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Hefeweizen – German Wheat Beer

A glass of Hefeweizen beer from Germany.

That’s a German Hefeweizen! A wheat beer with a great cloudy color and lots of yeast.

“Hefeweizen” seems like a rather strange word, although most people will instantly know what you mean when you are asking for “Hefeweizen” – regardless of your current location in Germany. “Hefeweizen” is made up from two individual words, being “Hefe” and “Weizen”. The first word translates to yeast, while “Weizen” means wheat. So you are looking forward to having a “yeastwheat”, when ordering a “Hefeweizen”. What the hell is a “yeastwheat”?!

Hefeweizen is a very popular German beer style. Originating from Bavaria, the malt mix contains at least 50 % of pure wheat malt. Cloudy, and with lots of yeast: that’s the usual Hefeweizen!

Hefeweizen. You get what you ask for: yeast and wheat!

The simple definition of a Hefeweizen beer in Germany is a wheat beer with yeast residue. This type of German beer is especially popular in Bavaria. Yet, other regions of Southern Germany, such as Swabia, are also well-known for their Hefeweizen beers. One can speak of a typical summertime beer which is quite refreshing and great to be enjoyed in a typical German (Bavarian) beer garden, i.e. in combination with Obatzda cheese spread.
Hefeweizen is a top-fermented beer made with wheat malt, and it is not filtered. Bottle fermentation is part of the production process and contributes to the very special characteristics of this particular German beer style.

Hefeweizen is unfiltered and contains lots of yeast residue. This is what people like about Hefeweizen and what makes it special in comparison to other German beer styles.

10 facts on Hefeweizen

A glass of Hefeweizen from the Paulaner beer brand of Bavaria.

A famous Hefeweizen beer brand from Munich, Bavaria: Paulaner!

  1. Hefeweizen is top-fermented, meaning that the brewing process takes place at higher temperatures being around 15 ⁰C to 20 ⁰C. In comparison, bottom-fermentation requires far cooler temperatures between 4 ⁰C to 9⁰C. Therefore, Hefeweizen is a typical summer beer.
  2. Bottle-fermentation is also used to produce Hefeweizen and contributes to the yeast residue in the bottles.
  3. Hefeweizen has an original wort of some 11 % to 14 %, resulting in an alcohol content of 5.0 % – 5.5 %.
  4. The malt mixture used for Hefeweizen beer must contain at least 50 % of wheat malt.
  5. There is not much hops involved in brewing Hefeweizen, resulting in a fruity non-bitter taste.
  6. Hefeweizen can have different colors, depending on the malt mixture used: i.e. pale, walnut, amber.
  7. The scent of banana in Hefeweizen is owed to isoamylacetate which is concentrated during the brewing process.
  8. Kristallweizen cannot be regarded as a Hefeweizen beer, as it has been filtered and does not contain any yeast residue anymore.
  9. It is recommendable to drink Hefeweizen using special Weizenbier glasses. These beer glasses have a certain form especially designed to keep this particular beer fresh.
  10. Non-alcoholic Hefeweizen has become very popular over the past years, as it is said to be very refreshing and isotonic.

Some of the most well-known German beer brands are famous for their Hefeweizen beer! Think of Erdinger, Paulaner, Franziskaner and Schöfferhofer – just to name a few. Nowadays, Hefeweizen can be found in all regions of Germany, and is not limited to the state of Bavaria in terms of availability.

Why is Hefeweizen so popular in Bavaria?

Surely, it is the long tradition of Hefeweizen which still plays an important role in Bavaria. For many centuries, Hefeweizen has been brewed in Bavaria. Besides its popularity among the population, wheat beer had once been of great importance to the Bavarian state by generating lots of tax income. The Bavarian dukes held a wheat beer monopole, and actually forced many landlords throughout the country to sell Hefeweizen and other kinds of wheat beer. It was not until 1798 when the wheat beer monopole was finally diminished. When bottom-fermented beers, such as Pilsner or Helles, became more available due to the progress in cooling technology in the late 19th century, Hefeweizen had hard times to compete. Yet, these days were overcome and Hefeweizen is still fancied to this very day – not only by German beer enthusiasts.

Non-alcoholic Hefeweizen has risen in popularity in the past years. It is said to be isotonic, healthy and low in calories. In Germany, you might see some people enjoying a non-alcoholic Hefeweizen after a hard sports session.

