A guide to German wheat beers
Weizen This is German for wheat, but is the generally accepted term for a wheat beer, or a weissbier.
Weissbier German for white, weissbier is the name given to the family of German wheat beers that are anything but white. More often golden, weissbiers are a complex flavor and aroma driven by fruity notes. The amount of wheat used in the grist mix can range from 40% to as much as 60%. A typical weissbier has, because of the yeast, a distinctive taste similar to cloves, nutmeg and/or vanilla.
Hefe Weissbier (also Hefe Weissen) Probably the better known of all the family of German wheats, this styles signature is the cloudy appearance caused by the yeast (hefe) still in suspension when bottled. A full beer, the alcohol content is generally higher than a typical lager. Slightly ruddy orange, this is a rich beer is noted for its spicy, clove like flavor, with hints of vanilla.
Kristall Weizen Take the hefe weissbier, remove the yeast through filtration, and there is the krystall, beautifully clear and clean in appearance. However, because of similar processes used, the krystall rivals the hefe in flavor and aroma. Greater attention is paid to taking appropriate measures in reducing any color or turbidity in the final product.
Berliner Weiss Technically any wheat beer brewed in Berlin can be labeled a Berliner Weisse. However, the name has come to be more associated with the decidedly more lactic profile than found in southern Germany. Dubbed “the Champagne of the north” by Napoleon’s solders, this tart, thirst-quenching ale gets its sharp flavors from a lactic fermentation. True Berliners will cut the sharp acidity of Berliner Weisse with dashes of raspberry syrup, essence of woodruff, or caraway schnapps.
Dunkles Weissbier A Bavarian specialty, dunkles weissbier combines the light, refreshing fruitiness of a weissbier with the toasty notes of dark malt, either barley or wheat. The dunkles weissbier aroma has shifted towards the rich malty notes, reminiscent of freshly made bread.
Weizenbock Take a weissbier and brew it to higher alcohol levels and it becomes a wheat bock, usually found emanating from breweries around Christmas time. Usually darker from the malt necessary to get the added alcohol, weizenbocks have a very rounded, but not cloying, flavor. The aroma of alcohol, bready malts, and the increased fruitiness make for an exciting experience.