I don’t usually claim the ability to identify individual hop species by the taste or smell of my beer, but the citrus-pineapple essence of Amarillo hit my nose like a truck as I raised the glass of cloudy, soft orange beer to my lips. Absent prior knowledge, the unmistakeable banana-clove flavor of Hefeweizen would have come as a shock in a beer this hop-heavy. I knew what was coming; it was the reason we were there.
The fashion in American craft brewing for ever more ‘extreme’ beers traps brewers in a rut even as it spurs innovation. As they race for the pole position in alcoholic strength and bitterness, they reach a point of diminishing returns and even diminishing individual identity. After a while, it gets tough to discern the 11% imperial IPA of brewery “A” from the 11% imperial IPA of brewery “B.” The customer stops caring about the brand, and craft beer gets a little more commoditized.
Fortunately, Garrett Oliver, Brewmaster of the Brooklyn Brewery and Hans-Peter Drexler of Munich’s Schneider-Weisse came up with a new twist on hop-heavy beer innovation. Oliver went to the 400-year-old, staunchly traditionalist Schneider Brewery, the first guest brewer in the firm’s history, to combine German hops and Hefeweizen in a whole new way. Likewise, Drexler packed his luggage for Brooklyn to brew his take on Hefeweizen combined with American hops.
Oliver presented the results in Rochester last night at The Old Toad, narrating a comparison tasting of both the Brooklyn and Munich Hopfen Weizens.
The German Hallertauer-Saphir hops used in the Munich iteration blend harmoniously with the Hefeweizen that is Schneider-Weisse’s stock in trade. But Oliver makes the hops “pop” more, bringing their flavor to the front, which is typically a cardinal sin among the Helles and Hefe quaffers of Munich. The result is quite distinct, a surprisingly deep orange in color, with a less substantial head than is typical for the style.
Kira of Calico’s Alehouse lost in a world of hops
The beer produced by Drexler in Brooklyn is even more of a departure from the norm. He used the Amricn craft brewing technique of dry-hopping to impart an extremely fragrant aroma of Americn hops, Amarillo seemingly the main culprit. Unlike the German version which employs hops already used in traditional Hefeweizen, the Brooklyn Hopfen-Weizen offers an entirely new combination of flavor- a synthesis of two seemingly incongruous elements to create a new, well hell, a new beer style that, even without the titanic strength and bitterness, manages more ‘extremeness’ than all the imperial IPAs combined.
And it’s something your wife would enjoy drinking. Go figure.