Weizen Beers are not your ordinary Pilsners. Weizen is the German word for wheat. A wheaty beer for sure! There are loads of different types of Weizen Beers. For instance, pineapple infused Weizen! Let’s dive right into it!
The long and winding history of Weizen, Weiß, Hefeweizen — or any other similar spelled German beer noun — is as cloudy as the distinctive Bavarian ale.
Go to Google, type in ‘weizen’ and click on ten random links. You’ll find that the history of the beer style goes back to 800 B.C., or 1100 AD, or 1516, or… …you know what, we’ll leave that part of this story to beerstorians.
What is the modern definition of a Weizen beer?
The most common version is quintessential Bavarian. A light blonde to amber colored beer, nigh impossible to see through, and with a big frothy crown of foam worthy of an emperor sitting steady as a brick on top. Aroma and taste notes range from bubblegum and banana to clove and vanilla, and its mouthfeel is dominated by heavy carbonation; also interpreted as *fluffy*. Naturally, everybody knows the best way to enjoy a classic weizen is on the slopes, after a plate of pasta but before the first schnapps.
Pouring weizen from draught or bottle is craftsmanship, and can only be performed by distinguished gurus of gushing. It requires patience, something that often contradicts the hasty nature of the service industry. You fill your tucher weizen beer glass with weizen about two-thirds of its full capacity, and let the thick foam settle for a minute before topping the glass up. But then! Then we’ll add character to the beer by swirling the bottle (if you have a bottle) and loosening its last sediments resting on the bottle’s bottom. The secret, no, the soul of the weizen is where that is at. The famous yeasty character of clove/vanilla and banana adds to both aroma and taste (and of course the haziness), and no true classic hefeweizen is or should be without.
But we could have known that, for it’s all in the name!
Hefe is German for yeast, where weizen stands for wheat. So we can conclude that Hefeweizen is unfiltered and therefore contains yeast, with the bottled versions being further conditioned by adding more yeast.
Weissbier does not mean *white beer*, the Weiss (or Weiß) here relates to weizen, or in this case wheat malt. By German brewing tradition, at least 50% of the grist (the mixture of malts pre-mash) consists of malted wheat, with sometimes being as high as 70%. The remainder typically consists of lighter Pilsner malt.
Ooh, but now white beer or witbier comes into play! Is it the same, but different in name? Well, they’re both beers enjoyed massively when the sun is out and we’re getting some tan on our weiss cheeks. Yet even though they sound and look similar, there are some distinctions. To get technical, Weissbier uses as mentioned before malted wheats, whereas witbier typically is composed of unmalted wheat in the grain bill, and that is ‘just’ up to 30%. Another dissimilarity is the application of additives in witbier. Generally Belgian in origin, witbier makes use of extra ingredients like orange peel and coriander seed, not entirely coincidentally flavour profiles we can find in its German cousin Weissbier which does not contain these extras. It is said this is due to the Bavarian Reinheitsgebot, or Purity Law, another mystical part of beer history we’ve written about in this blog. Let’s for now just stick to the fact that in the original document dated April 23rd 1516 the use of malted wheat is prohibited, and that only malted barley was permitted. Wheat and rye were to be reserved for the baking industry. However, Bavarian nobles by decree were allowed to brew beer with malted wheat, and a rocky few centuries later the traditional omission of any other additives not described in German law is still prevalent.
The most extremely important matter here is not where a weizen comes from, when it was ‘invented’, or what a weizen should look and taste like.
The number one question is a recurring seasonal issue: To Lemon or not to Lemon?
Imagine finding yourself on a sunny day on a patio at a bar. The sun burns through your clothing, your shades just slightly preventing black spots from appearing in your vision and you’re as wet on the outside as you are dehydrated on the inside. There’s only one thing you really want in that particular moment, and that is a cold and crisp weizen. You manage to grab the bartender’s attention, they grab a clean and spotless tucher weizen glass the size of your forearm, give it an extra rinse to cool the glass down, and they start pouring. Halfway they stop, letting that crown of foam rest for a bit before topping the beer up. There’s a good 4 inches of foam resting on the beer, and it sticks proudly way above the brim. You take your eyes — with some difficulty — away from the action to reach for your wallet, and before you can say *Frühlingsgefühle* you see the barkeep dumping a fresh slice of lemon in your brew. With a smile and a ridiculously short pestle-like instrument the beer is served, now suffering similarly like you were before, melting on top. That once beautiful head of foam has sunk under the level of the brim, and you are stuck with a stale sip.
Dear reader, you might have noticed from the above paragraph where we stand on this issue. If you want a piece of fruit in your beer, that’s okay, but please don’t assume this for everyone else! The acidity breaks down foam, and believe me, the brewer would have thrown in that piece of fruit in their kettles if they wanted it in their beer.
So, that’s what we did. As a twist on the snowy weizen beer, we brought in our friend PieWee the Pineapple Weizen. Effortlessly he dives again and again into the kettle and swims around to radiate his tropical action into our weizen. What a friend.