What Is Hefeweizen Beer?
You may or may not have heard someone describe a beer as a “Hefeweizen”.
But what exactly is a Hefeweizen? - found out right here in this blogpost.
What is Hefeweizen? Hefeweizen is another name for the popular Weissbier type of beer, also called Wheat beer in english. Hefe is a german term for yeast and Weizen means wheat. These beers consist of a heavy amount of wheat and unfiltered yeast, and often hast fruity and crispy flavors.
Read on if you want a lot more information about the popular Hefeweizen beer type.
We go over the history of this type of beer, as well as give you some examples of popular and quite sublime Hefeweizen beer brands.
So, What exactly is a Hefeweizen?
Hefeweizen is another name for the popular beer type “Weissbier” or “Wheat beer”.
A Hefeweizen is usually top-fermented and brewed with a large amount of wheat as well as malted barley.
Visually a Hefeweizen is cloudy, and with a very appealing coldon color.
The flavors vary, but are usually quite round, sometimes a bit fruity and is very easily drinkable for any type of person.
A Hefeweizen is also unfiltered, and this is the reason why it has that nice cloudy and almost hazy appearance.
There’s countless brands that produce Hefeweizen type beers, they all have in common that the beer is very easily drinkable, and has a distinguishable bitterness yet somewhat fruity flavor.
The traditional Hefeweizen beers mix at least 50% wheat to barley malt which makes the very light color.
They also often use various flavoring such as orange peel or coriander, which is why the taste is quite fruity in many cases.
A good example could be the rather popular Kronenbourg 1664 Blanc, which is a traditional Belgian wheat beer that uses citrus for a nice refreshing fruity flavor.
A little bit of Hefeweizen history
Hefeweizen beer is one of the most popular beer variants in the world, and has really stood the test of time over its many year long history.
It all began back in the 1520s in the breweries of Bavaria in Germany.
Hefeweisen didn’t quite pass the German regulations in the beginning of its existence.
This was especially due to the fact that in 1487, Germany proposed a legislation that stated that the only ingredients you could use in beer making were hops, water and barley.
But as any avid homebrewer or beer enthusiast knows, yeast is a quite vital part of the beer brewing process.
However, at this time people simply didn’t know that yeast was responsible for creating the alcohol in beers, since it's microscopic.
This was quite problematic for the producers of many types of beers, since they did in fact add yeast manually, and this meant that their list of ingredients didn’t meet the criteria of the Germany legislation.
The german brewers followed this legislation, up until 1516 where Bavaria quite simply had enough.
The beers they could produce following the absurd rules were quite simply disgusting.
As a sort of “beer rebellion” they decided to create beers with different ingredients to improve the flavors.
One of the many combinations they tried out turned out to be the popular beer type “Weissbier”.
Weissbier is another popular term for Hefeweizen, and it simply means “white beer”, but the name most likely derives from “Weizenbier” which means “Wheat beer” and that’s exactly the type of beer it is.
Weissbier was created by using malted barley and malted wheat which really amplified the taste.
The royals of Germany finally realised that beer was a lot better this way, and in 152 they finally allowed one of the breweries in Bavaria to brew beer this way.
As the years went on, more and more Bavarian breweries started crafting this high quality Weissbier.
In the 1700s Hefeweizen/Weissbier started becoming less popular largely due to the rising popularity of dark lagers.
Largely due to this, the traditional makers of Hefeweizen decided to give up their rights to brewing this type of beer, so more breweries around the world could start brewing this type of beer.
Even though this was done, Weissbier didn’t become popular until the mid 1900s where people once again started acquiring the taste of traditional wheat beers.
Today the Hefeweizen/wheat beer/weissbier style of beer still holds its grasp on the beer market, and is one of the absolute most popular beer types in the world.
Is Hefeweizen different from other wheat beers?
Many people might know that any kind of Wheat beer contains a large amount of wheat malt, from anywhere between 50 to 70% usually, and the rest is regular malted barley.
There are however various types of wheat beer around the world that are a bit different in how they’re made, but they still fall under the same category.
