This week’s beer is particularly exciting, as it is the result of a collaboration between two of my favorite breweries—BrewDog and Weihenstephaner. The beer is BrewDog’s India Pale Weizen, a fusion of a hoppy pale ale and a spicy, fruity wheat ale. Judging from its specs, it looks as though the wheat side will only be providing support while the IPA takes center stage. It has an ABV of 6.2%, an OG (original gravity; a measure of the density of the unfermented wort relative to water) of 1.056—on the low end for American IPAs—and 65 IBUs, within the usual range for the style.
As last week’s beer was also an American IPA, I’ll move on to a brief description of German weizenbier. “Weizen” in German simply means “wheat”; the beer is so called because of the typical 50% or more malted wheat used in the grain bill. The higher protein content in wheat contributes to a fuller texture and a longer-lasting head. The lack of an outer husk on wheat also reduces the amount of tannins it imparts (polyphenol compounds which can cause a tea-like astringency in beer). Weizen beers also rely on specialized yeast strains which yield such characteristic aromas and flavors as banana, bubblegum, vanilla, and clove.
So if you pour yourself a weizen, look for a pale straw to dark gold body and a moussy white head. The body is also often cloudy as the style is commonly unfiltered (in which case it is called a hefeweizen, simply meaning “yeast wheat”), leaving the yeast in suspension. The aroma should smell of banana and clove with a little bready or grainy wheat. The flavor should be similar to the aroma; it is usually quite sweet, and can have a small amount of hop bitterness as well as tartness from the yeast. It should be on the light side of medium bodied, with a creamy fullness from the wheat as well as high carbonation.
BrewDog’s India Pale Weizen uses extra pale malt, wheat, and Munich malt, and Centennial and Simcoe hops. Centennial hops are used for bittering and aroma and have a flowery and citrus-like character. Simcoe’s alpha acid content is a bit higher making it useful for bittering, but it still has such aromas as passionfruit, apricot, and pine.
The aroma, especially at first, is reminiscent of mandarin and peach. Then the sweet and spicy undertone of clove and bubblegum comes through. There’s a touch of doughiness. It looks golden amber and mostly clear with an eggshell-white head that has so-so retention. The flavor is somewhat bitter and citrusy with notable malty sweetness, though it’s not especially weizen-like—no typical banana/clove/vanilla/etc. Maybe a touch of yeast-derived spiciness, though given its intensity, it’s more likely the hops. The finish is very grainy and sweet with some lingering acidic bitterness. Medium-light with a good bite from the hopping and moderate carbonation.
Really tasty and satisfying, personally. This one caters to my tastes, as it has the bitter, citrusy hops of an IPA without assaulting the palate, and the sweet and somewhat spicy character of a weizen. On a more objective note, in trying to incorporate two styles, the brewers have apparently toned down the more popular aspects of IPAs and masked a bit of the tasty character of weizens. It definitely seems like the IPA won out, with the weizen (which comes through more in the aroma) merely adding some grainy sweetness and perhaps a touch of clove-like spiciness. On the other hand, if they hadn’t toned down the hoppiness, it would have rendered the weizen infusion essentially moot. But like I said, I can’t complain—this is a really enjoyable combination of two great styles.
Located in the town of Ellon in Aberdeenshire, Scotland, BrewDog is a relatively young brewery which has grown rapidly since its founding in 2007. Their regular lineup of beers includes about a dozen varieties, but their experimentation over the years has yielded over fifty other beers. And the Weihenstephan Brewery, located in the town of Freising in Bavaria, Germany, claims to be the oldest working brewery in the world, having been licensed and founded in 1040, with brewing having been taking place there since 768.
This week’s beer was purchased at Liquors Hasegawa, located in the underground shopping mall by Tokyo Station on the Yaesu side.