With warm weather upon us, what better beer than a true Bavarian Hefeweizen (Hay-Fa-Vyte-zen) to celebrate with? Maybe it’s the association of the banana flavor with tropical climates, maybe it’s the beer’s yellow/orange luminescent glow, but Hefeweizen just screams to be enjoyed outdoors in the summertime. Wheat beers are probably the oldest of all beer styles, dating as far back as rudimentary agriculture itself, around 10,000BC. The ancient Egyptians took things a step further by having large scale breweries next to their temples. The Bavarian versions predate Reinheitsgebot, and Weisse beers were the only exception to the stringent German Purity Law that states that beer can only be made with barley, hops, water and yeast. The exception was most likely granted because the biggest producer of Weisse beers was the Royal Court Brewery (the Hofbrauhaus). The style fell out fashion in the late 1800’s, considered an “old ladies” drink. Hefeweizens experienced a revival in the 70’s, and now account for 30% of the German Beer Market.
Here in the Seattle area, some of my favorite producers are Silver City, Baron Brewing, Schooner Exact, and Lazy Boy. The classic German faves are Franziskaner, Hacker-Pschorr, Ayinger and Erdinger. Last night I used Franziskaner to steam Penn Cove Mussels with corn on the cob and new potatoes (Sorry No Pictures!).
Now the only question that remains is with lemon or without? An old German bartender told me a whole wheel of lemon topped the glass to keep the flies out. Whether to put it in today is a subject of great debate. I don’t think the true Hefeweizens strong banana and clove flavors need the lemon, but if you want to put it in your beer go ahead. Randy Mosher summed it up best in his book, Tasting Beer, “I will say that if you’re a male beer geek seeking the respect of your equally geeky friends, you had best leave it off.” However you like it, enjoy your summer with a nice Hefeweizen! Tim Nichols


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