For example we have the Hefeweizen or the Weissbier which is a German/Bavarian wheat beer but there’s also a Belgian Wheat beer variant.
The German Weissbier can be divided into different categories.
These categories have different names, and all contain various proportions of hops, yeast and wheat used.
These categories are beer types such as:
Kristallweizen translates to “clear wheat” and this name indicates that the beer has been heavily filtered, which creates a very clear beer.
Dunkelweizen means “dark wheat” and is brewed with very dark malts which results in a dark and sort of bready beer.
The Weizenbock style of beer is actually a style of German Lager that is somewhat sweet, malty and rather strong in terms of alcohol levels. It combines the Lager type of brewing with wheat beer and creates a rather unique type of beer.
Finally we have the renowned Hefeweizen. Hefeweizen is by far the most popular of all the mentioned types of Weissbier, this is largely due to the fact that it’s very enjoyable by most beer drinkers.
The Hefeweizen is unfiltered and with a very heavy wheat profile as well as fruity/spicy aromas.
So in that sense, Hefeweizen is indeed different from other wheat beers, however it has sprouted from the traditional Weissbier style of beer brewing, meaning that it is rather close to it’s other wheat beer siblings.
American vs German Hefeweizen, is there a difference?
In the section below this one, you will find an array of various Hefeweizen beer brands, and these are all either American or German brands.
But when it comes to Hefeweizen or Wheat beers, there is actually often a difference depending on whether it’s made in the US or in Germany.
German Hefeweizen beers still stick to their traditional way of making it for the most part.
This means that most of the flavor comes from the yeast rather than special malts or hops.
American Hefeweizens on the other hand, tend to use a heavier hop profile and less estery yeast, which gives it more of an IPA og Ale taste and aroma, which Americans tend to prefer.
So overall, German Hefeweizen beers are more yeast-heavy and American Hefeweizen beers are more heavy on the hop profile and specialty malts, like barley for example.
Popular Hefeweizen brands
When it comes to Hefeweizen, there’s a rather endless stream of brands and craft beers in this category of beer.
However, there are some brands that are more popular than others.
Mainstream breweries have adapted the Hefeweizen style of brewing over the years, and created rather successful beer brands.
However there is also a huge array of craft beers in the Hefeweizen category, if you enjoy the more rustic beer experience.
In this section however, we will give some examples of some of the most popular Hefeweizen brands in the world.
This list consists of both the American types of Hefeweizen and the more traditional German variants.
Hefeweizen has become rather popular in the United States, and for that reason many of the most popular brands are indeed crafted on US soil.
#1 Live Oak Hefeweizen
When it comes to beer, Live Oak Brewery in Texas definitely knows their stuff.
Their take on a Hefeweizen is one of the most authentic german inspired recipes ever.
The beer is renowned as not only being one of the best Hefeweizen beers, but also one of the best beers overall.
Their Hefeweizen is quite true to the traditional German way of brewing, and through refining their processes they have created an extremely tasty and very enjoyable experience in their unique Hefeweizen beer.
The aroma, the taste, the appearance, everything is there in terms of a traditional Hefeweizen, and for that reason we rank this beer as the best Hefeweizen for now.
#2 Brew Gentleman Overgrowth
The Brew Gentlemen Overgrowth Hefeweizen beer is pretty unique due to its appearance and taste compared to most other Hefeweizen beers.
This beer tastes almost identical to a session IPA due to its heavy hop profile.
The aroma is quite intense compared to other Hefeweizen beers and the taste is less fruity than regular Hefeweizens as well.
The taste is still a bit fruity, but rather than the citrusy flavors this beer focuses on more tropical flavors and has a sort of mix between a pineapple and green grassy flavor.
The wheat flavor is quite disguised in this beer, and for that reason very few actually know its a Weissbier, due to its very heavy hop profile.
Nevertheless, this beer is quite unique and extremely tasty, so for that reason we rank it #2.
#3 Urban Chestnut Schnickelfritz
This beer comes from the rather popular brewery “Urban Chestnut” in St. Louis.
