Sunday, September 26, 2010

Weissbier

My friend Dan Melia came for dinner the other night. We ate and drank well - Sherry while finishing up the cooking and a great Bandol rosé with broiled Spanish Mackerel. But the most memorable thing we drank, for me, was Weissbier. Several different Weissbiers, in fact.

I won't try to create a story here where there really isn't one. I don't know anything about beer, never mind Weissbier. I know that I've had bad sweet Weissbier (often served with that odd wedge of lemon), and I've had good versions. The good ones are fruity but they also are complex and bitter and well balanced.

What is Weissbier? It is a German term for beer that is made using wheat, either instead of or in large proportion along with barley. In Germany Weissbier is unfiltered, unless it is called "kristallweizen," which means clear wheat - it is filtered. I've seen this kind of beer before but never tried it, and I'm not sure that I understand the appeal. One of the best things about a delicious Weissbier is the funky flavorful yeast that sits on the bottom of the bottle and the cloudy texture that always feels just a bit chewy to me. Filtered wheat beer? That would be like drinking decaf, or cooking with margarine. What kind of crazy person would do such a thing?

Anyway...we drank four Weissbiers on that evening. I poured tastes of the first two and Dan, who spends a lot of time in Germany gave me this "you are so pathetic" smile, and relieved me of pouring duty. Here is where I learned some truly important things about Weissbier. You want to make sure that the yeast at the bottom is mixed with the beer and included in the glass. No delicate pouring like I was doing. Dan dumped the beer into our glasses, stopping to swirl the yeast when the bottle was nearly empty, and then poured the rest. Dan said that Weissbier is never served on tap in Germany - there would be no way to include the yeast. It's always served in bottle. Hmmm. There's a neighborhood place that I enjoy going to for dinner mostly because I can drink Weihenstefaner on tap. Scratch that place off my list, thanks Dan.

Hopf and Schönram Weizens are approximately $8.00 for a bit more than a pint. These are aromatic and bright beers that very well complemented our spicy food (details on the food in a coming post). Both were delicious, although we slightly preferred the spicy complexity of the Schönramer Festweisse. We then sampled two dark Weissbiers. That's right, dark wheat beers, called dunkels. Franziskaner and Weihenstefaner were both less expensive at about $4.00 for a pint-plus, and they also were nowhere near as interesting. They were very good beers, but they lacked the energy and cut of the "regular" Weissbiers. Grain of salt: I drank the Weihenstefaner a week ago without any other beer to compare it to and I loved it, so go figure.

It's funny how when I was at Bierkraft browsing for beer, I remember thinking "Wow, $8.00 for just over a pint of beer, that's not cheap." But compared to what you might spend on a bottle of wine of similar quality, it is very inexpensive.

We had a ball sampling these beers with our dinner, and although you may not read about it here, I have a funny feeling that there is more Weissbier in my immediate future. Last thing I'll tell you - as Dan left he made me promise to check out the video of the special mechanism he uses for pouring Weissbier when he's in the comfort of his own home:

3 comments:

Wine eBook said...

Interesting, never heard of Weissbier before.

Dan said...

The robot was pretty expensive, but not as pricey as having to pay for the soundtrack to be piped into my living room straight from a live feed in Munich.

And you should see the thing I've got to pour the milk on my morning mueslix.

Keith Levenberg said...

Nice, but still not as cool as the Rob Higgs corkscrew: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jbVE2tmWn6Q