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Schneider & Brooklyner Hopfen Weisse

G. Schneider & Sohn
Kelheim
Germany
http://www.schneider-weisse.de/

Style: Weizen Bock
ABV: 8.2%

Nigel’s Rating:
one beerone beerone beerone beerone beer   (World class.)


Comments:
Pair With:
• Bananas
• Goose
• Gumbo
• Trout
• Veal
With the Second Annual International Beer Month winding down here at BeerDorks.com, Nigel is sprinting towards the finish. Following two early reviews for newer European craft brewers, BrewDog and Nøgne Ø, I spent quite a bit of time in Belgium with Trappist brewers Rochefort and Orval, followed by an old favorite, Brouwerij Bosteels. While I was hoping to expand outside of the borders of Europe with a review for Japan’s Hitachino, that’s not going to happen. Instead, my second to last stop will be in Germany, the home of modern brewing.

I enjoy International Beer Month for a number of reasons. One of them is the fact that I typically drink exclusively American craft beer. It’s not that I’m a xenophobic beer snob, but rather that I like to support local/American breweries, and there are so many quality ones to choose from. Also, cost can be a factor, as a fine Trappist ale can run in excess of five dollars for one small bottle. As a lover of powerful styles like imperial IPAs and stouts, I’ve discovered that many of the best options worldwide are right here in our backyard. American brews are fresher, stronger, and typically edgier when it comes to experimentation, so I often find myself passing up the international guys.

Even when I do dabble into international brews, there are certain styles and regions I tend to go for (can anyone say Belgium?). On the flip side, there are others I avoid at all costs (Holland, Italy, Poland, and France). Surprisingly, Germany is a country I don’t typically get excited about, despite the rich brewing history there. So why did I choose Private Weissbierbrauerei G. Schneider & Sohn, a classic German brewer specializing in wheat beers? Because Eddie Glick swears by their flagship brew, Aventinus, and I had to see what all the fuss is about.

While I recently purchased my first bottle of Aventinus, a weizenstarkbier, I haven’t yet tried it. Instead, I’m reviewing Hopfen Weisse, a collaboration brew from G. Schneider & Sohn head brewer Hans-Peter Drexler and Brooklyn Brewing chief Garrett Oliver. The story goes that due to their friendship and admiration for each other’s product (Oliver loved Schneider’s unique weiss beers, while Drexler loved the hops in Brooklyn’s IPA), they came up with a “best of both worlds” beer. Not only is this my first stab at Schneider, but also my first taste of anything Brooklyn, as, despite their national reputation, Oliver’s brews haven’t made it to the Midwest as of yet.

What Drexler and Oliver came up with was a powerful, 8.2 percent ABV weizenbock, one that is light due to the wheat and hoppy due to the, uh … hops. My understanding is that each brewer brewed a version in the others brewery, so while essentially the same beer, one was made by Brooklyn and the other by Schneider. How wonderfully confusing. Reflecting the collaboration, the official name of the brew is Schneider-Brooklyner Hopfen-Weisse, and comes in the 500-milliliter Schneider bottle.

Hopfen Weisse pours well, with a creamy head of just over an inch that dissipates quickly, a surprising lack of retention that does leave a decent lace. Not quite as lively as I expected, but not bad. A translucent, cloudy golden brown hue, the sedimentation gives this the look of honey in the glass. Very unique, very cool.

Aromas are pleasant, though not overly strong. Initial scents of light, sugary malt are quickly joined by typical weiss beer notes: banana, orange zest, clove, and coriander. Hops are present in the aroma, but not overwhelmingly so. European hops native to Bavaria are the key player here, meaning they’re much earthier, milder, and toned down than their American counterparts. Given the fact that this is a weizenbock, they play extremely well with the rest of the aromas.

The flavor is excellent. But while the hop profile is slightly enhanced for a wheat beer, it would seem that this is mostly Schneider and little Brooklyn (that’s not a criticism … it’s likely what both brewers were aiming for). Much like the aroma, light sugary malt, while not the main player, is the first sensation. Sweet hints of caramel and toffee give a nice flavor off the bat, which is quickly joined by the earthy characteristics associated with the wheat malt and European hops. The grainy, grassy tones dominate throughout, but thanks to the sugar, it’s a pleasant flavor. Also enhancing the flavor is a noticeable frutiness (banana and citrus) and spice (clove, slight black pepper) that gives Hopfen Weisse a complex flavor that is very approachable. Sweet and spicy, malty and hoppy, it has it all and everything comes together well. Drinkability isn’t an issue, as despite the high ABV, there’s no hint of alcohol and the general profile of Hopfen Weisse is smooth, clean, and not overly heavy. While the complexity of flavors, particularly the sugar and spice, may begin to weigh over time, overall this is an excellent drink that will leave you craving more.

While I’m absolutely convinced of the quality of Hopfen Weisse, I am a bit torn as to the rating. It’s worthy of a five, but there’s a voice inside my head that says it’s not quite enough … a high four would be the way to go. After much deliberation (literally five seconds worth), I shooed away that little voice, as the international collaboration idea, as well as the wonderful hop profile, make this a five-mug treat. A wonderful mix of Schneider’s brilliant weiss brews, with a touch of the new-world tricks of high ABV and amped-up ingredients, makes Hopfen Weisse a wonderfully complex, very rewarding drink that won’t overwhelm. Reasonably priced at around $4 or $5 for a 500-milliliter bottle, I’d highly suggest giving it a shot … it’s German and American engineering at its best.

Cheers!

Reviewed by Nigel Tanner on February 25, 2010.
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