When the weather is hot wheat beers and hefeweizens are the beers of choice. There are many reasons for this, the primary ones being crisp, tart and refreshing, also these beers are lighter in alcohol, malt sweetness and hop bitterness making them easy to drink during the summer months. These beers are traditionally served in tall glasses that widen a little at the top to show off the thick meringue like head. Wheat beers are also commonly served with a slice of lemon.

Hefeweizen and wheat beer are two of the four styles of Weissbier, believed to be one of the oldest styles of beer dating back to the ninth century. Hefeweizen, which means an unfiltered wheat beer, originated in Southern Germany. Hefe translates to yeast and weizen to wheat and hefeweizen is ale, which is cloudy in appearance. Where as English style ales use malted barley, wheat beers use a percentage of wheat along with the barley. At one time the Hefeweizen style had almost vanished and was resurrected by Herr Schneider one of the many heroes in the history of beer. The yeast strains that are used in Germany produce fruity esters and clove, banana or vanilla tastes. The hefeweizen style contains little or no hops to avoid covering the flavors produce by the yeast.

American wheat beer is usually filtered and clear and differs from the German Weiss biers in the use of different strains of yeast, malts and hops. American brewers use a different ratio of wheat to barley and add hops to balance out the malt flavors. The combination of different ingredients creates a different flavor profile. Widmer Brewing in Portland, Oregon inaugurated American Wheat about 1986.

Once again beer and food pairing is objective and depends on personal tastes. The main rule is not to over power the flavors of the beer with food and vice versa. As far as pairing these beers with food they do well with salads, fish and shellfish. They also are pretty good all by themselves on a hot August night.

In next months addition of Beer and Food we will be going on some pub crawls in the Bay Area involving public transportation.


Chef Bruce