Top 5 Hefeweizens

The thermometer may not be representative of it, and I can count on one hand the number of days that the sun has been out for the majority of the daylight hours, but apparently, here in upstate New York, we’re nearing the middle of summer. So it would be a very appropriate time to discuss what’s universally heralded as the beer of summer: Hefeweizen.

In a nutshell, Hefeweizen is traditional, unfiltered wheat-based ale originating in southern Germany that is made especially for consumption during the summer. Always cloudy, always quirky, always spritzy, and most importantly, always refreshing.

Hefeweizen was first brewed in the Bavarian house of Degenberg, in the 1400’s. It started to get pretty popular, but due to some jealousy and feuding amongst the local royalty, it fell into obscurity until the late 1800’s where the Schneider Brewery did a fantastic job of resurrecting the style and modernizing the brewing process. Unfortunately, the brewery was a casualty of World War II, and it fell into obscurity once again. However, Hefeweizen refused to be denied, and in the 70’s it was rediscovered yet again. Nowadays, 30% of the beer made in Bavaria is weissbier.

Butternut HefeweizenHefeweizen is pale straw to a dark gold in color, with a thick, mousy, long-lasting white head, which looks particularly pretty in those big, fluted glasses designed specifically for them. Due to the high protein content in the wheat, clarity is always a bit impaired, but a haze is somewhat variable. The aromas these beers give off are very phenolic (spicy); the two biggest culprits being clove and banana. There is little to no noble hop character, combined with a citrusy tartness, some vanilla, and some bubblegum.

The flavor you’ll be experiencing is a low to moderately strong banana and clove flavor, where sweetness and roundness should ideally be in perfect balance. Showing up in the background is a touch of that Pils malt character with very little hop bitterness or flavor. The finish will be very dry, setting your palate up for the next delicious sip of this beer. And one last thing – the mouthfeel should be medium light to medium, and never heavy. This is where the texture of the wheat imparts a sensation of a fluffy, creamy fullness with some spritz and effervescence. Thirsty yet?

Hefeweizen is one of the most versatile beers out there that you can pair with a variety of foods. Think scrubbing bubbles – lifting fat, cutting through starch, and balancing spice. Hefeweizen is dynamite with Indian, Mexican, and Asian food, and it can challenge a mimosa for the ultimate beverage with brunch. Light and refreshing, it’ll pair well with almost everything on the table, most of all with salads. It won’t overpower greens and the acidity of the beer will stand up to almost any dressing you can think of.

So, next time you’re out on the patio, ducking the rain and not having to remove your sunglasses off your head….whoops, that’s just here…..grab one of these, and cheers!

Butternuts Heinnieweisse

Franziskaner Hefe-Weisse

Sierra Nevada Kellerweis

Schneider Wiesen Edel-Weisse

Weihenstephaner Hefeweissbier



  • R Byron July 24, 2009 @ 8:36pm

    This is a curious list. While Schneider and Weihenstephan are safe choices for hefeweizen, I find it hard to believe there is no Paulaner or Erdinger on the list. These two define the the fruity (paulaner) and astringent (erdinger) style variations of bavarian hefeweizen. Having lived in Munich before hefeweizen was heard of in the US, butternuts and sierra nevada have a huge bar to clear when tried by me. Oh, by the way, Franziskaner is a middle of the road weizen.

  • Hannah July 25, 2009 @ 5:08pm

    R Byron – thanks for your suggestions! I’ll be sure to try the Erdinger next time I’m picking some up. Have you ever tried Julius Echter hefeweizens? I dig both the light and dark versions. Check out my review here – I’d love to hear your input!

  • Deron July 27, 2009 @ 3:18pm

    R Byron: to each his own, I guess. I agree that Paulaner and Erdinger are in fact excellent beers, and classic examples of the style, but these just happen to be my favorite 5. Butternuts primarily making the list because it’s a great summer session beer, and being in a can, camping friendly. The price point doesn’t hurt your wallet, either. Tough category to trim down to 5, as I feel that Hefeweizen isn’t a style that’s flooded with a lot of mediocre examples. Anyways, cheers –

  • pete latus August 7, 2009 @ 10:53pm

    Erdinger is a must on this list, i was born and raised in munich and try them all, Erdinger is hands down the best.

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