From Rob Fink. Follow him on Twitter @RobDFink or email him at rob[AT]borderstan.com.
Like the authentic Pilsner before it, Weissbier, or Hefeweizen (the more ubiquitous term, at least in America) practically begs to be consumed during the summer months. It’s wheat-laced tang and light yet rich fermentation profile has been satiating the thirst of people for centuries.
Broadly speaking, weissbiers are categorized as wheat beers. Specifically, traditional weissbiers are made with at least 50% malted wheat, but often contain higher percentages. Such high percentages of wheat often leaves weissbiers cloudy (provided they’re unfiltered) but also makes them thirst-quenching, providing a delicate balance between tangy, full bread-like flavors and the brisk, snappy, almost biscuit-like quality of pils malt, which typically makes up the remainder of the grist. However, the captivating magic of weissbier lies in the particular type of yeast strain utilized for fermentation. Depending on fermentation temperature, a traditional Bavarian weissbier yeast will produce a complex array of flavors ranging from banana and bubblegum (isoamyl acetate), to clove (4-vinyl guaiacol), and hints of smoke (4-vinyl syringol). Along with many Belgian beers, the fermentation profile is the signature and dominant flavor of weissbier.
Weissbiers and Food
Weissbier is light and brisk enough to accompany a wide array of dishes, but most importantly, it is insanely refreshing when it’s hot outside. Broadly speaking, weissbiers amplify the delicate flavors of lighter and less intense dishes. If you’re having a Cobb salad this summer, look no further than weissbier; its subtle interplay of smoke and brine will grasp the bacon effortlessly. Doughy wheat flavors will meld into the avocado while the beer finishes with a carbonic zing of acidity, deftly handling the salad greens while physically scrubbing the palate. I just ate dinner, but am now getting hungry. Alternatively, you could do as the Bavarians do and have a mid-morning snack known as brotzeit (this is better in a group), which typically involves weissbier (of course), pretzels, hefty amounts of delicious stone-ground mustard, and weisswurst, a traditional Bavarian veal and pork sausage.
The Best Weissbier in the World
Bavaria is most often characterized as lager territory and rightfully so, except that it also produces weissbier, one of the most beguiling of all ale styles. Although Schneider & Sohn’s weissbier is a close second, Weihenstephaner’s example remains unmatched.
Weihenstephaner Hefeweissbier – Ayerische Staatsbrauerei Weihenstephan, 5.4% ABV, Freising, Germany
An opaque light golden body supports a frothy white mountain of foam releasing aromatics redolent of clove and sticky banana along with a pleasant whiff of wheat tang. The fermentation profile on this beer is endlessly complex; each sip is distinguished from the next while the beer retains its definition. I could drink this beer all day, night or anytime in between; a true desert-island beer for me.
Thankfully, Weihenstephaner hefeweissbier is abundant at your better Borderstan beer outlets. Given it’s rarely on draft, you’ll have the best chance of scoring this Bavarian gem searching for the handsome 550ml bottle it comes in. Borderstan mainstays Whole Foods on P St NW and De Vinos Wine Shop on 18th St NW are sure bets, and Weihenstephaner hefeweissbier is always available at the venerable Churchkey on 14th St NW. Prosit!