Welcome to the thirteenth in our series of “Source of Styles”, with this focus being on weizenbock beers -another great style of beer to come out of German – where else? – with Bavaria being the focus of this beer. This one was voted for by our Patreons, so if you want to help choose the next few “Source of Styles” then join up here.
Weizenbocks are an amalgamation of two styles of beers – a weizen with a large base of wheat in the recipe, and a bock which is a strong kind of German lager, which takes much longer than the normal lager to mature due to the extra alcohol involved in the process. Combining these two styles of beers means you end up with a weizenbock – a great beer for drinking the colder winter months due to its maltier body, and higher level of alcohol. Like a weizen, weizenbock use a large amount of wheat during the brewing process and a top-fermenting weizen yeast, but it also has a heavier maltier base than your usual weizen, with the influence of a bock, or a doppelbock (an extra strength bock with doppel meaning double in German).
History of Weizenbocks
The most famous of weizenbocks in the modern age come from Schneider Weisse, who are renowned for bringing back the style back in 1907; however the style existed before that time – long before that time in fact.
It is said that the earliest forms of bock had a large amount of wheat involved during the brewing process – not for flavour though, but due the large prevalence of wheat being grown in the area. However bock brewing moved to Munich in the 1600s and the demands of the brewers changed in turn, with them adjusting their recipes to suit the local ingredients and conditions. The wheat was dropped from the recipe, and the yeast changed to a bottom fermenting yeast, resembling more of a lager beer, than the wheat beer.
With Bavaria being well known for wheat, and in turn weizens, the local aristocrats, as per usual throughout history, tried to restrict access to the locally grown wheat. Nowhere was this more evident than with the Degenberger family who wanted the locally brewed weizens to remain a drink for the upper classes. This love of wheat beer by the upper classes also helped them to put political pressure on the German Brewing association and the passing of the Reinheitsgebot, keeping wheat beers exempt from the purity law that restricted what could, and couldn’t, be used for making beer.
As time passed on, and the Degenberger family slowly came to terms that their dynasty was dying out, the number of breweries in the area making wheat beers slowly declined over time. With Munich moving over to lagers, the demand for weizens also fell dramatically over time due to a changing preference of styles, with lager being the base for a series of styles based on it. Dark lagers, with a similar level of alcohol and dryness to them, became the new darlings of Munich and in turn, the demand for weizens continued to fall, until 1812, when there were only two breweries in Munich that regularly made weizens. With the demand steadily falling, King Ludwig II, of the Wittelsbach House and ruler of Bavaria, stopped the brewing of weizens in the area.
If the ruler of the area tells people to stop brewing a beer, then this surely would mean the end of the style; however, Georg Schnider took affront to this and paid a visit to King Ludwig to ask for permission to carry on brewing the beer. Schneider had taken over the license at Bavarian Weisses Hofbrauhaus, the oldest wheat brewery in the area, and asked the King for the rights to make and sell weizen beers. Taking over the brewery, Schneider formed the company G. Schneider & Sohn in 1872, with his son Georg Schneider II, until they both died in 1890. The company was subsequently run by Georg the III and Georg the IV, with the latter seeing a move of operations into Kelheim and Straubing due to burgeoning popularity.
However, in between Georg the II and Georg IV, Mathilde Schneider, the only female to have run the operations of the Schneider Weiss group, should be considered the main push behind the growth of the company as it was during her tenure that saw an upturn in fortunes. She noticed two distinct changes: the increase of popularity of two distinct trends: weizens and lager fermented doppelbocks. This led Schneider Weisse to make Mein Aventinus, which was first brewed in 1907, and remains in production to this day.
Weizenbocks Appearance and Taste
Here’s the guidelines from the BJCP for what makes weizenbocks such a delicious beer to drink.
- Appearance: Pale and dark versions exist, with pale versions being light gold to light amber, and dark versions being dark amber to dark ruby-brown in color. A very thick, moussy, long-lasting white to off-white (pale versions) or light tan (dark versions) head is characteristic. The high protein content of wheat impairs clarity in this traditionally unfiltered style, although the level of haze is somewhat variable.
- Aroma: Medium-high to high malty-rich character with a significant bready-grainy wheat component. Paler versions will have a bready-toasty malty richness, while darker versions will have a deeper, richer malt presence with significant Maillard products. The yeast contributes a typical weizen character of banana and spice (clove, vanilla), which can be medium-low to medium-high. Darker versions can have some dark fruit aroma (plums, prunes, grapes, raisins), particularly as they age.
- Flavour: Similar to the aroma, a medium-high to high malty-rich flavor together with a significant bready-grainy wheat flavor. Paler versions will have a bready, toasty, grainy-sweet malt richness, while darker versions will have deeper, bready-rich or toasted malt flavors.. Low to moderate banana and spice (clove, vanilla) yeast character. Darker versions can have some dark fruit flavor (plums, prunes, grapes, raisins), particularly as they age. A light chocolate character (but not roast) is optional in darker versions. No hop flavor.
- Characteristic Ingredients: A high percentage of malted wheat is used (by German brewing tradition must be at least 50%, although it may contain up to 70%), with the remainder being Munich- and/or Vienna-type barley malts in darker versions, and more Pils malt in paler versions. Some color malts may be used sparingly.
Despite the original brewers in the Japanese craft beer boom back in 1994 being of German origin, very few breweries were producing the style in spite of its light and easy drinking body. These are the recommended weizenbocks beers from Japan that you should try. They are great for winter drinking and these will definitely help warm you up.
The Bottom Line: If you haven’t had a weizenbock before, Baeren Ursus is highly recommended and worth trying.
The Original Review: Baeren Ursus by Baeren
Daisen G Weizenbock
The Bottom Line: Daisen G Beer Weizenbock is an impressive weizenbock that shows off the style extremely well. Get it if you can find it.
The Original Review: Daisen G Beer Weizenbock by Kumezakura Daisen Brewery
Beer Hearn Shinjiko Moon Honey Weizen Bock
The Bottom Line: Beer Hearn Shinjiko Moon Honey Weizen Bock packs a punch that will confuse, confuzzle, and coerce you. Buy it and savour it.
The Original Review: Beer Hearn Shinjiko Moon Honey Weizen Bock by Shimane Beer Company
Fujizakura Heights Weizenbock by Fuji Kanko Kaihatsu
The Bottom Line: Fujizakura Heights Weizenbock is a great great weizenbock that could do with reigning in the sweetness just a wee bit.
The Original Review: Fujizakura Heights Weizenbock by Fuji Kanko Kaihatsu
Let’s be honest – if you’re going to try a style of beer, then it’s also worth trying out some of the overseas beers. Here’s some weizenbocks we also recommend. Check out the label on the bottle to see when the beer was bottled, and also ask how the beer was imported. Was it in a cold chain from start to finish? Was the beer stored in a chilled environment in store? If the shop assistant can’t, or doesn’t know the answer, then give it a miss.
Schneider Weiss Mein Aventinus (Germany) – Buy it here.
Weihenstephaner Vitus (Germany) – Buy it here.
Ayinger Weizenbock (Germany)
Sierra Nevada Weizenbock (USA)