Today, it is the fresh taste in the summertime which makes Hefeweizen a popular beverage in bars and beer gardens. In addition, non-alcoholic Hefeweizen was able to gain important market shares, as it is said to be healthy and of isotonic nature containing b-vitamins. Not all Germans like the bitterness of other beer styles like Pilsner or Export beer, meaning that Hefeweizen poses a real and non-bitter alternative. And do not forget that Hefeweizen stands for the classical Bavarian lifestyle!

Non-alcoholic German beer!

Well-known and popular Hefeweizen beer brands of Germany.

Hefeweizen enjoys popularity not only in Germany and Austria, but also throughout the entire world. It has established itself in the US as a typical German beer brand standing for German brewing tradition and high quality. Some breweries were able to increase their market share to a great extent. In the following list you will find some of the most famous German beer brands for Hefeweizen. By the way, not all of them are from Bavaria!

Many crown caps of famous Hefeweizen beer brands from Germany.

A set of crown caps from different Hefeweizen beers. The variety of German Hefeweizen beers is enormous, but not all Hefeweizen beers are actually brewed in Bavaria.

  • Klosterbrauerei Andechs (Andechser Weißbier Hell & Andechser Weißbier Dunkel)
  • Augustiner-Bräu Wagner (Augustiner Weißbier)
  • Brauerei Aying (Ayinger Bräu-Weisse, Ayinger Ur-Weisse, Ayinger Leichte Bräu-Weisse)
  • Engel-Bräu (Engel Hefeweizen hell, Engel Hefeweizen dunkel)
  • Erdinger Weißbräu (Erdinger Weißbier, Erdinger Urweisse, Erdinger Schneeweisse)
  • Privatbrauerei Moritz Fiege (Moritz Fiege Weizen)
  • Flensburger Brauerei (Flensburger Weizen)
  • Franziskaner Brauerei (Franziskaner Hefe-Weissbier Hell, Franziskaner Hefe-Weissbier Dunkel, Franziskaner Hefe-Weissbier Leicht, Franziskaner Hefe-Weissbier Alkoholfrei)
  • Hacker-Pschorr Bräu (Hacker-Pschorr Hefe Weisse, Hacker-Pschorr Dunkle Weisse, Hacker-Pschorr Sternweisse, Hacker-Pschorr Leichte Weisse)
  • Kulmbacher Brauerei (Kapuziner Weißbier, Kapuziner Weißbier Schwarz, Kapuziner Weißbier Leicht, Kapuziner Weißbier Alkoholfrei, Kapuziner Winter-Weißbier)
  • König Ludwig Schloßbrauerei (König Ludwig Weißbier Hell, König Ludwig Weißbier Dunkel, König Ludwig Weißbier Leicht, König Ludwig Weißbier Alkoholfrei)
  • Krombacher Brauerei (Krombacher Weizen, Krombacher Weizen Alkoholfrei)
  • Neumarkter Lammsbräu (Lammsbräu Weisse, Lammsbräu Leichte Weisse, Lammsbräu Weisse alkoholfrei, Lammsbräu Dunkle Weisse Alkoholfrei)
  • Licher Privatbrauerei (Licher Weizen Hefe Hell)
  • Brauerei Gebrüder Maisel (Maisel’s Weisse Original, Maisel’s Weisse Hell, Maisel’s Weisse Dunkel, Maisel’s Weisse Light, Maisel’s Weisse Alkoholfrei, Bayreuther Bio-Weisse)
  • Paulaner Brauerei (Paulaner Hefe-Weißbier Naturtrüb, Paulaner Hefe-Weißbier Dunkel, Paulaner Hefe-Weißbier Alkoholfrei, Paulaner Hefe-Weißbier Leicht)
    Weisses Bräuhaus G. Schneider und Sohn (Schneider Weisse TAP1 Meine helle Weisse, Schneider Weisse TAP3 Alkoholfrei, Schneider Weisse TAP4 Festweisse, Schneider Weisse TAP5 Meine Hopfenweisse, Schneider Weisse TAP7 Mein Original, Schneider Weisse TAP11 Meine leichte Weisse)
  • Schöfferhofer (Schöfferhofer Hefeweizen, Schöfferhofer Dunkles Hefeweizen, Schöfferhofer Hefeweizen Alkoholfrei)
  • Tucher Bräu (Tucher Helles Hefe Weizen, Tucher Hefe Weizen Light, Tucher Hefe Weizen Alkoholfrei)
  • Brauerei Unertl (Unertl Weißbier, Unertl Ursud, Unertl Leichte Weiße)
  • Bayerische Staatsbrauerei Weihenstephan (Weihenstephaner Hefeweißbier, Weihenstephaner Hefeweißbier dunkel, Weihenstephander Hefeweißbier leicht, Weihenstephaner Hefeweißbier alkoholfrei)

 

More German beer brands!

