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Beer Reviews

Dunkle Weizen

Sprecher Brewing Co.
Glendale, WI
USA
http://www.sprecherbrewery.com

Style: Dunkelweizen
ABV: 4.65%

Nigel’s Rating:
one beerone beerone beerone beerone beer   (Recommended)


Comments:
With my FCC-imposed suspension over, Nigel is diving right back into another review, and like my last one for Lakefront’s Local Acre Lager, I’m sticking close to home. This time I’m heading north on I-43, to suburban Glendale and Sprecher Brewing. A recent trip to the local purveyor of fine suds led to the discovery of two surprises in one: a dunkelweizen from Sprecher that came in a 12-ounce bottle (for those unfamiliar, Sprecher is noted for their trademark 16-ounce stubby bottles).

I’ve stated in the past that the dunkelweizen, though not necessarily the edgiest, most powerful style out there, is one of my favorites. While I like hefeweizens and other wheat ales just fine, they tend to be a tad light for my ever-so-manly tastes. The addition of darker malt gives dunkels a flavor that is second to none, if done properly, and really hits the spot in the colder months when a light hefe isn’t exactly appealing. While weizen bocks are the big-boy in the weizen family, they can get distorted to the point that you sometimes forget you’re drinking a wheat ale. Dunkels don’t go that far to the extreme, which makes them a style that can appeal to a wide variety of drinkers.

What most intrigues me about Sprecher’s take on the dunkelweizen is that their hefeweizen, appropriately called Hefe Weiss, is one of the best takes on the style that I’ve ever sampled. I typically describe Sprecher as a solid brewery that has decent year-round brews that can appeal to the masses (Special Amber, Hefe Weiss, and the excellent Black Bavarian) with some hits and misses when it comes to the seasonal/special release stuff. The superb quality of Sprecher Barley Wine is quickly tempered by the disaster that is IPA². The very good Dopple Bock is canceled out by the disappointing Abbey Triple and the so-so Imperial Stout. Try as they might, and much credit for the effort, I haven’t found enough gems to consider Sprecher one of the elite. Perhaps a sojourn back into the realm of wheat is just what they need to take that next step.

Dunkle Weizen (that’s how it’s spelled on the bottle … another unfortunate American distortion of a classic German style) pours into my Sprecher Weiss glass with a frothy tan head of about two inches that slowly dissipates, leaving notable lace throughout that is slightly less than I expected. A beautiful deep amber hue with a noticeable haziness, Dunkle Weizen is an impressive looking beer in the glass and I’m optimistic that this is going to be something special.

Pump the brakes, son …

Granted, the flavor is ultimately what matters the most, but I was just jolted back to reality. The aroma of Dunkle Weizen is a shocking disappointment after a wonderful pour. While the typical weizen notes of bread, banana, clove, and other hints of citrus and spice are present in the background, there’s an overwhelming staleness to the aroma that is quite unpleasant. The better dunkels that I’ve had matched the tangy, spicy aroma typical of a weizen with good amounts of sugary malt. Not so here. Perhaps it hit me at the wrong time or had just a touch of an aroma that doesn’t agree with me, but I’m extremely disappointed with what hit my nostrils. It should be noted that I had two of these, one each on different evenings, and experienced the same thing both times.

The flavor does what it can to redeem Dunkle Weizen after the bottom fell out on the aroma, but ultimately we’re talking about an average three-mugger here. Honestly, the flavor was much closer to a hefeweizen than a dunkelweizen, despite the menacing dark color. Huge notes of banana, clove, light citrus, and spice dominate, with a noticeable earthy, yeasty backbone. While the dark color should come from the addition of thicker, darker, more sugary malt, the flavor doesn’t seem to indicate that those characteristics are present. The overall spiciness may drown out those heavier elements, but in the case of a dunkel, that’s a huge detriment to the overall quality of the beer. While sugary sweetness seems to increase slightly as the session progresses with the citrus zest fading just a touch, it never really grabs hold as it should for the style. Light to medium bodied and a touch rough on the palate due to the spice and carbonation, Dunkle Weizen goes down smooth with a notable weizen aftertaste.

Overall, a solid but mildly disappointing brew. It doesn’t taste nearly as good as it looks but also not nearly as bad as it smells. When compared to other dunkels I’ve had, it rates in the bottom half. The darker color doesn’t translate into the flavor, and there’s nothing to establish it as anything other than average. I’ve only seen Dunkle Weizen sold in individual 12 oz. bottles at a couple of Milwaukee retailers, so I’m not certain as to the availability. It’s reasonably priced, so it may be worth a shot if you stumble upon it, but don’t expect to taste the next big thing in dunkelweizens.

Cheers!

Reviewed by Nigel Tanner on January 14, 2010.
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