The Hefeweizen is a historic style and has been satisfying beer drinkers for centuries. The style is Bavarian, and was originally brewed for Bavarian royalty. The style became more widely consumed in 1872. The pale, modernized version that we drink today came to be in the revolutionary 1960’s.
What makes a Hefeweizen?
The Hefeweizen is a German style of beer, literally translated as “yeast wheat.” It is a wheat beer, and so “weizen” or wheat refers to one of the beer’s most important components: Hefeweizens are made up of over 50% wheat. In combination with barley, the wheat gives it its silky texture and full, long lasting head. The wheat also contributes proteins which are suspended in the beer, contributing to its cloudy appearance. The style is well known for its low bitterness and high sweetness, which is balanced by high effervescence.
“Hefe” or yeast refers to the other most important component of the Hefeweizen. The aroma and flavor is full of banana and clove character, which is derived from the yeast. Like the wheat proteins, yeast is also to thank for the cloudiness, since suspended yeast additionally contributes to the beer’s hazy mystique. Not only does the style break norms for German beer in terms of aroma, flavor, and opacity, but is also unique in its use of top-fermenting yeast.
An interesting aspect of Hefeweizen is the effects of fermentation temperatures on the flavor profile of the beer. Of course, the common flavors (banana, clove, bread, bubblegum, and vanilla) are a result of the wheat and yeast, but the fermentation temperature has a surprising impact on which of these flavors come through the most.
Fermenting a Hefeweizen at higher temperatures produces a stronger banana flavor. While stressing the yeast initially starts to develop the banana and clove esters, controlling fermentation temperatures is another way to choose which flavor you would like to come out more prominently. Because of the ester production, fermenting at temperatures of 73 degrees fahrenheit and above will ramp those banana notes up to 100!
On the other hand, there is also a way to enhance spice flavors. When fermentation happens at low temperatures, it promotes phenol production. Those phenolic compounds produce spicy flavors like clove. Therefore, to encourage a phenol-forward flavor profile, ferment at 68 degrees Fahrenheit or cooler.
FINDING MIDDLE GROUND
A balanced Hefeweizen means a good Hefeweizen, so you’ll want to make sure your beer doesn’t get overly phenolic or an overpowering banana taste. To keep these two flavors in equilibrium, ferment at a middle ground temperature between 68 and 73 degrees.
How to drink a Hefeweizen
The Hefeweizen is best enjoyed on a hot summer day, surrounded by family and friends. Try it traditionally by pouring it into the tall, curved Hefeweizen glass, or get rebellious with a Hefeweizen mixed drink (add orange juice to create a delicious beer-mosa)! Light and sessionable. Pairs well with seafood and vacation days.
Drink responsibly and enjoy!