Friday, July 30, 2010

The Summer of My Hefeweizen

June wasn't much of a summery experience but July has been long and hot and as such my thoughts turn to lottery wins and beer.

I haven't had any luck with the former but the beer thing has been going really well. I'm generally a pilsner guy in the summer, I like the hops and palate cleansing refreshment, and for the most part Pilsner Urquell and Konig Pilsener are still my "go to" beers . This summer however I have been drinking lots of Wheat Beer, and there are lots around to drink.

My first experience with Wheat Beer occured in Seattle about twenty years ago and I've always sought them out in the dog days of summer. Wheat beers are common summer drinks in Europe, and year round in southern Germany, and come in many forms.

Hefeweizen is the most common in Germany, cloudy unfiltered ales with wheat mixed with barley malt to create lightly hopped highly carbonated sippers. In France, Belgium and Holland they make "whitbiers", or white beers, that are generally flavoured with coriander, bitter orange and hops .

Regardless of how they do it these beers are generally delicious, and the antithesis of my normal "hoppy" consumption, and recently we've seen a surge in choices available in Vancouver. Many of the local micro-breweries have jumped on the "wheat beer" train with Granville Island Brewery making a decent, widely available variety while Whistler Brewing make a delicious example, particularly on tap, that is a bit harder to find.

The German samplings are abundant, particularly if you have a good private retailer in your area, among my faves are Konig Ludwig and Schneider Weisse - both available at the monopoly stores. Schneider Weisse is generally credited as the "Original Weisse Beer" and it's a good one but the best of the German's, to my mind is the one from Weltenburger Kloster which is only available in private stores.

As with most things "beerish" weisbier or whitbier is best served on tap, many local pubs will have an example and I urge you to seek them out and support them. On that note I will mention that the best example of the spicey/fruity whitbier style I've ever had is Kronenbourg Blanc, which poured regularly at Stella's on Cambie in my hood. I strongly recommend a couple on a hot day, or cool day - but not too cool as weiz/whit/hefe seems to me to be a summer event.

These beer styles are not for everyone, they have overtones of spice, citrus and banana to them so the Kokanee/PBR crowd will likely find them too weird . Some are also intimidated/off-put by the cloudy character and price, generally north of $3 per 500ml serving, retail, but to me I'll take quality over quantity in the beer department.

Anyway there's lots of choices, both local and otherwise, so get out there and "get your Hefe on" before the summer weather fades away.

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