This article was originally written in June 2007 for the food & drink website Taste T.O., and republished here in October 2011 (but back-dated to match the original publication date) after Taste T.O. was shut down and taken offline.
Ah, summer, when a beer lover’s thoughts turn to hefeweisse. Well, this beer lover’s thoughts do, at least, as there are few things I like more than sitting on the patio at one of my favourite bars on a warm June afternoon with a nice, cool glass of this delicious German-style wheat beer.
I have one in particular to write about this week, but first, a quick German lesson: weisse means white, weizen means wheat, and both are used pretty much interchangeably when describing German wheat beers, with weisse (or weissbier) being more commonly used in Bavaria. There are also several sub-styles that are indicated by a prefix, with hefe (yeast) – indicating that the beer is unfiltered – being the most common. Other versions include kristallweizen (filtered), dunkelweizen (dark) and weizenbock (bock style).
Most often, though, when one thinks of weissbier, one is probably thinking of hefeweisse. These hazy and aromatic beers are perfect for summer – they’re full bodied without being heavy, flavourful without being overpowering, and just downright tasty, with the unique yeast strain, Torulaspora delbrueckii, imparting such flavour and aroma notes as banana, clove, vanilla, lemon and coriander.
When I’m out enjoying a pint or three of hefeweisse, my usual choice is Denison’s Weissbier, a locally brewed version that is considered the best hefeweisse in the world according to RateBeer. But since it’s only available on draught, I have to settle for something different for home consumption.
Luckily, there are several world class examples available via the LCBO and the Beer Store, and one of my favourite imports is Hacker-Pschorr Hefeweisse (LCBO 247486 & at the Beer Store, $2.95/500 mL). Based on brewing traditions that extend back to the founding of the Hacker Brewery in Munich in 1417, this beer is a classic example of the style.
The colour is a bit darker than most hefes, with a light copper-gold tint, and the flavours lean more towards lemon and clove, with the banana notes being fainter than some other takes on the style. It does suffer a bit from the travel and storage time, as weissbier is a style that is best enjoyed fresh, but even with a bit of age on it, it’s still a fantastic beer from a venerable brewery.
And for those looking for a good way to kill a warm afternoon or evening, why not undertake a weissbier taste test? In addition to Hacker-Pschorr and Denison’s, several others including Magnotta’s Wunder Weisse and Paulaner Hefeweissbier can be found on store shelves and tap handles around town. Or perhaps a German weissbier vs. Belgian witbier showdown is in order, pitting a couple of the aforementioned beers against Blanche de Chambly and Hoegaarden. It doesn’t matter which are chosen, really, as they’re all perfect brews for summer imbibing.