02 April 2008

Weisse principles

The clocks have gone forward and I've been arriving home this past couple of evenings not feeling the need to stand in front of an open fire with a snifter of barleywine. With the temperature in double figures I reckoned it was time to break out the Ayinger wheat beers I've been sitting on for the past few weeks.

I had actually meant to drink them at the weekend, but when I pulled them from their lying down position in the fridge there was a decent-sized beach of sediment running the length of each bottle, so I've been leaving them upright for the past couple of days.

The labels stumped me once again, and I still haven't checked what the technical difference between an Ur-Weisse and a Bräu-Weisse is. As usual with German beer the important information is in small print, so I read on the neck label that the Ur is a dunkels hefe weizenbier, and the Bräu the same in helles. Hidden on the main label is their respective strengths of 5.8% and 5.1% ABV.

My extremely limited German vocabulary tells me that "ur-" has the same meaning as the prefix "proto-" in English, so perhaps I'll do this in chronological order.

The first thing that struck me about Ayinger Ur-Weisse is that it's not very dunkels at all. I had been hoping for something along the brown-red lines of good old Schneider, but instead it's really rather orange. The flavour is understated by the usual standards of the style: lots of fruit there, of course, but it doesn't linger. There's a quick hit of wheaty-graininess, a touch of bitter fruit followed swiftly by a sweet banana finish, and then it's time for the next sip. It's a very easy beer to lash through which, considering its strength, is not such a good thing.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Ayinger Bräu-Weisse is also paler than its contemporaries: a thin-looking light yellow. The banana flavour doesn't muck about here, and arrives full on the nose as soon as the bottle is opened. It carries on through the taste, but not in any kind of heavy or cloying way. Instead, there's a very unusual dry edge to this weissbier which serves to make it extra refreshing. Like the Ur-Weisse, it's an uncomplicated beer, though it's one which I think works rather better than its darker brother. Both create a direct line in my memory back to beers I've drunk while in Germany. I love it when beers do that.

I reckon I'll be returning to Ayinger Bräu-Weisse when proper summer arrives. If proper summer arrives, of course.


  1. Bailey9:19 pm

    The first German-style wheat beer I ever had was Sam Smith's Tadcaster-brewed version of Ayinger. I genuinely thought it had bananas in for quite a long time...

  2. I pre-empted the switch to British Summer Time with a bottle of Paulaner last week. Hadn't had one in a bit and really enjoyed the fizzy tang from it. I was also surprised that my fiancee took the other bottle off me because she's in the Bud Light drinkers club. Perhaps wheat beers are more accessible than I realised.

  3. Bailey, when I was a kid watching Jilly Goolden talk about wine I did wonder if all the things she said were in there actually were in there. I think at some point before I began drinking beer I concluded that they weren't.

    Thom, a brewer of our mutual acquaintance says that the wheat beer he makes is pretty much exclusively sold to "the women".

  4. Bailey12:39 am

    Which comedian parodied Jilly Goolden with: "This wine is like running through nettles in a shell suit." Maybe it was Sandy Toksvig, for some reason.

  5. Ah it must be that time of year. I had a Paulaner the other evening and I liked it mostly because it reminds me of the electric picnic. I'm planning on brewing a wheat beer soon too.

  6. Didn't you say you were drinking Hooker at the Electric Picnic? Did you actually go and see any of the bands?

    So are your wheat beer plans past the bargaining stage yet?

  7. Anonymous10:43 am

    I'm currently having something of an epiphany with wheat beer of late, I'll keep my eyes out for this pair.

    Paulner is fabulous beer it's the only thing that has come close to challenging Konig Ludwig as my favourite wheat beer