Spring is here: Ayinger Brau-Weisse
The Belgians do not have a monopoly on great wheat beers, even though it may seem like it when you look at the store shelves. Ayinger Brau-Weisse from the Bavarian region of Germany is one of the best wheats you'll ever have. To me, nothing says spring like a good wheat beer, after slogging through a long, cold winter, drinking those dark and heavy beers to keep warm, or drunk enough to not care. As soon as the snow starts to melt, it's time to celebrate with something that tastes more like warm sunlight rather than a warm fireplace.
Brau-Weisse is the perfect beer for that. Springtime in a glass. The cloudy, pale straw colored beer is topped with a dense white head that will fade to solid lacing. Like any respectable wheat beer, it is unfiltered and hazy with yeast. Be careful with the pour if that bothers you, but this is a beer that gets even better with the extra sediment. The aroma is of bananas, but more like some sort of banana flavored candy. And cloves. All the cloves promise that this isn't going to be some sticky, sweet tasting mess.
There are enough great wheat beers out there that you can pick and choose the strain of yeast that appeals to you. For example, there are those that are citrus heavy, either orange or lemon – often maniacally enhanced with a slice of that fruit by the unknowing. Some are spicy. Others are more on the grassy side. These are never hoppy beers. They are soft, sweet and mild. Maybe, the original Light beer – less filling, and the best of them, actually do taste great.
Ayinger Brau-Weisse uses that banana flavor as the backbone, but builds layers of flavor on top of that. First, the cloves, again, keep those bananas in check. There is a touch of lemon, and even some tart apple in the mix. But, all those tangier flavors are smoothed out by a creaminess that makes it very drinkable. The finish is more of a sourdough effect, and not overly sweet. It still retains enough dry crispness to make it a decent refresher, but this might be more of a beer to sit around planning those summer jobs with instead cooling down after doing them.
Wheat beers are usually what you want with a light salad or some such nonsense. Wheats may not be especially macho, whatever that would mean. Women do tend to go for them. They always pair well enough with most light meals. But I don't think the Germans would ever bother making a beer that wasn't great at washing down a sausage. This Brau-Weisse does that as well as any. There's a respectable 5.1% alcohol in this, and less of the fruitiness you're apt to find in many other wheats. They won't be plopping a lemon, hopefully, in any pints of Ayinger. I don't find wheat beers to be especially sessionable, despite being light and easy drinking. There's something about the flavors that make them perfect for the first two or three, but after that, it's usually time to move on.
Ayinger Brau-Weisse is available, where you can find it, year round, but try it in the spring. Hop heads should already know this isn't a beer for them and will turn up their snooty noses at it, but after a winter of alcohol dominated, darker beers, this is just the thing to cleanse the palate. By the time summer comes in full force, it'll be time for something hoppier for most of us, but it'll be hard to find a more perfect beer with which to welcome back spring.