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Traditional Hefeweizen: Worth the Trouble?

A 3-hour mash? Three hours to lauter? A yeast that creates phenolic off-flavors? What were they thinking?

Stan Hieronymus Aug 25, 2017 - 13 min read

Traditional Hefeweizen: Worth the Trouble? Primary Image

Few beers are more likely to cause a brewer to wonder how much trouble is too much trouble when it comes to the brewing process than the hefeweizen (or, to Germans, the weissbier). It may take 3 hours to mash and just as long to lauter, even if it doesn’t get stuck. Hefes ferment with a yeast that creates phenolic off-flavors, and it really should be primed with unfermented wort and bottled-conditioned.

“It is not easy to keep consistency. Each bottle is its own system,” says Hans-Peter Drexler, the brewmaster at G. Schneider & Sohn in Bavaria. “It is a very traditional system, and we are a little bit proud of it.” Schneider is the largest brewery in Germany still using traditional methods such as decoction, open fermentation, and re-fermentation in the bottle, but that does not mean it is stuck in the 1870s.

The brewery installed a yeast propagation system that produces fresh yeast for almost every batch rather pitching from one fermentation into another. Also, instead of using unfermented wort, known as speise, from a fresh batch, brewers make speise from a separate recipe, then add it inline during bottling. The Schneider family, which has been in charge across six generations since 1872, embraces technology when it results in better-tasting beer.

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