Thanks to New England-style India pale ales, hazy beers are in fashion these days. But for true refreshment, a familiar cloudiness and immediately recognizable aromas, look to the hefeweizen, the original hazy beer. This traditional German wheat beer is sometimes overlooked, although back in the early days of the American beer scene it was often the lighter-colored pour on tap at brewpubs.
Traditional recipes were usually only found in import bottles, and packaged American versions were typically hard to come by in the early days. Yet Widmer Brothers in Portland, Oregon, was an early adaptor of the style.
The hefeweizen is not to be confused with Belgian-style white ales—often brewed or accented with orange peel and coriander. Hefeweizen is brewed with a specific yeast strain that imparts aromas and flavors of banana and clove, making it both fruity and spicy. Some brewers will dial up these attributes while others prefer to keep them mellow. There are even some brewers that are using the style as a base for fruit-accented beers.
Traditionally served in a tall weizen glass, similar to a vase, with a wider opening that both builds foam and releases aromas, they are often cloudy and pale yellow to golden in color, although some examples will be lighter or occasionally darker. A lemon wedge is sometimes served as a garnish.
The alcohol is low to moderate as well, although there are some “imperial” versions on the marketplace. But it’s rare for traditional variations to go beyond 6% abv, making it a proper session beer and refreshing one that can pair well with grilled fish, cream-based desserts and is a delightful brunch companion.
To get off the well-worn hop road, a hefeweizen is a perfect style for the spring and summer months. Its bright appearance mimics the sun and its lively aromas bring a sense of joy and frivolity to the palate. Take a stroll down the import aisle or to a local brewery taproom and give this style a closer look.