Reviews, Commentary and Opinions on Midwest Craft Beer and Microbreweries


Beer Reviews

Franziskaner Hefe-Weisse


Style: German Hefeweizen

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

We’ve all been in that situation: in a bar without a decent beer selection (“decent” can mean even one quality craft brew) against our will. We cast desperately about the place, hoping beyond hope that there’s a tap of locally brewed beer hidden behind the cash register or the fat guy at the end of the bar, but to no avail. So we stare up at the darkened shelf back above the bartender and try to find a semi-drinkable import out of the dusty bottles on display.

Most of us are granted an out in this situation with probably the most ubiquitous non-shit import in America: Guinness. But the seemingly second-most stumbled-upon non-shit import is arguably tonight’s featured beer, Franziskaner Hefe-Weisse. I’ve seen this beer in snooty wine-centric restaurants, just-this-side-of-dirt-floor rural taverns, and the plain-old corner pub.

Franziskaner Hefe-Weisse is a Bavarian-style wheat beer brewed by the Spaten brewery in Munich. Other than the fact that Bavarian wheats are brewed with a significant amount of wheat malt—sometimes up to, or more than, 50 percent of the grist—they’re also brewed with a distinctive, extremely aggressive ale yeast that produces loads of esters, giving the beer strong banana- and clove-like notes in both the nose and the palate. Also, it being a hefe, it damn well better be bottle conditioned, because hefe means yeast in German, and calling it a hefe-weisse signifies that there’s yeast in the bottle. The Bavarians love them their yeasty brews, and I really can’t argue with their taste buds on this one.

Franziskaner pours with a massively bubbled, towering head—lucky I poured it into a bulbous 22-ounce wheat beer glass—over top a super-cloudy—this is without a doubt a true hefe—yellow gold body. Moderate waves of bananas and bubble gum fill the front of the sniff, with yeasty maltiness in the back. As the beer warms up, some clove spiciness gets into the mix—albeit far in the background—as well.

The first thing I noticed about sipping this beer is how hard and sharp the mouthfeel is, punctuated by some crisp, but restrained, carbonation. The banana notes are firmly present but not nearly as huge as what was in the aroma. This dissipates quickly to a rather watery middle. The finish is terse, with a short, sharp hop pop on the end of the tongue. After this hefe warms up, dry biscuity notes fill the vacuum of that watery middle, and end up overpowering the finish, lingering with a slightly unpleasant mustiness toward the end of the glass.

Franziskaner Hefe-Weisse is … a drinkable beer. It can be nice and refreshing on a hot summer day—and far more preferable to the so-called “lawn mower” beers, a nice way of saying “watery swill”—but for a Bavarian wheat beer it can be a little tepid and uninspired. I absolutely love wheat beers, and there are some incredible ones still being brewed in Germany—Schneider-Weisse and Weiheinstephaner, just to throw a couple out there—but Franziskaner ain’t one of them. In fact, you could easily find some Midwest offerings that make a more enjoyable Bavarian-style brew than this one. Like Sprecher Hefe Weiss or New Glarus Dancing Man, again, just to throw a couple out there. But if you’re stuck in beer purgatory and Guinness ain’t an option, Franziskaner Hefe-Weisse could do—and has, at least for me—in a pinch.

Reviewed by Eddie Glick on February 9, 2010.
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