (some have recently begun to add a little bit of grape juice to the fermentation to form a beer-wine hybrid, however). It gets the name barley-wine because it is similar in alcohol content to a wine (8% to 18% ABV) but brewed with malted barley.
Barley-wines should be served in a snifter between 50-55 degrees Fahrenheit, any colder and the aromas and complex flavors will be suppressed.
Nick's Picks and Pairings
These amazingly complex, intense, and high-alcohol beers will need equally complex and intense food to pair with. Barley-wines can easily over-power most meals but can work wonderfully before or after a meal. Try some of the following pairings with your next barley-wine:
Barley-wine Cupcakes with Barley-wine Chocolate Glaze
Makes 24 cupcakes
Let sit for at least an hour before serving, or serve the next day!