It’s summer time, and for a lot of beer drinkers that means it’s Hefe-Weisse time. I am a huge fan of wheat beers all year long, but I have to agree there is something particularly refreshing about a nice tall Weizen glass of Franziskaner Hefe-Weisse on a hot summer afternoon. Most people go for the far more commonly available light version, Hefe-Weisse Hell, which is outstanding, but being a fan of malty beers I prefer the dark or Hefe-Weisse Dunkel version. Like its lighter cousin, Hefe-Weisse Dunkel is top fermented ale made with wheat malt from which the yeast is not filtered out.
I began drinking Franziskaner while on a trip to Munich after college. I knew about wheat beer, but had never had Dunkel Weis, and once I did I was hooked on the dark stuff, and I especially enjoyed Franziskaner’s Hefe-Weisse Dunkel. Within a few months of returning home, I was pleasantly surprised to find the beer with the jolly monk on the label was beginning to show up at beer stores and some supermarkets with good beer sections. I was even happier to see that the dark version often appeared next to it’s lighter counterpart on store shelves. Franziskaner is most commonly available in the European size 16.9 oz (.5 liter) brown bottles. I have seen the Hefe-Weisse in 12 oz green bottles, but sometimes it has a slightly skunky taste from the green glass.
Pour a chilled Franziskaner Hefe-Weisse Dunkel into a Weizen glass – it is important to use a Weizen glass if you have one available. The half liter Weizen glasses are large enough to accommodate the larger capacity bottle with room for the lively head to expand. And the beer can be lively so tilt the glass and pour carefully or it will jump out of your glass. Imported or just your better Weizen glasses will have a half liter mark on the glass with about an inch above it for head expansion. As soon as you pour a Franziskaner Hefe-Weisse Dunkel you will notice the airy, foamy head, but don’t pour the beer in all at once – stop and swirl the bottle when about a third is left to get the yeast off the bottom and then finish the pour. The beer will be dark, rich, amber and cloudy from the yeast. The aroma has a slight banana and fruit smell from the unfiltered yeast balanced with sweet roasted malt and toffee from the dark wheat malt. The carbonation is tight and crisp on the tongue and very refreshing. The beer pretty much tastes like it smells. You immediately taste yeast and citrus with a hint of bananas and spice up front. The citrus bite and spices are balanced by sweet creamy roasted malt flavor. It is this smooth sweet malt that sets the Dunkel apart from the more crisp banana and spice taste of a light wheat beer. The Dunkel finishes clean with a hint of hops. The flavor does not linger and leaves you refreshed and wanting more.