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Tigger: "Heffalumps and woozles."
Winnie the Pooh: "You mean elephants and weasels?"
Tigger: "That's what I said, heffalumps and woozles."
Hefeweizen. It's a delicious word, really. How often do you get to begin a word with "heh-fuh"? Hardly ever, that's when. Then there's the second half of the word with its delightfully optional phonics: it can be pronounced with either an anglicized "w" [Heh-fuh-Why-Zen], or in the traditional Germanic fashion, [Effa-Vyt-zsen].
Beyond being a fun word to say, hefeweizen is also a type of beer - a delicious one you should most definitely be drinking - that also comes in Germanic and Anglo flavors. Even if you don't appreciate my geeky delight over the word, definitely give the beers a try.
Hefeweizen has its roots in Bavaria, Germany, and is actually one subtype of a much larger class of German beers called "weizenbier." Weizen simply means wheat, and refers to the fact that these beers are made of a substantial amount of wheat as opposed to the barley used in most beers of the world - Budweiser, with large doses of corn flakes and rice in its formula, remains a ... notable exception.
Contemporary German law requires that at least half the grain in a beer be wheat in order to be called a weizenbier, a bit of an irony considering the Reinheitsgebot, or "purity laws" of 1487, which forbid German beer made from anything but barley, hops and water. Fortunately for beer lovers today, the rulers of Bavaria, the dukes of the Wittlesbach family, had developed a taste for weizenbier and crafted an exception to the law. It's good to be the duke.
There are many German varieties of weizenbier - also called weissbier - from the dark, rich dunkleweizen, to the crisp, clear kristallweizen, but hefeweizen is distinct due to its cloudy complexion: "hefe" means yeast, and a hefeweizen - meaning literally "yeast wheat," a demonstration of the stupendous ease of neologisms in the German language - has millions of yeast bodies left in suspension in the unfiltered beverage. Those yeast, along with the higher protein content of wheat compared with barley, contribute a silky mouthfeel and large fluffy head -- the pillow of foam on top of your glass.
Those swarming yeast - which when combined with the sandy hue of a hefe look like a sandstorm in your glass - are also an important flavor component in hefeweizen, and I've often heard it suggested that you should be pouring all but a finger's worth of the beer from the bottle and then swirling that beer around the bottom of the bottle before finishing the job of filling your glass. No yeast left behind.
Traditional German hefeweizens are incredibly distinctive, with aromas and flavors of bananas, cloves and even bubblegum due to volatile esters and phenolic compounds produced by the unique strains of yeast used in Bavarian breweries. These beers may indeed be something of an acquired taste ... but not as much as you might think. The fruity and spicy profile is well suited to American palates used to soft drinks and Jamba Juice; it pairs well with all kinds of food and is equally refreshing in summer heat and warming in the cold.
Meanwhile, here in the U.S., American brewers grabbed a hold of the hefeweizen and transformed it into something all their own. West Coast breweries such as Portland's Widmer Brothers - who may well have invented the style - used American ale yeasts that produced fewer of those bubblegum-banana notes and stripped the more exotic spices from the style to yield a crisp, more citrus-toned beverage. Sometimes called American wheat ales by Bavarian favoring purists, they nevertheless share a close kinship with their German cousins. Serving these beers with a lemon wedge is perfectly acceptable and perhaps even advisable.
Citrus zest toned American upstarts or Bavarian bubblegum bombs, hefeweizens of any style are darn delicious in the summer heat. With at least a few weeks of potential dog days left in the 2013 calendar, I would highly advise some porch top quaffing. And should the autumn sweep in on you, a spicy Bavarian style hefe can be just the thing to accent the culinary spices of fall and the crisp air laced with the first wisps of wood smoke.
Below are a few of my favorite hefes for whatever the weather, but please feel free to weigh in with selections of your own.

Widmer Brothers Hefeweizen
The paragon example of the American style hefe, this is a perfect hot day beer. It pours a cloudy pale yellow with a nice foaming head and smells of wheat malt, lemon-citrus and, sacrilege to Bavarian purists, the fruity notes of Cascade hops. The palate is relatively crisp, with lemon and lime notes and a hint of spiciness, a combination that turns out to be extremely refreshing. Traditional it is not, but it's hard to argue it is not delicious.

