It was a trip to Munich more than a decade ago that sparked my interest in brewing and launched me into life as a brewer. This was also the first time I’d experienced tall, frothy glasses of Hefeweizen, a remarkably refreshing German ale once reserved for regal brewers. A few hundred lager variations later we’re happy to introduce you to “Das Weizen,” a Bavarian-style Hefeweizen inspired by my affection for these fruity, bright and thirst-quenching beers.
When the brewing team set about to create “Das Weizen,” our intention was to keep closely to the tradition and technique developed and employed by master weizen brewers over literal centuries. It’s taken nearly a year to amass the equipment and techniques to realize this possibility. As deceptively simple as a beautiful glass of Hefeweizen can seem, getting it right required a significant investment of time, resources and creative problem solving.
Finding the Right Equipment. Wheat beer is still traditionally brewed in open fermenters, which allow for the formation of spectacular foam caps that protect the beer from oxygen and contaminants. It’s not simply tradition for tradition’s sake, though; modern fermentation vessels, with their closed tops and conical bottoms, actually limit the yeast’s ability to produce the fruity compounds prized in this style. The geometry of these wider, flat-bottomed vessels encourages the yeast’s production of these flavors.
Finding the Right Raw Materials. This past year we partnered with maltster Klostermalz in Erlangen, Germany to provide the base malts for our brewing process. This included specialty wheat malt that many Bavarian brewers use for their Hefeweizen. Of course, great Hefeweizen is made by great yeast, so finding the right strain was an important early step. We ended up with a German strain that is aggressive enough to withstand open fermentation, while imparting just the right balance of banana, clove and vanilla character.
Learning the Right Techniques. There are many secrets to brewing a great wheat beer. We met with brewers in Germany with hopes of unlocking some of them, and seeing which techniques and tricks would best produce a beer we’d recognize as “authentic” Hefeweizen. These conversations lead us, among other things, to a specialized mash regime which favored the production of certain sugars that react positively with our yeast. We were also inspired by how these centuries-old brewers seem to effortlessly manage their open fermentation, which gave us the confidence to attempt it ourselves!
“Das Weizen” is on tap now at the Springdale Barrel Room! This cloudy, yeasty brew pours with a vigorous, sturdy foam cap that gives off aromas of banana, citrus, clove and vanilla. The palate follows through with each of these flavors in almost equal intensity. Brewing with wheat imparts a silky, rich mouthfeel that wraps these flavors together beautifully in this session-strength beer. Prost!