Witbier is a style of wheat beers not dissimilar in general character to Bavarian Weizen beer. Belgium Witbier differs from most other wheat-based Ales in its use of raw wheat and spices, most notably Curacao orange peel and coriander. This spice mixture is historically known as gruut and used to contain a wider range of spices and no hops. The style has a deep history with records of similar recipes having been brewed in the 14th century. Witbier is cloudy, deep gold to copper in color with a thick, rocky white head. It is very refreshing and an ideal summer session Beer being enjoyed by most everyone from the aficionado to the novice.
Bavarian Weizen (in all its forms)
Bavaria is home to one of the world’s most social and refreshing drinks, Weizen or Weissbier. It features a persistent stream of fine bead bubbles and a huge, rocky white head. In addition to the distinct wheat and malt flavors, Weissbier offers a unique range of supporting flavors ranging from banana to orchard fruits and currants typically framed by notes of clove and crisp citrus. The style is also noted for its vigorous carbonation, subtle hop notes, and now its wide appeal.
The style’s origin is under some debate as it is suggested that it may be native to Bohemia. However, it is unquestionable that style thrives in and around the city of Munich. Weihenstephan, that claims to be the world’s oldest brewery, has been producing Weizen Beer for more than 1000 years. Brewing wheat beers became the exclusive right of Bavarian royalty in the 1400s and remained so until the 1800s. During this time Munich’s Hofbrahaus (now a famous tourist destination) was established for the purpose of producing the royal brew.
It’s hard to believe that Weizen Beer was a style in danger of extinction until its revival in the 1970s. Today it accounts for roughly one-third to one-fourth of Bavaria’s total Beer market.
Weizen Sub-Styles and Variations:
- Classic Hefe-Weissbier. These are made with at least 50% of wheat (with malted barley) that undergoes a secondary fermentation in the bottle that provides a great deal of bubbles, a hazy appearance, and sediment in the bottom of the bottle. The sediment is meant to be drunk with the Beer, not discarded.
- Dunkel. These are very similar to the classic Weissbier while made with a good portion of dark roasted malts giving it a darker color (on par with a Porter), as well as aromas and flavors of roasted malts. These can be cloudy with yeast (Hefe) or clear.
- Weizen Bock. This style variation is typically reserved for winter, as it is stronger than the classic. It has the same properties as the class Weissbier with additional richness and malty flavors. This variety can be found as a Dunkel (dark) as well.
- Kristall Weizen. This variety, as the name would suggest, is clear. The cloudy wheat proteins and yeast have been filtered away and with it a lot of aroma and flavor. We have found Kristall Weizen that we enjoy but never as much as a brand’s Hefe Weizen.
The Lemon Question
Weissbier is often served with a lemon wedge. Many cheerfully go with the practice without notice while some Beer enthusiasts wonder about the addition of citrus fruit. While there is no right answer, we tend to prefer our Weissbier without fruit especially if the Beer is fresh (as it should be). Weissbier is often fresh with notes of citrus and in no need of augmentation.