Eric Asimov on Hefeweizen

Discussion in 'Beer Talk' started by dennis3951, Aug 31, 2012.

  1. fineout

    fineout Apr 23, 2010 Rhode Island

    I have to agree whole heartedly with this article. It seems like so many american brewers will call something "Hefeweizen style" and it will be nothing like the classics (Franziskaner, Paulaner, Weihenstephaner), Hefeweizen is among my favorite styles ever since I lived in the fatherland and I have been repeatedly disappointed in the american offerings in this style. And this is saying nothing about the lemon/orange wedge nonsense that bars repeatedly put on them.
  2. jesskidden

    jesskidden Aug 10, 2005 New Jersey

    Surprised to see Asimov repeat this current US beer geek myth, that the lemon served with wheat beers is a US invention:

    Michael Jackson's 1977 World Guide to Beer mentions that "...a slice of lemon enhances the fruity tang" of Weizenbier and in his first US Pocket Guide (1982) states, under Weizenbier - "They are served in tall, narrow, vase-shaped glasses, usually with a slice of lemon, although some drinkers eschew this embellishment." German-themed bars here in the US routinely served German brands with a lemon squeezed into the 500ml weissebier glasses in the 1970's - long before there were US wheat beers.

    CAMRA's Good Beer Guide of 1985 (not a particularly US-centric source) stated that in Germany Weissbier "...sometimes comes with a slice of lemon!" (CAMRA's exclamation point)

    Even further back in Asimov's own New York Times (6-22-1960, pg 26) June Owen's Food News column reported that "In Munich Weissebeer is mixed with lemon juice, but this is probably too tart a combination for most Americans".
    frazbri, JxExM, brewbetter and 3 others like this.
  3. steveh

    steveh Oct 8, 2003 Illinois

    No matter Jackson's expertise or research, I drank Hefeweizen everywhere I traveled in Southern Germany on 5 trips and was never offered a lemon as garnish.

    I asked 2 good friends from Stuttgart if they'd ever heard of lemon in a Weizen (their favorite style of beer) and they told me a lemon was for Krystalweizen, not Hefeweizen. Even still, I never saw that in my travels either.

    The debate continues.
  4. azorie

    azorie Mar 18, 2006 Florida

    No your right on I was in that area in the 1980's and I never saw or was offered a lemon with any Hefe's I drank and buddy I dank a WHOLE lot of them. At many places. I have seen it in my Germany good beer guide though.
  5. yemenmocha

    yemenmocha Jun 18, 2002 Arizona

    The lemon issue is nothing compared to the bastardization that is American wheat, especially when breweries intentionally mislead by labeling an American wheat as a "Hefe-Weizen". That's the real sin here, not the lemon one. :mad:
  6. FosterJM

    FosterJM Nov 16, 2009 California
    Beer Trader

    Nice little article. If I am in the mood for a Hefe. I always go for an import. Just have been let down with the American offererings.

    yemenmocha likes this.
  7. fineout

    fineout Apr 23, 2010 Rhode Island

    I lived there for a year and went to every corner of germany, east west north south central whatever, had hefe's almost everywhere I went and never was offered an orange or lemon. And as far as Krystalweizen, the one time I bought a couple 6ers of it and brought it to a friends house they laughed at me and told me it was girl beer, never really had it again.
  8. yemenmocha

    yemenmocha Jun 18, 2002 Arizona

    Similar here.

    I don't like lemons either, but I think it's a minor issue compared to the one you mentioned and the American Wheat problem.
    FosterJM likes this.
  9. rlcoffey

    rlcoffey Apr 20, 2004 Kentucky

    American wheats are an abomination. If I was beer emperor and could eliminate one style from existence, it wouldnt be adjunct lagers, it would be american wheats.

    And I know Widmer didnt have access to hefeweizen yeast when they first made their "hefeweizen", but that is no excuse 25 years later. Change the yeast or change the name.
  10. H0rnedFr0gs

    H0rnedFr0gs Mar 12, 2012 Texas
    Beer Trader

    I live in Live Oak's distribution area. Trust me when I say, it's every bit as good as the traditional counterparts (I drank a keg of this....with plenty of friends...for my birthday this year)
  11. steveh

    steveh Oct 8, 2003 Illinois

    While I agree for the most part, there are a few (couple?) that are considered American Wheat Ales and are actually pretty tasty. Something like Oberon has great character and flavor and is nice because, like Widmer or Pyramid, it doesn't label itself a Hefeweizen.

