A lot of beer fans just don’t like Hefeweizens. They perceive them as weak styles of beer, all fruit and sweetness and not nearly hardcore enough for their sophisticated palate. I can understand why some people hate on it: it’s low in alcohol, the hops are subdued, it’s usually reeking with fruity aromas… and it’s not even sour. The style is so approachable, so refreshing, so inoffensive that it actually scares away the macho beer fans out there who pride themselves on drinking IPAs with enough hop astringency to burn a hole in your trachea or barleywines with ample alcohol to sanitize your tongue as they pass over. Plus, there’s the whole lemon-slice-on-the-side-of-the-glass thing going on; that’s the kiss of death for any self-respecting beer drinker. It’s like a Scotch drinker sitting down with a strawberry daiquiri.
But if you’ve never had an authentic German hefeweizen, it’s not really a fair comparison. While there are a ton of American hefeweizens, most of them are as much a blasphemy to the style as any of the macro beers are to the good name of Pilsner. Practically every available hefeweizen made in this country has been filtered to remove any trace of the yeast, has a thin, watery body, and tastes mostly of citrus. A true Hefeweizen has a much bigger body, is cloudier than a January day in Portland, and is bursting with flavors of bananas and cloves.
I’ve been searching for a very long time for an American hefeweizen that lived up to the German versions, and I’ve finally found it in Hale’s El Jefe Weizen. It’s everything the style should be—delicious and refreshing first and foremost, but complex and authentic to its origins, as well. I’m convinced that a pint of this beer on a warm day could convert even the most dubious of beer drinkers.
And if it makes you feel any safer, we won’t put a lemon in it.*
*Well, actually, we don’t even have lemons.