What is Hefeweisen?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Hefeweizen is a German wheat beer which is left unfiltered, causing the beer to have a very clouded appearance and a distinctive yeasty flavor. This beer originates in South Germany, where it continues to be extremely popular, and it is also produced by breweries all over the world. Hefeweizen tends to be an acquired taste, because of the yeasty flavor profile; some people like the intense and sometimes slightly sour flavor, while others find it rather distasteful.

Barley, which is used to make hefeweisen.
Barley, which is used to make hefeweisen.

This beer is classified as an ale, which means that it is produced with the use of top-fermenting yeasts. Top-fermentation tends to be much more rapid than the bottom fermentation used to produce lager, and it produces a lighter, less complex flavor. Hefeweizen is also made with a high concentration of malted wheat, using just enough malted barley to ensure that the beer ferments properly, and this gives it a very light flavor and a pale golden color; in the glass, hefeweizen is a pale gold with a cloudy aura of yeast.

A stout, a brown ale, and a hefeweizen.
A stout, a brown ale, and a hefeweizen.

The texture of hefeweizen tends to be very creamy, and the flavor often has very fruity notes; many people taste banana in their hefeweizen, along with a clove-like note from the yeast. Depending on how the beer is handled, it may be sweet or slightly sour, and there tends to be a smoky flavor to the beer as well. Some people, especially in the United States, like to drink hefeweizen with a wedge of lemon to balance out the flavors of this German beer.

Hefeweisen translates in German to "wheat with yeast" and is made with top-fermenting yeast.
Hefeweisen translates in German to "wheat with yeast" and is made with top-fermenting yeast.

Hefeweizen translates in German as “wheat with yeast,” emphasizing its unfiltered nature. It is part of a larger family of German ales known as weissbiers, meaning “white beers,” a reference to their traditionally pale color. Hefeweizen is especially popular in Munich, where several breweries produce it using traditional techniques. Erdinger, Franziskaner, and Hacker-Pschorr are some examples of German breweries which make traditional hefeweizen.

Hefeweisen is produced by breweries all over the world.
Hefeweisen is produced by breweries all over the world.

Pouring hefeweizen requires some practice, as the beer tends to develop a very foamy head. To prevent excessive foaming, the nozzle of the tap or tip of the bottle is typically placed close to the edge of the glass, allowing the beer to gently flow into the glass without excessive agitation. Many bartenders also like to turn the glass as they pour, promoting an even distribution of yeast so that the flavor will develop more fully in the glass.

Hefeweisen tends to develop a very foamy head.
Hefeweisen tends to develop a very foamy head.
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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