Hefeweizen is an assertively unique style of beer, with some unusual qualities: the high proportion of wheat, the deliberate cloudiness and an interesting strain of yeast that produces flavours not typically found in the rest of brewing. The result is a cloudy, golden beer topped with a large and fluffy white head that is bursting with flavours of banana and clove. Hefeweizens don't taste quite like anything else in the world of beer.
Despite all the unusual properties hefeweizen possess, I think it's fair to say that it's a maligned style of beer. It never seems to garner much excitement from craft beer afficianados and I can't think of many examples of craft breweries that choose to have a hefeweizen amongst their range.
There's a good chance, though, that hefeweizen is my favourite style of beer. I know what you're thinking and I can already hear the cries of "what about IPA" and "what about imperial stout" from some readers, and to a certain extent those people are right. I drink more IPA than hefeweizen, without a doubt. When I want to drink a special beer, it's almost certainly going to be an imperial stout or a barley wine. So what is it about hefeweizen that I find so hard to resist?
It was the summer of 2012, and a friend and I decided we were going to go on holiday. After the usual price comparison search for flights, a trip to Munich to experience Oktoberfest was decided upon. Neither of us was a beer drinker at the time so it was a bit of a strange choice, but the price was agreeable and I believe my exact words were "It's the biggest party on Earth, don't worry, we'll find something to drink.".
Hefeweizen would be the 'something to drink'.
Upon arriving at Oktoberfest, the first thing we did was have a wander around the place. The scale of the event really has to be seen to be believed, and as someone who wasn't a beer drinker, I couldn't believe that all this was essentially for a beer festival. The beer had to be something special, right? Right!
Walking around almost the whole of Oktoberfest, taking it all in, had us working up quite the thirst. The mammoth beer halls, with their endless rows of long tables and servers scrambling about with what looked like an endless amount of beer, looked quite intimidating to two young Scotsmen.
Luckily though, the beer halls aren't the only place to get a drink at the festival. After a bit more wandering we stumbled across something called the Weissbier Carousel. The only way to describe it is exactly as it sounds: a round bar that turns in a circle, like a carousel. There's no horses or little fire engines here though, just beer.
A delicious, golden nectar of a beer that I fell in love with almost immediately. The next few days in Munich were spent drinking hefeweizen and eating bratwurst, and from then on a seed had been sown.
I was firmly on a journey down the beer rabbit hole after that initial brush with hefeweizen, never looking back, going so far as to start homebrewing and then having a nearly four year brewing career. I wonder what life would be like if I hadn't chosen Munich as the destination back in 2012?