June is upon us, and as summer kicks into full swing, I need a beer! It’s a bit too hot to make me reach for a double IPA or imperial stout. I want something a bit lighter but with great flavor. Summertime is a time for wheat beer, but maybe not the kind of wheat you are used to. This month’s Beer of the Month is Hofbräu Hefe Weizen
Every Chicagoan knows at least one wheat beer. You can hardly walk down the street without seeing bars proudly displaying their neon signs spouting “312.” As good a beer as 312 is, it’s not the kind of beer I’m talking about. I’m not just talking about wheat beer, but Weizen.
There is a huge difference between the American wheat and the German Weizen, and the difference is in the yeast. Although the main ingredients are not much different between the two, most American brewers use a clean fermenting yeast to ferment all their beers. Germans, on the other hand, use a yeast that produces very strong flavors.
The beer pours a hazy straw color and tops itself with a prominent, white head. The wheat used in making this beer has extra protein which makes the beer cloudy and also helps with head retention.
The flavor of the beer is that of clove and banana. Now, when I say banana, I mean banana! It’s not just kinda like banana. In fact, during the fermentation process, the yeast actually create a chemical called isoamyl acetate, which is commonly used to add banana flavor to foods. So the process of fermentation actually generates its own banana flavor factory! Along with that, I also got some hints of vanilla and burnt toffee.
One of my favorite parts about this beer is the actual sensation of drinking it. The extra protein from the wheat provides a more robust, wispy mouthfeel, but this beer has a high level of carbonation which makes it spritzy and effervescent. This dry, fullness is what makes weizen very palatable during these coming warm months.
Hofbräu Hefe Weizen pairs superbly with traditional German foods. Give it a try with a warm pretzel or some schnitzel. If you want to try your hand at other wiezens, then try Weihenstephaner Hefe Weissbier, Franziskaner Hefe-Weiss or Sierra Nevada Kellerweis. Hofbräu Hefe Weizen is available for about $10 for a six-pack, and skip the lemon wedge.