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Germany

A recent trip around Germany allowed a member of our group to sample a couple of the local beers. The first of these was a Bitburger. As Germany's number 1 draft beer brewed in accordance with the German purity law, it was found to be of premium quality with a hoppy taste and a dry finish. The second beer was a hefe-weissbier called Pauliner. It had a yeasty smell and was a cloudy orange beer. It was found to be fruity and sweet-tasting, mild and pleasant.

In the mood for a good hefeweizen with the arrival of summer, Bucky chose a bottle of Hofbrau Munchen Hefe Weizen ("Hofbrau") from his local liquor store. Brewed by Staatl Hofbrauhaus in Munich, German, Hofbrau came in a brown 500 ml bottle with a best before date of January 29, 2014, and was 5.1% alcohol by volume.The brewery was founded in 1589 by William V, Duke of Bavaria and is in the possession of the Bavarian state, one of two traditional Munich breweries still under Bavarian ownership.

Hofbrau poured a very cloudy orange-yellow colour, with a thin, short-lived white head which left zero spotting and lacing down the glass. The aroma was not pleasant at all, a metallic smell dominated the citrus and other light fruit aromas of the beer. Thankfully, the metallic smell faded as the beer warmed, and faint aromas of orange citrus, banana, yeast and alcohol became detectable. Fortunately, there was no corresponding metallic taste to the beer and the flavours were a mix of sweet light fruits and spice, with a slightly sour finish...all a bit subdued for my liking  though. Hofbrau had a fairly aggressive carbonation that stopped short of prickly and worked well with the beer, with a slightly creamy mouth feel...the best feature of the beer.  I would describe Hofbrau as light bodied, and the beer was reasonably priced at $2.95 per 500 ml bottle. The verdict...once the metallic smell faded away this was a decent hefeweizen, but I've had much better and doubt that I would revisit this beer.

Rating 6.40/10

The Weihenstephan Brewery in Freising, Germany, was formerly a monastery brewery of the Benedictine monks, and can trace its roots to the year 768 based on a document that refers to a hop garden in the area paying a tithe to the monastery. A brewery was actually licensed here by the City of Freising in 1040, and this is the founding date claimed by the modern brewery. The brewery, therefore, has a supportable claim to being the oldest working brewery in the world (in competition with Weltenburg Abbey, also in Bavaria, which has had a brewery in operation since 1050 and claims to be the oldest). When the monastery and brewery were secularised under Napoleon's occupation in 1803, they became possessions of the State of Bavaria. Since 1923, the brewery has been known as the Bavarian State Brewery Weihenstephan (Bayerische Staatsbrauerei Weihenstephan), and is operated in conjunction with the Technical University of Munich as both a state-of-the-art production facility and a centre for learning. Having had 1,000 years to work on their craft, I was looking for something special from Weihenstephan!

We sampled the brewery's Hefe Weissbier ("HW") in a 500 ml bottle purchased from the LCBO, with a best before date of September 9, 2012. HW was 5.4% alcohol by volume. It poured a naturally cloudy, light orange colour with about 2" of fluffy, white, long lasting head that left plenty of lacing and spotting down the glass. The aroma was fabulous...bananas, cloves and yeast...and remember that this is a beer that complies with the Bavarian purity law and therefore contains no bananas or cloves. Darn clever, the things those Germans can do with the right strain of yeast! The taste very much followed the aroma, with bananas, cloves, wheat and yeast evident. The amount of carbonation was just right with lots of small bubbles on the tongue, and the mouthfeel was creamy. HW also had the clean finish I look for in my favourite beers. Ladies and gentlemen, if this isn't the epitome of the brewer's art, it has to be close! At $3.05 per 500 ml bottle this beer is a decent value for money as well, and HW now joins my short list of regular purchases.

Rating 9.6/10

Given Bucky's fabulous experience with Weihenstephaner's Hefe Weissbier, he was looking forward to sampling a bottle of their Vitus Weizenbock. Bucky picked up a 500 ml bottle at the local LCBO with a best before date of February 16, 2013. Vitus was 7.7% alcohol by volume.

