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