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2004 Wheat Ales
Weiss? Weiss Not?

Posted: October 24th, 2004

By Jerald O'Kennard, jerald@tastings.com

¥¥¥Summer time¥¥¥and the Weiss is easy¥¥¥¥¥¥ Hot summer weather tends to bring out the wheat beer drinker in all of us. But as the weather cools down who says you need to stop drinking your favorite weiss? Because of their inherent, and sometimes added, spiciness, weiss, weizen, and wheat ales tend to work well with a wide variety of foods. And, because of their frothy richness, they are quite satisfying all on their own.

This summer’s wheat ale tasting session of the 2004World Beer Championships confirmed some classic examples and uncovered a few new surprises. Fans of hefeweizen should no doubt be aware of Weihenstephan, a classic beer brand by any definition, which, proudly claims to be the oldest extant brewery in world (established in 1040 A.D.!) Well, the brewery may be old but the beers are fresh and delicious and topped the hefeweizen (92 pts.), kristall weizen (90 pts.) and the dunkel weizen (89 pts.) categories. In the ever-popular hefeweizen category, the remarkable Penn Brewery’s Penn Weizen (91 pts.) proves that American brewers can faithfully recreate this challenging European style. Other noteworthy hefeweizen examples include: the Der Hirshbr¥¥u Hefeweiss (89 pts.) with its evenly balanced flavor and charming ceramic stopper, the Samuel Adams Hefe Weizen (88 pts.) which, was recently introduced to appeal to US consumers who don’t care for the distinctive banana and clove aromas of traditional hefeweizens, and from the Czech brewery to watch, Pivovar Nachod’s clean and subtle Primator Hefe Weizen (88 pts.)

Another classic brand and category originator/leader was the spicy and refreshing Hoegaarden White Beer (91pts.), which remains a benchmark for the white beer style. Another white beer from Belgium that was new to us, Brasserie Caullier Saaz Ale (90 pts.) gave the leader a run for its money with its fruity malt and zesty spicing. Unibroue’s Blanche de Chambly (90 pts.) and Boston Beer Co.’s Samuel Adams White Beer (89 pts. offered stylistically faithful and creative New World interpretations of the style.

In the wheat ale category, a pleasant surprise from Lithuania’s Gubernija Brewery, the Ekstra Baltic Weisse Bier (92 pts.), was zesty, spicy and highly drinkable and the Don De Dieu Triple Wheat Ale from Unibroue presented a rich and creamy malt flavor for more slow and contemplative sessions. And in the flavored wheat ale category, look for Unibroue’s Ephemere (89 pts), Bert Grant’s Mandarin Weizen (88 pts.) to match up with salads and Asian dishes.

So, don’t forget your summer fling with wheat beers¥¥¥keep a few of these beauties in your refrigerator all year long.

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