Ayinger Brau Weisse
This was my first Bavarian hefeweizen experience and I keep going to back to this beer when I want that spicy, exotic Bavarian character. It pours a pale yellow with a sizable pillow of creamy white head and the classic aromas of banana, clove and bubblegum are all there, intermingling with notes of earth and, as one might expect, wheat. It's a creamy beer on the palate and I have always found it somewhat composed of banana bread flavors balanced with lemon, clove and other spices.
Do check the label carefully as there are several other Ayinger beers on the domestic market with nearly identical looking labels, and beer merchants often rack them together; you could walk out with an Ayinger Ur-Weisse kunkelweizen, a darker and richer beer that may or may not suite your tastes, but is definitely not the hefeweizen you might be seeking.

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Pyramid Breweries Hefeweizen
Some years ago, I was fortunate enough to live at northwestern edge of Berkeley, Ca., right up against the San Francisco Bay. This particular location was literally a half a block away from Pyramid's Berkeley brewery, restaurant and ale house. The food there is excellent and a little retail store sells all of the brewery's many beer offerings, but the flagship beer is the Pyramid Hefeweizen.
This is squarely in the American wheat camp in terms of style, much like its Widmer Brothers cousin, with a slightly more amber hue than, say, an Ayinger, and distinct malty, citrusy aromas and flavors. It's smooth, but also crisp and effortlessly refreshing. Excellent with lemon slice or without, it's perfect for sitting on a hot porch or paired with food, or for sitting on a hot porch with hot food.
As a side note for those inclined to musical trivia: Pyramid's Berkeley brewery and ale house is located at 901 Gilman St., just across the street from 924 Gilman, the famous eponymous punk club where bands like Operation Ivy and Green Day got their start.

Trader Joe's Bavarian Hefeweizen
Those of you who have never lived in a jurisdiction enlightened enough to trust you with purchasing your beer in the same place you buy your milk may not realize this, but discount grocery chain Trader Joe's has their own line of beer. They touch on quite a few beer styles, from Pilsner to Oatmeal Stout, but their straightforwardly labeled Trader Joe's Bavarian Hefeweizen has always struck me as the best of the bunch.
This beer hits all the requisite Bavarian notes, with bananas, clove spice and straw in the nose and hints of those bubblegum aromas; it certainly smells German enough. On the palate it's a little thinner and crisper than many imports, but in some ways this makes it a perfect bridge between authentic Bavarian beers and American wheat style hefes. It even passed the native drinker test: A few years ago, I hosted a couple of Bavarian house guests who, after tasting this hefe, would drink nothing else. The fact that it was $4.99 a six pack at the time probably didn't hurt. Pick some up on your next out-of-state journey.

Sierra Nevada Brewing Company Kellerweiss Hefeweizen
Probably best known for their flagship Pale Ale, Sierra Nevada has produced a really interesting beer in their Kellerweiss hefeweizen. Produced with traditional old world style open top fermenting - which a quick Google search will confirm looks a bit like a custodian cleaning up a launderette accident - and aiming for a Bavarian styled hefe, the Kellerweiss is an interesting hybrid. Possessed of those banana and spice notes, the mouthfeel and pale hue of a Bavarian hefe, this beer is nevertheless an obviously new world artifact. The Bavarian style elements are balanced by a citrusy freshness and the hops are noticeable - Sierra Nevada's website says they use Perle and Sterling hop varieties - and somehow leave Sierra Nevada's distinct mark on the beer.
Parting Note: Those with a keen beer sense will notice the absence of an entire class of wheat beers, Belgian Wit. There are certainly some delicious Belgian wheat beers, but they can be so different than German and American versions that they are really an entirely different animal. We'll cover them in due course.
Comments, corrections, diatribes and recommendations are always welcome via email at jon.kelvey@theadvocateofcc.com. Share a virtual toast and keep up with future posting on facebook, http://www.facebook.com/TheTipple and imbibe tipple tips in real time on twitter at http://www.twitter.com/TheTipple.

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