Hefeweizen gets a bad rap. This light brew is one of Germany’s best styles, but goes unappreciated in the U.S., where domestic versions have trained drinkers to expect that all wheat beers are unbalanced, loaded with spices, and served with a hunk of fruit on the side of the glass.
Traditional hefeweizens are unfiltered ales made from wheat and barley that appear cloudy in the glass and have a thick rocky white head. Both characteristics are showcased by the traditional glassware, which features a long thin body with a bulbous shape at the top. Best of all, they are light, refreshing, and low-alcohol – the kind of beer you can belt down in quantities.
Short of going to Germany, your best bet for sipping hefeweizen is to find a fresh bottle from one of Germany’s classic Bavarian breweries. Hefeweizen’s bright flavors fade quickly and there’s a big ocean between here and Germany, so check for bottle dates and avoid any bottles with dust on them.
Weihenstephan, Paulaner and Ayinger all make great examples, but our favorite is the Schneider Weisse-Unser Original. A hazy amber, it’s a touch darker than most hefeweizens and the flavors are bright with bursts of clove and banana.
We don’t hold out much hope that hefeweizens will be as popular in the American beer market as they are in beer-loving Bavaria, where it is the most popular beer style. In truth, we’ll be happy if we could just convince bartenders to stop serving them with orange slices.