Hefeweizens are fantastic for a number of reasons, but we would like to start off with what Rachel thinks is the most important: they are riddled with scandal and intrigue.
That’s right folks. Remember when we talked about the Bavarian Purity Law maintaining that beer must be made with only hops, barley and water? Well, the grain bill for a Hefeweizen is over 50 per cent wheat (ideally around 66 per cent), and rumour has it that as the Bavarian royal family held a monopoly over the production of barley, it was in its best interests to keep the demand up; thus, all wheat beers were deemed illegal.
However, in secret, these cheeky royals were sipping on Hefeweizens brewed covertly in hush-hush locations for royal lips only. The laws were relaxed in 1850 to allow the rest of the plebs to drink the good stuff.
“What beer is worth going all cloak-and-dagger over?” you ask. Well, this top-fermented, very lightly hopped ale is an unfiltered Bavarian-style Weizen — Weizen meaning wheat in German, and Hefe meaning yeast. So, literally: YeastWheat.
In a traditional Hefeweizen, wheat will make up 50 to 70 per cent of the bill and the remaining grain will be light barley malt.
There are plenty of wheat beers on the market, ranging from dark to light in colour, and high to light in carbonation, but a true Hefeweizen has some kick-ass flavours and characteristics unique to this type of ale.
A weizen beer yeast will typically add the amazing flavours/aroma of banana, medicinal notes, bubble gum, cloves, vanilla and spices.
While a Kristallweizen is filtered after fermentation, a Hefeweizen is not.
This unfiltered state is what allows for the warm, attractive cloudiness that your Hefeweizen is renowned for, and courtesy, in part, of this yeast strain’s low flocculating properties (flocculation is the process of yeast falling out of suspension).
OK, so if it is the yeast that’s bringing the flavour, nose and aesthetic fireworks, why bother brewing with wheat at all? Good question.
Wheat is far higher in protein than barley, and when broken down, these released proteins add to the unmistakable silky mouthfeel and characteristic hazy glow of a Hefeweizen.
Also, adding wheat to the grain bill of any beer will aid in head retention, and the high percentage of wheat in a Hefeweizen is what creates that thick, creamy, long-lasting head. So while wheat does not add much flavour, its properties after mashing are integral to this style of beer.
Allowing the yeast and wheat proteins to remain in your beer rather than filtering them out is what creates some of the most delicious aspects of a traditional unfiltered Bavarian-style Weizen, so when pouring, make sure that you give your bottle a swirl before you empty the last quarter into your glass … you want to get to that sediment at the bottom of your bottle.
Seven to 10 degrees is the ideal serving temperature for a beer with such complex flavours, making a Hefeweizen the perfect summer drink.
But please, no matter what they tell you, don’t add a slice of citrus — the acidity just kills the head and ruins the balance of the flavours. Save those slices for your Corona.
Please enjoy this article responsibly.