Wednesday, October 1, 2008

A Little of Wheat You Fancy


Wandering around my local Billa supermarket last night trying to decide what to cook for dinner – if anyone is interested we ended up having macaroni cheese, with chunks of smoked bacon through it – I thought it would be interesting to do a taste tasting of the wheat beers they had available. Thus I got home with all the ingredients necessary for a tri-nations wheat beer face off.

In the Czech corner was Primátor Weizenbier, representing the mighty Germany was Erdinger and squaring up against these behemoths of the brewing scene was Austria’s Edelweiss, all three of which are hefeweizens and ranged in price from $1 to $1.50 at current exchange rates.

First up was the Primátor Weizenbier, which I have had a few times at Pivovarský Klub where it is practically the house wheat beer. I have to admit that every time I have had it at PK I have been left decidedly underwhelmed, however one of my friends told me that it is far better from the bottle. My word was she right, from the bottle this is a far superior beer. It pours a wonderful marmalade orange with a slightly ivory head which disappeared rather quickly – a fact I am putting down to not owning a proper wheat beer glass and so drinking it from my Purkmistr glass. Being a hefewiezen it is naturally cloudy, which is actually something I like in a beer, being a fan of kvasnicové beers. The beer smells like oranges as well, ripe Seville oranges promising a burst of bitterness followed by a delicate sweetness, with floral hints from the Saaz hops. In the mouth this beer is an absolute delight, tart, refreshing, with crisp bitterness, which doesn’t overwhelm the palate, and again the motif of a thick cut orange marmalade. There is a nice balance of medium sweetness with medium bitterness.

Next up came the German contender, Erdinger. I must admit to having a soft spot for Erdinger products, recently Pivovarský Klub had their Dunkelweizen on tap and I relished every drop of the several pints I had. The hefeweizen though is a lighter beer than the Primátor, despite being slightly stronger in terms of ABV, 5.3% to 5%. It pours a pale orange, and like the Primátor there is a touch of ivory in the head, which once again disappeared very quickly, there were also a lot of bubbles in the beer. The nose of the Erdinger was decidedly earthy, with slight spicy notes. I found that the extra alcohol content was evident in the Erdinger and it left a bitter aftertaste in the back of the throat. To my mind has about the same amount of bitterness as the Primátor but just a notch less sweetness.

Many times when I have wandered through Billa I have looked at the bottles of Edelweiss Weissbier and thought of my dad, he underwent Alpine mountain training back in the 1960s when stationed in West Germany and earned an Edelweiss, the insignia of German alpine troops. I really had no idea what to expect from this beer – I know very little about Austrian beers and despite their proximity to the Czech Republic very few Austrian products make it up the E65/50 from Vienna to Prague. I really didn’t hold out much hope for this beer when it poured a similar pale orange to the Erdinger, but at least the head held better and was whiter than the other two. Then I stuck my nose into the glass. My head near exploded with the complexity of smells in the glass, the first thing that hits is spiced oranges with hints of freshly mown grass in the background, but there was something there which took me an age to identify. Touches of pepper and even lemon came to the fore, but still that smell eluded me, so I tasted the beer, and the complexity of the nose is reflected in a very complex taste sensation. Eventually I hit on the predominant smell and flavour and almost jumped for joy, it was ginger, lots of ginger – but this was like freshly cut root ginger, rather than the sweetened powder. The sweetness of the bitter was rather low, but it was not bitter at all, making it a very refreshing beer for sipping, I don’t think the complexity of flavours would allow it to be a session beer.

Of the three beers I think the Primátor is the one I would buy most often to sit with and enjoy whilst watching DVDs, however the Edelweiss is I think the best tasting of the three, and most certainly the most enjoyable to deconstruct and identify all the smells and tastes.

There was once a time when I wouldn’t drink wheat beers at all, but a friend of mine opened my eyes by insisting that I try a Schöfferhofer. Of the wheat beers that I have tried and liked they have tended to be in the mould of Bavarian Weizens, for some reason I find the Belgian wheats very difficult to appreciate, but given that only 18 months ago I would never have touched wheat beer at all, progress is being made.

3 comments:

  1. I should have a go at Edelweiss some day. I've seen it at Billa countless times, but I must say I've always judged it by its company, meaning, the other imported stuff around it, which is not very encouraging. Good to know this one is fine.
    As for Erdinger, I was at the tasting they had a few months ago at PK and their weissbier is to wheat beers what Gambáč is to Czech beers. Primátor beats it hands down, no contest there.
    I haven't had Primátor weizen for quite some time at PK, I prefer to drink it at U Sadu or Pivní Tramvaj or Dobrá Trafika. But I agree with you, it's somewhat better out of a bottle.

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  2. I can see where you are coming from with your Erdinger comment, however wheat beers are still something of a new thing for me, so I haven't fully decided what is good and what should be left on the shelf. However, I think Primator has become a benchmark for me now.

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  3. Spotted Edelweiss in my favourite off licence in Kilkenny today. I was wondering what it would be like and now I will definitely give it a shot. Thanks for the heads up.
    No joy with the others here!

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