    Three Floyds Gumballhead is another -- even though the name would suggest a true Bavarian Hefeweizen flavor or aroma profile.
  12. jesskidden

    jesskidden Aug 10, 2005 New Jersey

    But see, while personal experience (contemporary with or later that the sources I cited) is one thing, how does one explain those quotes from 1960's - early 1980's? Did Jackson and CAMRA and the New York Times all just happen to coincidentally make up the same myth? For what purpose?

    In my personal experience I was going to German-owned bars in the US in the early '70's that served Hefe's with lemon slices - where did that come from? That was long before any US-brewed wheat beers or hefeweizens (or beers inaccuratedly labeled as such). It certainly wasn't "American consumers" demanding it as Asimov suggests.
    JxExM and Zimbo like this.
  13. steveh

    steveh Oct 8, 2003 Illinois

    Don't know. I can only tell you what I experienced and what other natives have told me. Maybe they were playing a trick on Jackson or he ended up at a few spots where they like fruit in their beer. I'll re-check Warner's Hefeweizen book, but I don't think there's any mention there either.

    One of the reactions I get from brewers and those who like good beer is "Why would you put something into a beer that the brewmaster didn't want in there in the first place?" I usually point out Berliner Weisse with its woodruff or raspberry syrups, but then I get a debate on whether that's good beer or not.
  14. Domingo

    Domingo Apr 23, 2005 Colorado
    Subscriber Beer Trader

    From what I've read (I wasn't alive in the 60's, let alone in Bavaria) it seems like weissbiers have seen a TON of growth in the last 30 years. Maybe the lemon thing was common at one time, but faded out? I've never seen anyone doing it there over the 4-5 weeks I've been in Bavaria in total either...but things could've been different. I can imagine that esters within the beer might be quite the shock to a lifelong helles/dunkel/pils drinker, so some citrus might tone that back.
  15. steveh

    steveh Oct 8, 2003 Illinois

    If you've ever tried a Weizen with the lemon it actually becomes more estery -- and tart. More shocking than the straight, smooth Hefeweizen.

    From Granville Island brewmaster Verne Lambourne when it appeared in Imbibe magazine.
    “To me the beer has enough flavor without it (a lemon),” he says. Customers at the brewery’s Taproom, however, have the choice. “We do serve it with lemon, but we ask people if they have a preference. We get a lot of tourists from the States, and they’ll definitely want a lemon. German tourists don’t.
  16. jesskidden

    jesskidden Aug 10, 2005 New Jersey

    Yeah, I've heard that explanation (and, also, someone once claimed that those quotes were simply explaning how Jackson himself preferred it - but that's not usually how Jackson wrote about the drinking customs of the beer-drinking countries he covered in WGtB), that's why quoted him from two books, 5 years apart. Seems if it was just a practical joke, he'd had found out by then.

    Here's how Jackson himself discussed the "Lemon Question" in his Beer Companion in the 1990's. He starts out suggesting it may have been more prevalent when he first started his research and also he doesn't seem to care for it, either:


    Just seems to me that there's too many references, some from the UK, some predating US wheat beer, for it to have been a creation of "American consumers" in the 1980's.

    Isn't Widmer credited/blamed (pick one ;)) for promoting the lemon slice in their wheat beer in the '80's? I suppose the next step would be to find out where they got the idea (I'd assume from Jackson' books).
    Zimbo likes this.
  17. herrburgess

    herrburgess Nov 4, 2009 South Carolina
    Beer Trader

    I could swear that I also had a couple of Kristalweizen back in the day that had 2-3 uncooked rice kernels thrown into the glass and resting in the base (similar in concept to the Duvel tulip glass that has a bit of etching in the base) to create constant carbonation and help head retention . Know anything about that, Jesskidden?
  18. PancakeMcWaffles

    PancakeMcWaffles Jun 15, 2012 Germany

    The rice kernel thing... I have never seen that here in germany, but I heard of some people doing that at home!
    As far as the lemon-thing goes, I have never been served a Weizen with a slice of lemon, but I pretty much only drink Hefeweizens. Kristallweizens might be served with a slice of lemon sometimes, but I have never seen that either. I have seen a lemon slice in a "Radler" (50/50 Lemonade - Beer) a few times now, but if you already put lemonade in your beer, why not add some lemon? :eek:
  19. steveh

    steveh Oct 8, 2003 Illinois

    There's no denying that it (somehow) became popular, and I had bar-tenders here in the US try to give me a lemon with a Bavarian Weizen long before Widmer was brewing (my theory was sort of along the lines of one of Jackson's -- disguising a stale beer), but my bottom line (which seems to be backed up by many others) is that I never saw it where the beer is actually brewed.