Many breweries producing Hefeweizen beer also brew a light version of their wheat beer with less alcohol. The demand for light beer is continuously growing on the German beer market. You might also have noticed that some Hefeweizen-breweries even brew a special wheat beer for the wintertime.

Hefeweizen providing the basis for beer mix beverages.

Until 1993, breweries were not allowed to produce beer mix beverages, as such products were not encompassed by the beer tax law. Nevertheless, landlords and bar keepers were free to sell their own mixes. Mixed beverages containing Hefeweizen have been popular at all times and are currently well-asked for. In Bavaria, the home of Hefeweizen, there are some awkward names for the mixed beer beverages:

  • Russ’ / Weizenradler (Hefeweizen with lemonade / comparable to Radler / Alsterwasser with Pilsner beer)
  • Colaweizen (Hefeweizen with Coke)
  • Kirschweizen (Hefeweizen with sour cherry juice)
  • Bananenweizen (Hefeweizen with banana juice to enhance the banana scent)

In addition to the Heferweizen mixes mentioned above, many breweries produce other mixes, i.e. with elderberry or with grapefruit. Especially, Hefeweizen with grapefruit taste is a famous beverage of the Schöfferhofer beer brand.

Watch out: pouring Hefeweizen into a glass isn’t that easy!

It is always the goal to fill a glass of Hefeweizen without having any beer or froth spilling over the top of the beer glass. This may seem far easier than you think! Yet, there is a certain technique for pouring Hefeweizen and other Wheat beer styles we want to show you!

Pouring a Hefeweizen beer into a special Hefeweizen beer glass.

That’s the right way to pour a Hefeweizen into a glass! If you use the wrong technique, you well end up in a mess of beer!

You will not find any authentic Hefeweizen on draught. This is not odd at all, since Hefeweizen is produced using bottle-fermentation after the initial top-fermentation brewing procedure. Bottle-fermentation takes about a week and requires temperatures between 15 ⁰C to 20 ⁰C. The yeast will accumulate on the bottom of the beer bottle, depending on the position the beer is stored. Holding a Hefeweizen bottle into the sun will show you the large amounts of residue in the beer and its cloudy nature.
Drinking and enjoying beer may seem easy, but this does not always apply to Hefeweizen due to its high degree of carbon dioxide. It is highly recommendable to use a Weizenbier style glass. These glasses have a special form allowing the Hefeweizen to “settle” before the froth may rise and spill over the top of the glass. Weizenbier glasses are of 0.5l and 0.3l content in Germany – exactly the right size for the typical bottle sizes sold on the German beer market.

Procedure for pouring Hefeweizen into a Weizenbier glass

  1. Wash the beer glass with cold water and shake the water out of the glass – do not use a towel to dry the glass, as it needs to be wet.
  2. Hold the beer glass diagonal and pour the Hefeweizen into the glass slowly with little distance to the impact surface.
  3. Keep on pouring – if you like the beer froth may also cover the bottleneck.
  4. Some froth and beer will be left in the bottle. Shake the bottle in round movements and pour the remaining beer into the glass. If you don’t favor too much yeast, just leave it!

It is very important to store Hefeweizen bottles upright. That way, it is easier to fill a glass without any beer or crest spoiling. A German wheat beer glass wet with cold water is best to start with when attempting to pour a bottle of Hefeweizen. Thanks to its height, the carbon dioxide bubbles travel a long way from the bottom of the glass – and thus ensure that the Hefeweizen stays fresh for a possibly long period of time. Using the wrong pouring technique will result in a huge mess of Hefeweizen and beer froth on the table and / or on the floor!

German Hefeweizen Beer Reviews!

Maisel’s Light
Check out the the alcohol-reduced Maisel’s Weisse Light beer!
Maisel’s Weisse
Read our review on the famous Maisel’s Weisse Original Hefeweizen beer!
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