Capital Brewery is bringing back an old summertime friend. It's been at least six years since the Middleton brewer bottled its Weizen, a Bavarian hefeweizen. Since then, it's only been available in limited keg quantities to a few of the brewery's local tap accounts. Brewmaster Kirby Nelson decided it was time to offer it again as a six-pack, so the latest Weizen is out now, and should be easy to find on local shelves.
What is it? Weizen by Capital Brewery of Middleton, Wisconsin.
Style: The unfiltered Bavarian-style hefeweizen is cloudy with a pale straw to golden color. The cloudiness is deceiving, because the beer is actually light-bodied and bubbly. Weizens may have a variety of spicy accents -- cloves, vanilla, apple, banana, even bubblegum. These brews are made with more than 50% wheat malt, and typically have very low amounts of hoppiness. The "hefe" prefix refers to yeast, while "weizen" means wheat; German beer traditionalists often prefer the name Weissbier or Weizen. When the word "Krystal" is applied, such as Krystal Weizen, it means the beer has been filtered for clarity.
Background: Kirby Nelson first made Capital Weizen in the late 1980s, but it found mixed success. Two years ago, when he was working on a recipe for his Weizen Doppelbock, he ended up with additional yeast, so he made a limited batch of Weizen for the brewery's Bier Garten and it quickly sold out. So last summer Nelson made a little more and found a following for the beer on local tap accounts. That convinced him that it was time to bring the beer back in six-packs.
For Nelson, his ideal Weissbier keeps the citrus and fruity tones somewhat balanced with the banana and spicy notes from the yeast. "Although the beer is complex, it still should come across as clean and refreshing, not thick or cloying," he says.
While you can find Capital Weizen on tap in the brewery's Bier Garten and at the Capital Tap Haus, I actually like it best from the bottle and served cold but a little warmer than refrigerator temperatures. Capital Weizen finishes at 5.2% ABV, and sells for around $9/six-pack.
The hefeweizen is also about presentation. There is a unique glass for the style, and in the U.S. it's often served with a slice of lemon on the lip; the lemon accentuates the crispness of the beer. However, some fans of a Weissbier feel that since a well-made weizen should have a balance of banana, cloves and sharp citrus, and that there's no need to cut the banana with the added citrus from fresh fruit. Carbonation can also make or a ruin a good hefeweizen experience. When serving the style on tap, if the CO2 pressure is too high, the beer's light flavors can become lost to a sharp or even stinging effervescence; thus bottles can prove an advantage for this style. Weizens should also be served young and fresh; it's not a beer that ages well.
In other news from Capital, if you do like lemon in your beer, the brewery is releasing a Radler this summer to select tap and draught-only accounts. Radler is another German tradition that is a blend of beer and lemonade, usually in about equal quantities. (The term shandy comes to mind, which is also applied to a mixture of beer and lemonade; however, it;s also sometimes used to describe beer mixed with a broader range of fruits including apple cider.) On the darker side, the brewery also just released its Dark Doppelbock in its Capital Square series of four-packs.
- Aroma: Yeasty notes of citrus and banana with a light hint of cloves.
- Appearance: Bright yellow-gold, and a thick soft white head.
- Texture: Light, bubbly and crisp.
- Taste: Begins with a sharp citrus crispness followed by a mellow hint of banana and cloves.
- Finish/Aftertaste: Crisp, light, with a firm lightly sharp-fruity-citrus ending that accents its refreshing character.
Glassware: The weizen glass will show off the beer's bright, hazy golden color, while the inward taper near the lip focuses the fruity esters toward the nose.
Pairs well with: The hefeweizen is light and bubbly and can easily be overwhelmed by aggressive and boldly flavored entrees. It's best with cool summer salads and mild cheeses like feta. For a special treat try it as a dessert next to strawberry cheese cake. But most of all, hefeweizens just seem to match best with bright sunshine on a hot day!
Rating: Four Bottle Openers (out of four)
The Verdict: Capital Weizen is a very nice hefeweizen with all the fruity-yeasty character that one looks for in an unfiltered wheat beer. The flavors are not overly thick like some unfiltered wheats. Rather, firm accents of banana and cloves remain in the background. Its bubbly and crisp mouthfeel lightens those flavors somewhat and really brings out its light and refreshing qualities -- making it almost too easy to ask for a second round on a hot day.
I'm especially fond of the banana tones in this beer. They shouldn't overwhelm the profile to a point that that the beer seems thick and chewy. Capital Weizen is at its best young in the bottle, and enjoyed in the sunshine on a warm summer day.