Although last week’s beer was also a wheat beer, this week’s comes from a brewery that played a vital role in the history of the modern weissbier (weizenbier). By the latter half of the 19th century, the style had fallen out of popularity in Germany and was at risk of vanishing completely, but it was around that time that G. Schneider & Sohn began brewing and “saved wheat beer from extinction,” as the brewery puts it. G. Schneider & Sohn today offers a lineup of wheat-based beers, this week’s feature being TAP5 Meine Hopfenweisse, a strong, dry-hopped weizendoppelbock with 8.2% ABV, concocted in 2008 in collaboration with Brooklyn Brewery in the United States. Brooklyn Brewery was established in New York City in 1987.
The origin of weissbier as it is known today began around 1500, at which time it was brewed by the House of Degenberg in Bavaria. Although the Beer Purity Law of 1516 effectively outlawed wheat beers, the family was granted the exclusive right to brew weissbier by the ruling Wittelsbach family in 1520 at the price of a beer sales tax. When the last Duke of Degenberg died around eighty years later, the Wittelsbach ruler at the time, Duke Maximilian I, assumed ownership of the Degenbergs’ assets along with the brewing right. In 1605, he built a weissbier brewery in Munich, employing the services of the Degenberg brewmaster. He subsequently opened breweries throughout his realm and forced all inns to purchase wheat beer from Wittelsbach breweries, establishing a monopoly on the style in Bavaria. Revenue from the sales even aided in financing his army during the Thirty Years’ War from 1618 to 1648.
Sales of weissbier peaked around 1730 and the style remained popular for decades; eventually, however, lagers surpassed ales in popularity, especially after beer refrigeration was invented in the 1870s, which allowed lagers to be brewed year-round rather than only during the cold months. After that, weissbier and other ales were marginalized. Since weissbier had lost its profitability for the ruling family in Bavaria, the brewing rights were sold off in 1872 to a private brewer, the Georg Schneider Brewery. Although weissbier thereafter failed to regain significant popularity until the mid-1960s, the Schneider family managed to stay in business. Today the brewery offers nine specialties, including TAP7 Unser Original, a hefeweizen brewed according to the founder’s original recipe.
As mentioned above, TAP5 Meine Hopfenweisse is a doppelbock, a rich, malty German lager. But unlike a regular doppelbock, it is made with equal parts malted wheat and malted barley. Also unlike other doppelbocks, it is dry-hopped, which means that the hops are added directly to the fermenter so that less aromatic oil is lost to evaporation. The hops used are Hallertau Tradition, an earthy and sweetly fruity variety, and Saphir, a sweet and citrusy variety. And at 40 IBUs—well beyond the more typical range of about 16-26 for doppelbocks—TAP5 Meine Hopfenweisse is exceptionally bitter.
TAP5 Meine Hopfenweisse pours a cloudy but colorful, orange and honey-hued body with a long-lasting, off-white head. The aroma offers a fragrant blend of clove-like spice, tangerine and tropical fruit, and just a little bread. The intense flavor is characterized by chalky holiday spice (purple Necco Wafers come to mind), smooth and mild alcohol, and some light, raisin-like fruitiness. The finish is sweetly grainy. The medium body is supported by moderate carbonation.
TAP5 Meine Hopfenweisse is complex and expressive, benefitting especially from a pleasantly spicy and fruity aroma. The flavor isn’t as fruity, but it is still exceptional thanks to its greater spiciness and hoppy bitterness compared to other doppelbocks. This really is a unique number; I’m not even sure what I would compare it to. Give it a try if you enjoy fruity hops and rich, malty, moderately strong beers.
Today’s beer was purchased at Sake Taniguchi, located a short distance from Kita-senju Station in Tokyo.