A gentle pour produced a 1.5" fluffy, snow white head that lasted for about 3 minutes before fading to a thin film and collar of foam that left minimal spotting down the glass. Vitus' colour was somewhere between a hazy straw yellow/light peach, and despite the haze I could see a strong stream of fast rising bubbles. Its aroma was of banana, cloves and yeast, with a hint of orange citrus. As the beer warmed, an alcohol aroma also became noticeable. The taste very much followed the aroma, beginning with banana and cloves, then giving way to a yeasty finish with just a touch of orange. A very modest, short-lived bitter aftertaste was present. I found the level of carbonation to be a bit strong at the outset, but it seemed to moderate as I made my way down the glass. I would describe Vitus as a light bodied beer with a creamy mouthfeel once the initial, somewhat prickly carbonation moderated. In short, a very good beer and similar in taste and aroma to the brewery's Hefe Weissbier, but lacking the head retention and lacing of that glorious beer. At $3.05 per 500 ml bottle, Vitus is quite reasonably priced.

Rating 8.1/10

Billed as the world's largest wheat beer brewery, the origins of Erdinger Weissbräu date to 1886 when the construction of a wheat beer brewery in Erding, Germany was first officially recorded. After several changes in ownership, the General Manager at the time, Franz Brombach, bought the brewery in 1935 and re-named it Erdinger Weissbräu on December 27, 1949. In 1965, Franz' son, Werner Brombach, entered the business, and took over the private brewery in 1975. Werner still leads the brewery today. With production of over 1.45 million hl, some 400 employees and a sales network covering almost the entire globe, the brewery has established itself as a market leader for weissbier.

We decided to sample Erdinger's Weissbier Dunkel ("EWD") in a 500 ml bottle purchased from the LCBO with a best before date of November 2012. EWD is 5.6% alcohol by volume and complies with the Bavarian Purity Law of 1516.

EWD poured a deep mahogany colour, with about 1.5" of long lasting, light tan coloured head. After more than 5 minutes, the head faded to a 1/8" foamy cap that left considerable lacing all down the far side of the glass. Visible particulates were buffeted about by the beer's active carbonation with plenty of visible bubbles. It's certainly a good looking beer. EWD's aroma was primarily of dark, roasted malts, but if I concentrated really hard I could detect faint, intermittent aromas of banana and chocolate. The taste essentially followed the aroma with the sweet, roasted malts up front, and faint irregular tastes of banana and chocolate. A modest hop presence mitigated the malt sweetness nicely. A bit of a let down to be honest...I was expecting more of the typical weissbier flavours and aromas, but they were either absent or so subdued as to be barely detectable. The beer's carbonation was lively, and with its creamy head contributed to a decent mouth feel. EWD was medium bodied. The verdict...a respectable enough brew, but at $3.10 per bottle I won't be seeking it out. Better weissbiers, both Canadian and German, exist.

Rating 7.4/10

While wandering the aisles of his 'happy place', Bucky spotted a German smokebeer, and never having sampled this style picked up a bottle. Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbier ("ASR") came in a brown 500 ml bottle with a best before date of October 2013 stamped on the reverse label, and was 5.1% alcohol by volume. ASR is produced by Brauerei Heller in Bamberg, Germany. A little historical beer trivia for you...the roots of the word Schlenkerla in the beer's name lie in the Frankish vernacular, in which "schlenkern" is an expression for walking not straight.

ASR poured an attractive chestnut brown colour with a large, slightly off-white head that lasted for several minutes before fading to a 1/8" cap of foam, leaving some modest lacing and spotting down the glass. Its aroma was strong and made up of wood smoke and back bacon. The beer's flavour was distinct but somewhat more subtle than its aroma, beginning, continuing and ending with wood smoke, with a mild bitterness noticeable at the finish. Both the smokiness and slight bitterness continued as a long lasting aftertaste. I found the carbonation to be quite moderate but well suited to the beer, and would describe ASR as medium bodied. Though I was a bit nervous at the start due to past experience with a couple of overpowering smoky beers, this was a refreshing change of pace. Not a style that I would drink every week, but a bit of a flashback to a bygone age when all malt for brewing in Germany was dried over a wood fire, and quite reasonably priced at $3.15 per bottle.

Rating 7.75/10

In the mood for a good weisbier, Bucky bought a 500 ml can of Paulaner Hefe-Weisbier ("PHW") from his local liquor store. PHW was 5.5% alcohol by volume, with production and best before dates of June 6, 2013 and June 2014 respectively, printed on the bottom of the can. The origins of Paulaner Brauerei GmbH & Co., located in Munich, Germany date to 1634 when the order of the Paulaner monks began brewing beer, thereby laying the foundation for the modern Paulaner brewery. Paulaner now sells an estimated 2.1 million hectolitres of beer which is exported to 70 countries.