    I'd bet Jackson is on to something with the comparison to the Berliner Weisse and the syrups -- just like the American "Hefeweizens," I'm sure some goof between Bavaria and Berlin said, "Hey -- you're supposed to add fruit to this!" and some started doing it. Still not going to get me to do it.
  20. Domingo

    Domingo Apr 23, 2005 Colorado
    Subscriber Beer Trader

    I've seen the rice grains thing with macro beers here in the US. It's kind of like a poor man's version of the etched Sam Adams glasses.

    While I've only done it a few times, I think the lemon in weissbier thing changes the taste to be lighter and zestier - a la a radler. The banana/clove/vanilla notes are muffled and it just ends up tasting almost like an American style wheat (with fruit, obviously) least to me.
  21. steveh

    steveh Oct 8, 2003 Illinois

    How could they rest on the base in a carbonated drink? I'd imagine they'd be bouncing up and down until the beer went flat. And how is rice going to retain carbonation? I guess if mopes in the US can add salt to their beers to "revive" the head, why not rice? :rolleyes:
  22. steveh

    steveh Oct 8, 2003 Illinois

    How about Cola? :confused: First time I saw that I made a face across the Bierhall and the customer drinking the "Diesel" laughed her butt off. Eee-yuck.
  23. AlcahueteJ

    AlcahueteJ Dec 4, 2004 Massachusetts

    Put raisins in champagne and you can "revive" the carbonation.
  24. herrburgess

    herrburgess Nov 4, 2009 South Carolina
    Beer Trader

    Maybe "retain carbonation" was a poor word choice; should have said "retain the appearance of carbonation" or some such. At any rate, the idea was that the CO2 bubbles formed on the kernels and escaped solution that way. Dunno why they didn't bounce around/float...they just stuck there at the bottom. As for the beer going flat...I drank it quickly enough to effectively eliminate that fear. ;)
  25. herrburgess

    herrburgess Nov 4, 2009 South Carolina
    Beer Trader

    In Thuringia a "Diesel" is called a "Dreckiges" -- most apt, if you ask me.
  26. Domingo

    Domingo Apr 23, 2005 Colorado
    Subscriber Beer Trader

    A diesel/cola-bier is one of the most foul beer concoctions I've ever had. I bought one in a train station just for the sake of wanting to try everything. I think the one I had was a "Mixery" from Karlsberg. It was like the worst aspects of pilsner and cola somehow combined to form pure liquid evil.

    Anyway, I kept the can with me on our train-ride from Munich to Amsterdam. Every time someone would come into our cabin, they'd take one look at that can and immediately turn around and look for the next empty cabin. I figure I'll buy another can next time I have a train ride just for the sake of getting a private cabin for less than a Euro.
    herrburgess and TongoRad like this.
  27. steveh

    steveh Oct 8, 2003 Illinois

  28. steveh

    steveh Oct 8, 2003 Illinois

    You're braver than I! I tried a Radler by mistake on my first trip to Germany, was able to choke it down, but never again.
  29. azorie

    azorie Mar 18, 2006 Florida

    I cannot speak to your american bar visits, nor to what MJ wrote. I can say MJ and me did not always agree. That said the wife who is only 2 years younger than MJ was and is still alive. She speaks German, and has German relatives there and here, and who has visited there and seen more than me. and That is what she remembers It could be wrong and it could be just her experiences, thats all we can relate what we saw and experienced nothing more.
    One cannot argue with something MJ wrote in a book. We just know from all our trips and first hand knowledge no one ever offered to put lemon in any hefe's we ever asked for. You can believe or not, I don't really care.
  30. Domingo

    Domingo Apr 23, 2005 Colorado
    Subscriber Beer Trader

    I might have to run and hide on here...but I honestly like Radlers and especially Russ'ns. They give a nice counter-point to the standard (but awesome) 3-5 styles, and are great for fighting off palate fatigue when you've had a dozen mugs of helles in 48 hours.
  31. grantcty

    grantcty Feb 17, 2008 Minnesota

    I really enjoyed the ApfelWeisse (weisse and apfelschorle) I had at Andechs. I guess I'll have to join you in hiding. :)
  32. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania

