I mentioned in my last post that I like Wits and Weizens because they’re the sort of beer which won’t put you to sleep, fill you up, or wreck your taste buds for the next hour (or several). That doesn’t mean that your wheat- and yeast-centric brews are all the same – far from it! A lot of American microbrewers have been experimenting with Wheat Ales in particular, which is why you’re seeing “Pale Wheat Ale” or “White IPA” springing up every which way. What typically separates these European styles from their crosspond hybrid brethren are the strict brewing conditions which they’ve historically observed (sometimes, by law): wheat ratios, yeast strains, fermentation method, and onwards. As for a Weizen (wheat) vs. a Wit (white) beer, Weizens typically carry close to a 50% ratio for wheat, and the yeast is meant to draw out the flavor (they’re also highly carbonated). Wits are all about the yeast, lending that pale/cloudy color (sometimes tinted orange) whereas Weizens are more murky with the color depending on the wheat. Since they’re both unfiltered the lay beer imbiber might not be able to tell which is why, even if you put a Widmer next to a Blue Moon. I’ll spare you a discussion of the flavors, because they point I was getting at is when I come across a unique profile in one of these beers I typically arch an eyebrow a la The Rock. This particular beer was found by someone who admittedly lives in the boonies, and I had never even heard of the brewery.
Carmelite Wheat, Mully’s Brewery (Prince Frederick MD) – @MullysBrewery
Hefeweizen, ABV 5.0%, IBU 11
Presentation: Bottle pour into Hefeweizen glass.
Appearance: My first hint that this isn’t a typical Hefeweizen is the blend of color – closer to a pale, smoky yellow, with tons of carbonation that eradicate the head with wreckless abandon.
Taste: It took me a while to -ahem- put my tongue where I thought the flavor was leading, but a few weeks later on with another bottle it suddenly struck me that the heavier sour notes reminded me of a Belgian-style Weizen. Now we’re nowhere near lambic territory but there are some tart notes which go beyond the Weizen’s typical “banana” into a moderate citrus. I’m not saying it tastes like pineapple or melon, but it’s that combination of sweet with a little bit of acidity that separates the Carmelite from the “pure” Weihenstephaner, Franziskaner, Ayinger, etc. When you get your first whiff you’ll get plenty of sour notes, with the body bringing that touch of smoke and cloves. The Belgian aspect reasserts itself in the finish as the acidity cloys at your tongue for another half minute or so. I didn’t get any sense of banana or vanilla, and for this pack at least there wasn’t an abundance of yeast. My best name for what I’ve been drinking is a “Blondeweizen.”
ABV/IBU: I was surprised to read this was only 11 IBU. With most Weizens stumbling to the hopfest around 15, I would have guessed closer to the low 20s.
Overall: If I’m being totally honest my personal opinion is that American brewers haven’t quite gotten Weizens right either through too much experimentation or catering to our tastebuds. This is a start, though. In this case Mully’s has indicated they’ve used yeast straight from the source in Germany, and the ingredient list is spot on, but the main difference still remains that the essence of the beer’s taste here doesn’t come from the wheat. I’d be curious to see how this would turn out if they were more slavish to the “Purity Law,” but as it is it’s one of the better Hefeweizens I’ve tasted on this side of the pond.