PHW poured a cloudy orange/amber colour, with 1.5" of fluffy pure white head, which lasted for about 5 minutes before fading to a thin cap of foam. The head left some modest lacing behind as it retreated down the glass. The beer's aroma was as good as any wheat beer that Bucky had ever sampled...lemon, yeast, hops and vanilla, with just a hint of banana. But would the beer's taste live up to the promise of its aroma? Sadly...no. The tastes were not nearly as pronounced or complex as the aromas, beginning with lemon citrus, followed by a faint banana, yeast, and a slightly bitter hop finish. Not bad at all, but a bit of a letdown after the strength and complexity of the wonderful aroma. The carbonation was a bit on the prickly side to begin, but mellowed as the beer warmed. PHW had a creamy mouthfeel, and the beer was light to medium bodied in keeping with the weisbier style. Overall, a perfectly respectable weisbier and I certainly wouldn't turn one down.

Paulaner Hefe-Weisbier sells for $2.60 per 500 ml can...a reasonable price.

Rating 7.70/10

Continuing his tireless quest for the ultimate beer, Bucky bought a 500 ml bottle of Hacker-Pschorr Weisse (“HPW”). HPW was 5.5% alcohol by volume and this particular bottle had a best before date of September 2014. Hacker-Pschorr is a Munich brewery formed in 1972 out of the merger of two breweries, Hacker and Pschorr. The first Hacker brewery is mentioned in 1417, 99 years before the enactment of the famous Reinheitsgebot Purity Law of 1516, as being located at the corner of Sendlinger and Hackstraße in Munich . Today the site of the former brewery is home to the Altes Hackerhaus restaurant.

HPW poured an opaque dark orange colour…a fair bit darker than you would usually see with a wheat beer. A careful pour produced about 1” of fluffy white head which slowly faded to a thin cap of foam, leaving some scattered lacing and spotting behind it. The aroma was a bit subdued, but even so, notes of lemon and orange citrus, yeast and vanilla are detectable. Its flavor starts out with sweet light fruits, followed by yeast, a hint of vanilla, and a slightly sour finish…very refreshing. HPW had the tingly carbonation typical of a weisse beer and a creamy mouth feel from its “never say die” foamy cap. I would describe the beer as light to medium bodied, crisp, and devoid of any unwelcome aftertastes. Selling for $3.25 per 500 ml bottle at the time of writing, HPW may not be the ultimate beer for which Bucky selflessly searches, but it's certainly very good and worth a try.

Rating 8.85/10

Founded in 1878, Brauerei Aying Franz Inselkammer AG now employs 80 people in Ayinger, Germany. A new brewery was opened in 1999 with a total output of 140,000 hectoliters per annum.

Bucky sampled a 500 ml bottle of their Ayinger Brauweisse (“Brauweisse”) with an alcohol content of 5.1% and no visible ‘best before' or production date. The beer poured a cloudy orange/light brown colour (it is unfiltered after all) with about 2” of pillowy white head which lasted for about 4 minutes. The head eventually faded to a thin collar and film, leaving behind some very modest spotting. Its aroma was a combination of sweet lights fruits with orange and lemon detectable, yeast, and a touch of alcohol as the beer warmed. Brauweisse' taste was a mixture of sweet light fruits including orange and lemon again, yeast, a bit of spice, and ending with a mildly sour sensation. The carbonation was quite strong, typical of the style, but stopped short of being prickly. Quite dry in mouth feel and light to medium bodied, this is a very tasty and refreshing wheat beer, but just short of the very best German standard for the type. Selling at $3.95 at the time of writing, Brauweisse is perhaps a bit on the pricey side.

Rating 8.85/10

In the mood for a smoky beer, Bucky spied a bottle of Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbier Weizen (“ASRW”) from Brauerei Heller Bamberg of Germany. The beer was 5.2% alcohol by volume, and came in a 500 ml bottle with a ‘best before' date of January 2016. Selling for $3.80 per bottle in the People's Republic of Ontario at the time of writing.

ASRW poured quite clear for an unfiltered beer, with a dark brown/amber colour and 2” of creamy looking light beige coloured head. The head faded slowly leaving behind some moderate lacing. Its aroma was dominated by wood smoke, with just hints of the clove and light fruit aromas typical of a wheat beer. The flavour very much followed the beer's aroma, beginning with a dominant wood smoke, followed by some light fruit and caramel sweetness. The smoke isn't quite as dominant on the palate as on the nose. I found the beer to be considerably lighter bodied than expected, with an almost non-existent carbonation which gives the beer a very soft mouthfeel. Overall, I would have to give an edge to this brewery's Marzen, but this beer is respectable in its own right and worth a try.

Rating: 7.55 / 10

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