Welcome to installment 4 in our series “Is This Beer for You.” This is easily one of my favorite styles of beer. What is a Hefe(yeast) Weizen(wheat)? This is a beer of German origins, usually from Bavaria that is made with at least 50% wheat, unfiltered and has yeast in it. The high percentage of wheat gives this beer a crisp finish and the high carbonation makes an “instagram” worthy image with its beautiful golden color and monstrous head. This beer is also unique in that it should pour cloudy due to the higher proteins in the wheat malt. The yeast provides esters and phenols of banana and clove. Hazy, fruity, fizzy – what’s not to love? Yes, this beer is for me…is it for you?
Weizenbeir (wheat beer) has been brewed for millennium, and as with many great European beers, our brothers the monks, brought this from the farm to more modern production and consistency. While many of the brews at the time were darker, these weissbiers (white beer) were unique and gained in popularity because of the lighter, crisper aspects. In Bavaria, the sole legal producers of the wheat beers were the Degenberger clan. Anyone wishing to make this beer had to have their permission. In 1516, the Reinheitsgetbot Purity Law went into effect. It stated that all beer had to be made from just three ingredients: barley malt, hops and water. No wheat, no wheat beer! Hefeweizens were out until thankfully in 1872, a Munich brewer by the name of Georg Schneider was commissioned to open a weissbeir brewery. The Schneider family still owns and brews the original today. Thank you Georg! It’s a fascinating story and you can read more if you like at https://schneider-weisse.de/en/node/16.
On to the good stuff! What does it taste like? The BJCP (Beer Judge Certification Program) guidelines overall impression says “a pale, refreshing German wheat beer with high carbonation, dry finish, a fluffy mouthfeel, and a distinctive banana-and-clove yeast character.” The guidelines say that the banana and clove should be evenly balanced, but for my own tastes, I prefer banana, so I’m always happy when that is more pronounced. You might also find in some a light vanilla or bubblegum hint. Some commercial examples are Paulaner Hefe-Weizen, Weihenstephaner Hefeweissbier and of course Schneider Weisse Tap 7 Unser Original. On the American side, Floridian from Funky Buddha, Hefeweizen from Yazoo and UFO Hefeweizen from Harpoon are some choices.
Have I enticed you to brew one soon? How about a recipe to get you started? This is from Brew Your Own – https://byo.com/article/german-hefeweizen-style-profile/
gallons/19 L, all-grain)
OG = 1.049 (12 °P)
FG = 1.012 (3 °P)
IBU = 13 SRM = 3 ABV = 4.8%
4.85 lb. (2.2 kg) Great Western wheat malt (2 °L) (or similar)
4.85 lb. (2.2 kg) Durst Pilsner malt (2 °L) (or similar)
2.68 AAU Hallertau pellet hops, (0.67 oz./19 g of 4% alpha acids) (60 min.)
Wyeast 3068 (Weihenstephan Weizen) or White Labs WLP300 (Hefeweizen Ale) yeast
Mill the grains and dough-in targeting a mash of around 1.5 quarts of water to 1 pound of grain (a liquor-to-grist ratio of about 3:1 by weight). If you have the ability to do a step mash, start with a rest at 110 °F (43 °C) for 20 minutes and then raise to a temperature of 152 °F (67 °C) until conversion is complete. Otherwise, do a single infusion mash at 151 °F (66 °C) until enzymatic conversion is complete. Infuse the mash with near boiling water while stirring or with a recirculating mash system raise the temperature to mash out at 168 °F (76 °C). Sparge slowly with 170 °F (77 °C) water, collecting wort until the pre-boil kettle volume is around 6.5 gallons (25 L) and the gravity is 1.038 (9.4 °P).
The total wort boil time is 90 minutes, which helps reduce the S-Methyl Methiomine (SMM) present in the lightly kilned pilsner malt and results in less Dimethyl sulfide (DMS) in the finished beer. Add the bittering hops with 60 minutes remaining in the boil. I skip using kettle finings in this beer, unless making a kristallweizen. Chill the wort rapidly to 62 °F (17 °C), let the break material settle, rack to the fermenter, pitch the yeast and aerate thoroughly. The proper pitch rate is 1.7 packages of fresh liquid yeast or 1 package of liquid yeast in a 1.3-liter starter.
Ferment at 62 °F (17 °C) until the beer attenuates fully. With healthy yeast, fermentation should be complete in a week, but do not rush it. The cooler than average ale fermentation temperature can extend the time it takes for complete attenuation. Rack to a keg and force carbonate or rack to a bottling bucket, add priming sugar, and bottle. Target a carbonation level of 2.5 to 3 volumes.
I hope I have piqued your interest in this style and you do try one soon. I’d love to hear your comments about what you thought and if you brewed this recipe! You can reach me at Carol@brewersanonymous.org. Take a look at the links below to read more as well. Cheers!