Greetings Beer & Travel Lovers!
Many people are set in their ways about things, including the type of beer they drink. For example, if you’re an IPA or stout lover, you probably go for one of those 80% of the time.
Besides the fact that we’re comfortable with the familiar, most Americans form opinions about beer based on what’s most available at the local market. In the case of wheat beers, that’s Blue Moon (#1 selling brand) and Shock Top whose line-up currently includes Honeycrisp Apple Wheat, Shockolate Wheat, and Twisted Preztel Wheat.
Sound appealing? Not to me, and if you share my sentiments, and are curious about what “real” wheat beer tastes like, then this article’s for you.
History of Wheat Beer 101
Towards the end of the Bronze Age, the inhabitants of northern and central Europe started to make beer from barley, wheat or any other grain that was readily available. Barley-based beer was generally dark brown, while wheat-based was much lighter in color (and flavor) and thus referred to as white beer or Weissbier (pronounced “vice-beer”, aka, Hefeweizen, Weizenbier, Weisse).
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In Bavaria and the rest of Germany, any grain was acceptable until 1447, when, mainly for political reasons, the Munich city council issued an ordinance stating that brewers could use only barley, hops and water in brewing beer. This was the forerunner of the Reinheitsgebot or German Beer Purity Law of 1516 that stipulated the same restrictions for all of Germany (yeast was added later after it had been discovered).
But the Reinheitsgebot applied only to “commoners” and wheat beer was still brewed by the Bavarian royal family, the Wittelsbachs. Eventually though, the barley-based lagers of Bavaria improved, became more popular, and by 1808, the duke’s “brown beer” brewery absorbed the adjacent white beer brewery into its operations.
By the 1870s, wheat beer had fallen out of favor and in 1872, the Wittelsbachs sold wheat beer brewing rights to Georg Schneider I, founder of the G. Schneider & Sohn brewery in Munich. In 1927, the Schneider Weisse brewery moved to Kelheim where it continues operating today under the direction of Georg Schneider VI.
Want to Try the Best?
For a good introduction to traditional German wheat beer, I recommend trying two of my favorites – Schneider Weisse Original and Weihenstephan Vitus. These breweries’ recipes and brewing techniques have remained consistent thru the years, and for wheat beer purists they are the “real deal”. But before trying them, please watch this short video from Munich-based brewery Paulaner that shows how to properly pour a wheat beer... you may be surprised!
Schneider Original, as it is often called, is brewed using the same recipe created by Georg Schneider I back in 1864 and to me it’s the best example of a traditional German wheat beer one can find. Unpasteurized and unfiltered, it’s brewed using traditional open tank and top fermentation methods, followed by secondary bottle fermentation. Schneider Weisse also happens to be the oldest wheat beer brewery in Bavaria.
Vitus is named after Saint Vitus who founded Weihenstephan as a Benedictine monastery in the year 725 in Freising, Germany. The first brewing activity is thought to have begun around 768, but in 1040, the brewery officially opened on the hill next to the monastery. Today, the Weihenstephan brewery is owned by the State of Bavaria, as is the adjacent Weihenstephan-Triesdorf University, which offers the most prestigious brewing program in the world.
Weihenstephan Vitus is a light-colored, spicy, single-bock wheat beer (“Weizenbock”) that is deceptively smooth for such a high-alcohol beer. It’s also worth mentioning that Vitus has won a World Beer Awards award for 7 straight years including "Best Beer in the World" in 2011 (across all categories, not just wheat beers).
Try the Best with Original Gravity Tours
In case you haven't guessed, our Munich & Bamberg Brewery Tour includes tours of both the Weihenstephan and Schneider Weisse breweries followed by enjoyable and informative tasting sessions. So if you're able to join us, you can try all of their incredible beers served about as fresh as you’re going to find!
We hope you enjoyed this month's post and we hope you’ll consider joining one of our Munich & Bamberg Tours. Even if that’s not possible, please consider sharing this post with your beer-lover friends and following us on Facebook.
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Greetings! I'm a passionate beer and international travel lover. Other than craft beer, I mostly go for German & Belgian beers and if you share the same interests, you may enjoy my blog. Prost!