Germany. The Promise Land of Beerdom. Where busty blondes sashay from long oaken table to long oaken table wielding beer by the liter and meat by the leg. While the Oktoberfest (Marzen) style might come to mind first to most beer drinkers when daydreaming about that glorious autumnal celebration, Germany actually has a vast array of beer styles and classic brauhaus’ that serve them each up everyday. One such style is the Weizenbock.
For those students of the Germanic language (or avid beer drinkers), you know that any beer with “weizen” in it has wheat in the malt. I won’t bore you with the science of it all, but having wheat in the malt accomplishes a few things: 1. Thicker, fluffier, and stickier head 2. A cloudy appearance and 3. Slightly grainier and heftier mouthfeel.
German beers typically fall into three families: weizens, bocks, and light lagers. Most drinkers are very familiar with the common German hefeweizen ale. This is the most common wheat beer style that is light on the palate and pale in color, and because of yeast contributions, finishes crisp, tasting of banana, clove, and fresh bread. Another common weizen style is the dunkelweizen, called so because of a slightly darker (“dunkel”) malt bill and the same weizen yeast. This yields a more developed malt flavor with pronounced toasted bread, caramel, and even pumpernickel bread like flavor that is then complemented by the same banana and clove yeast flavor.
In contrast, Bocks are a family of dark lagers (remember, in the world of beer, lagers and ales are the two distinct overarching families. Lagers are cold fermented with a yeast that works from the bottom of the barrel and cold aged (“lagered”) for conditioning; ales are warm fermented with a different strain of yeast that works from the top of the barrel down and requires very little aging.). Bocks and Maibock/Helles Bocks start out at a sessionable 5-7% ABV and then progress to doppelbocks (double-bocks) and eisbocks (ice-bock) which can range from 10% to as high as 50+% ABV. Bocks are malt driven beers with very little hop flavor and a very sweet and rich malt finish.
Long ago, in 16th Germany, the king passed a law called the Reheinsgebot, or Bavarian Beer Purity Law. This effectively ceased the production of any beer whose ingredients were anything other than barley, hops, and water (yeast was added to this law centuries later once scientists discovered what it was and how necessary it is for beer production). The only exception to this law was for Bavarian princes, who had grown fond of weizen beer, to continue production of wheat beer. Centuries passed, and in the early 20th century, the famous Schneider Weisse Brewery created the Weizenbock to revive weizen beers, which had fallen out of fashion after the invention of the Pilsner style beer in the mid 19th century. Schneider Weisse named their first Weizenbock “Aventinus” after a famous Bavarian philosopher from the 15th century. Ever since, the Schneider Weisse Aventinus, affectionately known as Tap 6 at the brewery itself, continues to be a best seller world wide, though many beer drinkers do not recognize it as a separate style from a typical hefeweizen.
What separates the Weizenbock from its hefe-kin, is its malt character. Combining the ale yeast and wheat base of a weizen with the dark, melanoidin rich flavors of plenty heavily cooked barley malt of a doppelbock, the Weizenbock brings a vast array of flavors that includes pumpernickel bread, raisin, caramel, cherry, plum, vanilla, clove, banana, and even bubblegum. A great example of the style, like the ones below, are sure to dazzle and maybe even confuse your taste buds!
Beers to Try
Schneider Weisse Aventinus Tap 6
Perfectly embodying the style, this Weizenbock packs a wallop of raisin, pumpernickel, and dark sugar, with notes of banana and clove. A pervasive aroma of uncooked dough rounds out this terrific beer.
Paler in color and lighter the dark bock like flavors than most other Weizenbocks, but still bringing the clove and banana yeast character. Very drinkable.
Great Lakes Glockenspiel
Strong clove, weak banana, with a hint of lemon. Very bready with a hint of sourdough. Without a doubt a great selection!
New Glarus Thumbprint
Hazy, dark, and rich with both dark fruit and citrus notes. A spicy clove and nutmeg character complements the 9.6% ABV mammoth.
Foods to Pair
Because Weizenbocks display such a diverse range of flavors, the food pairing options are tremendous! Try a hearty Weizenbock with your favorite bratwurst, braised prime rib with au jus, or Indian Biryani. Or, pair one with pasta filata, or stretched cheese, like mozzarella, provolone, or paneer. For dessert, try with that fruitcake that’s still left over from Christmas!