This month, Alyson has brewed an age-old beer style straight from Bavaria: «hefeweizen», a weissbier. This wheat beer is characterized by its hazy light golden color and unmistakable aromas of bananas and cloves. Back in 1516, this style was both extremely popular in Germany and yet technically forbidden to produce according to a strict German purity law called the Reinheitsgebot. An exemption to this law was made for weissbier, and to celebrate the Metrohm 75 Year Jubilee, hefeweizen has been chosen as one of the six beer styles to be homebrewed as a marketing giveaway by Metrohm Applikon.
SO, WHAT MAKES A BEER?
These days, beer can contain several different ingredients and still adhere to a style. Barley, oats, wheat, rye, fruit, honey, spices, hops, yeast, water, and more are all components of our contemporary beer culture. However, in Bavaria during the 1500’s, the rules were much more strict. A purity law known as the Reinheitsgebot (1516) stated that beer must only be produced with water, barley, and hops. Any other adjuncts were not allowed, which meant that other grains such as rye and wheat were forbidden to be used in the brewing process. We all know how seriously the Germans take their beer – you only need to visit the Oktoberfest once to understand!
HEFEWEIZEN: BREAKING THE RULES
Hefeweizen, this month’s brew from Metrohm Applikon, is a German style of ale, coming from Bavaria. Its name literally translates to yeast («hefe») and wheat («weizen»). In the 1500’s, this style was technically forbidden to produce according to the Reinheitsgebot. An exemption to this law was made for wheat beers due to their popularity among royalty. You may have noticed that yeast was not one of the few ingredients mentioned in the purity law, however it was still integral to the brewing process. The yeast was just harvested at the end of each batch and added into the next, and its propagation from the fermentation process always ensured there was enough at the end each time.
Since the yeast stays a bit in suspension, this style is quite hazy compared to other classic styles of beer. The yeast strain used is quite special, lending flavors and aromas of bananas (from isoamyl acetate), cloves (guaiacol), and other spices. Hefeweizen is also characterized by its foamy head, which comes from proteins in the wheat used in the mashing process. If you’ve ever seen the sheer variety of beer glasses available, many of them are designed to maximize head retention. Hefeweizen should be served in its own particular glass (called a «vase»), which is larger than average to allow for the full head of foam to form. A narrow center allows the aromas and the head to converge as the volume decreases, enabling you to enjoy each sip.
AN AMERICAN TWIST
The hefeweizen style should contain approximately 4.3–5.6% alcohol by volume (ABV), with low bitterness so as not to overcome the delicate wheat flavors. However, as with many traditional things, we Americans always have to add our own flair. American styles of hefeweizen tend to have more hops added for extra bitterness. When drinking the beer, it has also become somewhat of an American custom to serve hefeweizen with a lemon wedge. This is up to your taste, but traditionalists disagree with this practice to preserve both the foam head and the natural flavors of the beer itself.
Being American, I can safely say that I have not held 100% to the Bavarian recipe, but I hope you enjoy this beer nevertheless. The bitterness was increased by using the German hop varieties Hallertau Hersbrucker and Spalt, and Summit hops from the US add citrus aromas. The alcohol content also does not match the style, because all Metrohm jubilee beers will have a target of 7.5% ABV. Prost!
JANUARY SURVEY RESULTS
First of all, I’d like to thank everyone who participated in the small survey included in my previous blog post. I was curious to see the how far the jubilee blog is reaching, and who may have similar interests around the globe. It’s no surprise that most of the participants are located in Europe, however I was happy to see the large percentage of people who brew or are interested in the brewing process!
The majority of respondents were interested in specialty beers, namely barrel-aged styles. Belgian and pale styles (ales and lagers) topped the chart, while sour beers and Scottish-style ales didn’t fare as well. For specialty styles, smoke, honey, and herb/spice beers were quite popular (after barrel-aged), but for some reason nobody chose the gluten-free style as their favorite!
Most of the people who answered the survey live in the Netherlands and Switzerland. There are some really clear preferences in some of the styles preferred by these two cultures! The Dutch tend to like Belgian and wheat beers, while the Swiss gravitate toward the darker end of the spectrum with porters, stouts, dark lagers, and an overwhelming amount of specialty beers. Both countries seem to agree to a similar extent about the rating of strong ales, pale ales/lagers, and pilseners in comparison to the rest of the styles.
WHAT’S UP NEXT?
Later this month I am brewing the «Lucky Red Ale» on St. Patrick’s Day (March 17), and I’ve already prepared the 75 year jubilee labels! In the next blog post I will explain the importance of checking an array of different parameters in the brewing process such as pH and water hardness as well as what Metrohm ion chromatography can discover in beer.