Friday, July 8, 2011

My Quest for the Perfect Hefeweizen (made in America)

I spent large amounts of time in Germany back in 2002 to 2005 time frame.  One thing I learned while there was that I loved Munich style Hefeweizens.  My favorite was the Franziskaner Hefeweizen.  Their Dunkel is in my top 5 list.  Their Hell may also be in my top 5 list.  At a minimum in my top 10.  Hell means light, Dunkel means dark.  When you order a bier in Deutschland most of the time they will ask, "Hell oder dunkel?" Light or dark?

I'm pulling this from memory, but I believe hefe means yeast and weizen means wheat.  So a hefeweizen is brewed with yeast and wheat.  Yeast is probably the unique ingredient.  They tend to be heavy and although you can drink them out of a bottle, it is highly discouraged.  The yeast settles quickly to the bottom of the bottle.  The first time I got home after being in an extended stay in Munich, I immediately started looking for hefeweizens locally.  The first one I found was from a well known Texas brewery called Shiner.  They had a beer called, imaginatively enough, "Shiner Hefeweizen".  To me, it didn't hold up to any of the ones I had in Munich so I was mostly disappointed.  But, it was still my favorite Texas beer.  The funny thing was they had instructions on the bottle for how to properly pour it and to not drink it out of the bottle.  Trying to save a bad beer experience for one illiterate Texan at a time.

Just last year I tried a sample pack from an American brewery called Flying Dog.  They had a couple of hefeweizens in their variety pack and they became my favorite American hefeweizen.  It was called "In Heat Wheat".  Of course you could never get it on tap.  My favorite American hefeweizen you can get on tap would probably have to be Widmer Hefeweizen (also imaginatively named).

Okay, that was all useless information.  This next section is the real reason for this post.  I hope you manage to weed (I mean read) through the drivel until now.

Last Friday I accidentally went to a Texas Brewery tasting at Las Colinas Beverage.  They had four different breweries in attendance: Rahr & Sons, Franconia, Saint Arnold and Real Ale.  I, of course, immediately started looking for the wheat beers and hoping to get lucky and find a good hefe.

Saint Arnold was supposed to have their Weed Whacker, but they were out.  I was disappointed.  The Franconia guys seems to have a good selection, but their Hefe is nothing to write home about.  I didn't care for Real Ale's selection.

Rahr.  Oh my.  The fantastic awesome wonder and the terrible disappointment all wrapped into one.  They poured me a sample of their "Summertime Wheat".  From the moment the smell hit my nostrils, my mind was taken back to a warm summer day in downtown Munich.  The beer reminded me of my first hefeweizen in Munich.  The taste took me back to sitting out in the Marien Platz during the summer of 2002.  I had finally found an American beer that held up to the Munich style hefeweizen and they were brewing it in Fort Worth, Texas!

After I offered up my heartfelt excitement to the Rahr employee pouring the samples, she looked at me and said, "Well, this is a seasonal brew and this is all there is for this year."  I almost cried.  Why do you torment me so Rahr brewery in Fort Worth?  There's nothing wrong with brewing the Summertime Wheat year round.  Just change the name of the beer.  Call it, "America's Best Hefeweizen".  Call it, "We Mix Wheat and Yeast and Make Bavarian Immigrants Less Homesick".  But, for all that is great and holy in the world, don't call it Summertime Wheat and only make it available May and June.  That's just wrong and sad and unacceptable.


  1. Is there a German name for Bock beer like Shiner Bock? I don't know.

    My favorite Bock is Rahr's Bucking Bock which is now a seasonal, but wasn't always and it has a high alcohol content without being bitter.

    My second favorite Bock is Ziegen Bock made by Anheuser Busch. It's better than Shiner Bock and less expensive. I know that is heresy to say in Texas.

  2. Bock is a German style strong lager so there's not really any translation.

    ZiegenBock is brewed in Houston and only available in Texas. The brewery is owned by Anheuser Busch, which was purchased a few years ago by a company from Belgium. It serves to reason that the quality of their beers will improve.

  3. Dancing Man Wheat > Every other Hefeweizen. And some of the ones you seem to like surprise me, because they are horrible.