This beer is a Hefeweizen which differentiates itself by being slightly less cloudy in its appearance.
The color of the beer is a bit sharper and crisper compared to most wheat bears.
This beer uses a mix of banana and clove to create a great aroma and taste.
The taste is rather traditional, and is quite crisp with a specific bitterness and sweetness as well as an almost vanilla-like flavor.
This beer is quite simply a perfect example of how great beer is made.
#4 Schlafly Hefeweizen
Another beer from St. Louis, it seems you can’t really avoid it when it comes to Hefeweizen beers.
This is another great example of why St. Louis is the place for quality wheat beers.
This beer is quite different from usual Hefeweizen beers, largely due to the fact that its aroma is quite floral.
This creates a sort of mix between a traditional Weisbier and a lager or pilsner, and the result is a quite unique Hefeweizen beer.
#5 Weihenstephaner Hefeweissbier
We are not even going to attempt pronouncing this one, and you may be able to tell that this is indeed a German made beer.
This beer is made in the German city of Freising, and once again showcases that the Germans know what's up when it comes to beer brewing.
This beer is largely considered the best German made Hefeweizen beer in the eyes of many American beer drinkers.
It's quite simply a traditional Hefeweizen with all the correct aromas and flavors.
The mix of clove spice and wheat flavors creates a very Bavarian wheat beer with quite characteristic flavors and aromas.
#6 Funky Buddha Floridian
This Hefeweizen comes straight out of Oakland Park, and is a very specific Hefeweizen type when it comes to flavor and aroma.
Many Hefeweizen beers have a slight hint of banana, but this beer leans a bit extra into the banana flavors.
When you drink it, you may think it tastes similar to banana bread, that's how strong the banana flavor is in this great beer.
Along with a small touch of honey-like sweetness this beer will remind you of a delicious English muffin but with all the great beer taste we enjoy in Hefeweizen beers.
#7 Three Floyds Gumballhead
The Gumballhead is a great example of a good hop heavy wheat beer.
The hop content of this beer makes some people associate it with an American pale ale or an IPA, but it is quite it’s own thing, and more in the category of a Hefeweizen of course.
With floral and orange blossom hops, this beer gets a refreshing mix of sweet and bitter flavors as well as a quite unique aroma.
#8 Schlafly Raspberry Hefeweizen
This beer is described as an example of a classic raspberry wheat beer, which is somewhat close to the American Pale wheat style.
The raspberry notes in this beer quite simply explodes on the nose and creates one of the most fruity aromas you’ve ever experienced in beer.
What’s really surprising about this beer, is that the raspberry somehow isn’t carried over in the color and the taste of the beer.
You can taste fruitiness for sure, but the flavor isn’t primarily raspberry.
The creators of this beer have really managed to create a strong aroma using raspberries, but at the same time somehow withhold the same berries from controlling the overall flavor, and for that reason this beer is quite unique.
#9 Boulder Beer Co. Sweaty Betty Blonde
As the name suggests, this beer is quite pale or “blonde” in its appearance.
It is quite close to a traditional Hefeweizen, however this beer relies on yeast-derived aromatics and leans a lot more on the wheat profile rather than a mix of the two.
For that reason the beer is very pale in its look compared to most other Hefeweizen beers.
The flavors however, are quite traditional and consist of a nice crispy and grainy flavor accompanied by a citrusy flavor from lemon as well as a light tone of banana.
The beer is incredibly easy to drink, especially on a nice summer day.
There's no complications, it does its job to perfection and is definitely one of the best Hefeweizen beers out there.
#10 Ayinger Brau Weisse
Another example of a classic Hefeweizen is this beer from Aying, Germany.
This beer is a very traditional Hefeweizen type beer that uses a substantial wheat profile along with an almost bubblegum-like fruitiness to create an extremely aromatic and tasty beer.
This beer is quite simply anything you could ask for in a traditional Hefeweizen, it does it’s job quite well and is perfect if you wish for an authentic German Hefeweizen experience.