    A lot of interesting discussion on lemons in Hefeweizen beers. I personally do not like a lemon in my Hefeweizen. I have a story that I am relating for solely entertainment purposes. One of my first experiences with a German Hefeweizen was on a business trip to San Francisco about 20 years ago. They served the Hefeweizen with a lemon. I looked at the beer with a puzzled look and my co-worker who was stationed in Germany (military) several times asked: “why do you look confused?” I responded: “what am I supposed to do with the lemon?” He responded: “you squeeze it into your beer. It will un-cloud the beer. That is what they do in Germany.” I did squeeze the lemon into the beer but I really didn’t care for the lemon taste in that beer.

    So, what I am confused about concerning the Asimov article on Hefeweizen beers is why he included Lagunitas a Little Sumpin’ Sumpin’ Ale as part of the beers tasted. I absolutely love Little Sumpin’ Sumpin’, it is my favorite American Pale Wheat Ale. I have a bottle in front of me and there is zero mention of hefeweizen on the label. In fact the label states: “64.20 IBU, O.G. 1.074, Alc 7.5% by Vol”. Perhaps it is the homebrewer in me but that information clearly states: Little Sumpin’ Sumpin’ is not a Hefeweizen!

  33. Domingo

    Domingo Apr 23, 2005 Colorado
    Subscriber Beer Trader

    I *LOVE* that stuff. Their weiss is extra fruity to begin with, so the apples amplify that. If I have to hide for enjoying apfelweiss - consider me invisible!
  34. Zimbo

    Zimbo Aug 7, 2010 United Kingdom (Scotland)

    If your recent posts were B29s yours would undoubtedly be Enola Gay.
  35. jesskidden

    jesskidden Aug 10, 2005 New Jersey

    Huh? I in no way implied I didn't believe your or others' experience in Germany - in fact, I find it just adds to my curiosity about the topic, given those sources I quoted that predate US wheat beers in general and Widmer's Hefeweizen in particular.
    steveh and Zimbo like this.
  36. dennis3951

    dennis3951 Mar 6, 2008 New Jersey
    Subscriber Beer Trader

    He wrote about that in the article. Asimov does not pick the beers he writes about and said about have the beers selected for this compareson did not seem to be Hefeweizens to him. He wrote that the Little Sumpin' Simpin' in not a one but a very good beer in any case.
  37. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania

    “Asimov does not pick the beers he writes about …” I didn’t realize that. Was that mentioned in the article?

    I did take note that he mentioned that Little Sumpin’ Sumpin’ was not a Hefeweizen but my reaction to that was: then why did you pick it?

  38. steveh

    steveh Oct 8, 2003 Illinois

    My favorite story about Radlers was at the Hirschgarten Biergarten. My friend and I stopped in on a mini-Beer Drinker's Guide to Munich tour and when asked if we wouldn't mind sharing a table, of course we didn't balk.

    We sat with two Siemens' engineers who were "Drinking Radler because they'd been playing sports and were also driving home." After they'd left we both chuckled at the "driving" comment because we'd watched them drink 2 liters of Radler each -- equal to one liter of beer... but I guess it effects the equilibrium differently if it's mixed with lemonade! :D
  39. dennis3951

    dennis3951 Mar 6, 2008 New Jersey
    Subscriber Beer Trader

    yes he did
    Our expectations may have been misplaced. Simply seeing the term hefeweizen, or a variation, on a label turns out to be no guarantee that a beer is intended to emulate the south German style. Of our 20 brews selected by our tasting coordinator, Bernard Kirsch, because his research or sources led him to believe they would be hefeweizens, I would estimate that half had barely a tangential relation to the style
  • About Us

    Your go-to website for beer (since 1996), publishers of BeerAdvocate magazine (since 2006) and hosts of world-class beer events (since 2003). Respect Beer.
  • Extreme Beer Fest® Cometh

    February 3-4, 2017. Boston, Mass. Limited tickets available. Prepare for epicness.

    Learn More
  • Free Trial Subscription

    Reside in the US? Interested in a free 1-month trial subscription to the print edition of BeerAdvocate magazine?

    Yes! Sign Me Up!