Better Know Your Beer Style: Category 15- German Wheat and Rye

11 05 2010

We recently covered wheat a few weeks ago in ‘Tis the Season: Wheats. So, I will spare us all the time and effort to rehash the history behind wheats. But whereas, that post covers Germany, Belgium and the United States, the BJCP style guidelines categorize them separately. American Wheats are part of the Light Hybrid Varieties (Category 06). And Belgian Witts are in Category 16- Belgian and French Ales.

There are a few things that differentiate German Weiss beers from their Belgian and American counterparts. They are (in no particular order):

  • Reinheitsgabot: The medieval German purity law that decreed no ingredients other than malted grain, yeast, hops or water could be used in beer. While no longer an official law, many German brewers hold true to it for sake of tradition and cultural understanding. All those banana, clove, pineapple notes in the aroma are byproducts of the yeast rather than spices added to the beer.
  • German ingredients: Brewers tend to use the ingredients nearby for sake of freshness and convenience. So German beers should be made from German malts and Noble Hops.
  • German Brewing Techniques: German brewers have innovated and developed many techniques specifically recognized as German. The Germans were the first to make lager and bocks. Germans are the only brewers to consistently make wheat based bocks (weizenbocks).

And, in case you missed it before, below is our video on how to pour a hefeweizen.

Category 15: German Wheat and Rye:

Photo Credit: Bernt Rostad CC

Subcategories: Weizen/Weissbier, Dunkelweizen, Weizenbock, Roggenbier (German Rye)

Appearance: Ranging in very light to russet brown with garnet highlights. Creamy, frothy white to tan head that is sustaining and persistent. Hazy due to lack of filtering. Some hefeweizens are filtered and are called Krystalweiss. Roggenbier is often orange marmalade to copper in color.

Aroma: Notes of banana, clove and pineapple are all present and apparent. Dunkelweiss may even have a bit of a vanilla or oak note with hints of allspice. Weizenbock will have a rocky, mineral quality and hints of bread crust. One may even find a bit of smoke present in all of all of them. Hops should not be present. Neither should diacytl or DMS (a cooked corn smell).

Taste: Low to moderately strong banana and clove flavors. A light vanilla or bubble gum is optional but pleasant. There should be a soft, and round bready sweetness that helps lift the yeast esters and accentuate them but never overpower them. The star of the show should be the yeast, which gives those fruity esters as well as a certain spritzy brightness to the beer. It should be apparent and bold. Weizenbocks will tend to show more dark fruit character of plums, grapes, raisins and prunes. The spice should be earthier; showing more allspice, cinnamon and clove. Roggebier should have a spicy rye quality to it, similar to good rye bread. In none of these beers should diacytl or DMS be present. A slight noble hop bitterness helps balance the beer. Otherwise, no hops should be present.

Mouthfeel: Medium to full body. Creamy, rich and round with medium to strong carbonation. Hefeweizens should be effervescent. There should be no heat from alchohol.

Ingredients: At least 50% of the grain bill should be wheat. While the other 50% is composed of mostly pilsner with Munich malts as specialty grains. Noble hops used for bittering. And a low flocculating weiss yeast. Roggenbier will have rye added to the specialty grains.

Technical Notes:
Original Gravity:
1.044-1.090
Final Gravity: 1.10-1.022
SRM (Grain Color): 2-25
IBUs: 8-30
ABV: 4.3-8.0%

Commercial Examples:
Hefeweizen: Weihenstephaner Hefeweissbier, Schneider Weisse Weizenhell, Paulaner Hefe-Weizen, Hacker-Pschorr Weisse, Plank Bavarian Hefeweizen, Ayinger Braeu Weisse, Ettaler Weissbier Hell, Franziskaner Hefe-Weisse, Andechser Weissbier Hefetraeub, Kapuziner Weissbier, Erdinger Weissbier, Penn Weizen, Barrelhouse Hocking Hills HefeWeizen, Eisenbahn Weizenbier
Dunkelweizen: Weihenstephaner Hefeweissbier Dunkel, Ayinger Ur-Weisse, Franziskaner Dunkel Hefe-Weisse, Schneider Weisse (Original), Ettaler Weissbier Dunkel, Hacker-Pschorr Weisse Dark, Tucher Dunkles Hefe Weizen, Edelweiss Dunkel Weissbier, Erdinger Weissbier Dunkel, Kapuziner Weissbier Schwarz
Weizenbock: Schneider Aventinus, Schneider Aventinus Eisbock, Plank Bavarian Dunkler Weizenbock, Plank Bavarian Heller Weizenbock, AleSmith Weizenbock, Erdinger Pikantus, Mahr’s Der Weisse Bock, Victory Moonglow Weizenbock, High Point Ramstein Winter Wheat, Capital Weizen Doppelbock, Eisenbahn Vigorosa
Roggenbier: Paulaner Roggen (formerly Thurn und Taxis, no longer imported into the US), Boergerbraeu Wolznacher Roggenbier

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