Hefe means yeast, weizen translates to wheat. Together they make hefeweizen, a full bodied, sweet, fruity style of beer, tailor-made for the dog days of summer. Hefeweizens are typically made with Bavarian yeast, which offer fun notes of clove, banana, bubble gum and even vanilla.
So, with beer in full swing these days and summer’s sweltering heat upon us, why is it so darn difficult to find hefeweizens on menus around the Atlanta area?
“I went out with my wife and a friend the other night and couldn’t find a single German or English beer on any of the menus.” Complained Carl Rappold, co-owner of Thinking Man Tavern in Decatur and an avid beer connoisseur since he was, like, twelve.
I feel Rappold’s pain. I like malty beers, too. But American craft IPAs are hogging up limited menu and shelf space across the country.
I am afraid we have far too many red blooded American males sitting around in beer bars from coast-to-coast all hopped up on phytoestrogens and asking each other, “Do these jeans make my butt look big.”
But fear not, while most American males are busy finding their feminine side, I am out in search of local Hefeweizens. I am looking for one that will live up to my go-to, which is Bayerische Staatsbrauerei Weihenstephan Weihenstephaner Hefe Weissbier, a classic wheat beer with plenty of malt upfront, and distinct banana note with citrus and clove undertones. It is the perfect summer quaff.
While I didn’t find a local version currently pouring that quite lives up to Weihenstephaner Hefe Weissbier, I did manage to find two valiant efforts and one annual release for a good cause from a popular local brewery.
Slice and Pint Totoweizen
1593 N. Decatur Rd, Atlanta
Co-owner/brewer Crawford Moran has finally started brewing, and he’s off to a great start. This hefeweizen’s name is a fun play on the Wizard of Oz but make no mistake, this beer means business. The flavors are big — really big — with strong notes of Banana and bubble gum, hints of citrus, clove and spice poke through at the right moments lending complexity. The carbonation is slightly higher than one would expect for this style and the beer could benefit from just a little more body. But other than those two minor complaints (believe me, he isn’t off by much) Moran’s Totoweizen is a gutsy effort, and a tasty one at that. Take into consideration that this beer is among the first brews fresh off the new system — and this attempt is downright impressive.
Rick Tanner’s Grille and Bar /
Cherry St. Brewing Cooperative Hammered Monkey
5810 Bond St, Cumming (Vickery Village)
Nick Tanner, son of longtime Atlanta rotisserie chicken guru Rick Tanner, returned home from Colorado State University deeply passionate about brewing. It didn’t take long before he persuaded dear old dad to add a few brew tanks to the Vickery Village location. His version of the hefeweizen dubbed Hammered Monkey is a worthy effort. Nice body, good mouthfeel and distinct banana note. Undertones of clove and even lemongrass fill in the final pieces of this very sessionable yeasty wheat beer.
SweetWater Brewing Co. Waterkeeper Hefeweizen
Nine years ago SweetWater launched the Save Our Water campaign, and has raised more than $700,000 for the cause. Weighing in at 5.7% abv, Waterkeeper Hefeweizen debuted in 2011 as an extension of the program. Banana and clove notes do make themselves known, but are less prominent than the two above. It is a nice step up from the more mass produced varieties but might be seen by many as a hefeweizen on training wheels, which pretty much sums up SweetWater as a whole.