Hefeweizens: Don’t Call It a Comeback, I’ve Been Here For Years

By: David Wren

David Wren is a Certified Cicerone (R) in Richmond, VA, who has a serious passion for great beer. When he is not drinking beer, he is working as a Human Resources and Operations Consultant with a local firm. He can be reached at dhwren@gmail.com

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For those seeking a tropical respite from the cold winter months, Germany is not likely at the top of your list…or even on your list at all. I have personally made the mistake of taking a springtime trip to Munich and deciding I didn’t need a winter coat because I was heading to “Southern Germany” where it would be “warmer.” Fortunately, for me, there was a welcoming beer hall on nearly every corner, so my time in the elements was mercifully short. However, in those many hours spent pounding the long oaken tables with the locals, I came to appreciate the artistry inherent in one of Germany’s most popular beer styles: the Hefeweizen. The Germans perfected this unique beer over the last few centuries to embody all the fruitiness and fizziness one craves in a warm weather beer but also the sturdiness one needs when the weather says, “Not so fast, I still have more snow to pile on you.”
Long ago in 16th century Germany, the king passed a law called the Reheinsgebot, or Bavarian Beer Purity Law. This effectively ceased the production of any beer whose ingredients were anything other than barley, hops and water (yeast was added to this law later once scientists discovered what it was and how necessary it is for beer production.) The only exception to this law was for Bavarian royalty, who had grown fond of weizen, or wheat based, beers. Centuries passed and after the invention of the pilsner style beer in the mid-19th century, weizen beers fell out of fashion. So much so that the Bavarian royalty happily sold the rights to brew weizen to a man named George Schneider I, whose brewery over the next century re-popularized the style under the moniker Schneider Weisse. Fast forward another few decades, and the hefeweizen style is alive and well worldwide, especially in the United States. 
Hefeweizens are typically light to medium bodied, with flavors like banana, clove and fresh bread. They are very refreshing and crisp on the finish. Virginia is home to many great hefeweizens, so try any of these!
Beers to Try
The Love by Starr Hill Brewery
One of my favorite tastes of college from the University of Virginia. Starr Hill’s The Love is a classic hefeweizen that is always good.
Zephyrweisse by O’Connor Brewing Company
Norfolk’s O’Connor Brewing Company boasts a summery hefeweizen that drinks as smooth as the beach winds, for which it is named.
Rockfish Wheat by Blue Mountain Brewing Company

Blue Mountain’s spring and summer seasonal hefeweizen brings the party with banana, clove and yeast flavors bouncing out of the glass. 
Watermelon Wheat by Adventure Brewing Company
A different play on the classic German hefeweizen, with watermelon puree added. The result;  The perfect beer for a hot spring or summer day.
Fluvanna Fluss by James River Brewery
This unfiltered hefeweizen is as cloudy as the James River is murky, just the way the Germans envisioned it! The Fluvanna Fluss brings a bright spot from hop usage to balance out a great hefeweizen.

Enjoying a  Fluvanna Fluss at the brewery in Scottsville, VA

Enjoying a Fluvanna Fluss at the brewery in Scottsville, VA

Beer and Food Pairing
Hefeweizens are medium in body so they can pair well with a broad range of food without the risk of overpowering the food’s flavor. Some of my favorite pairings are with Mexican food. The biscuity malt character complements spicy chicken and black beans and the high carbonation levels cut straight through melted cheese, sour cream and guacamole. In addition, you can seldom go wrong drinking any country’s beer with that country’s cuisine. German pretzels, sausages and mustard go well with a tall hefeweizen. Finally, hefeweizens are light enough to drink by the session, so next time you are at the brewery or bar, order a hefeweizen and enjoy!