Beer Review: Franziskaner Hefe-Weissbier

Grolsch Weizen, the first of my three European wheat beers, from Crossharbour ASDA was a good one. No, wait, “good” is the wrong word. It was outstanding. Almost, but not quite toppling Hoegaarden White Beer off of its delicious throne.

If you only check back here on the rare occasions when you remember to, you may be wandering why I’m not being cynical. Usually by the second paragraph, I’ll be well into mocking your favourite lager. Frankly, it’s shocking me too.

Sadly, my microscopic knowledge of beer offers few answers. The only explanation I can proffer is that it is “live”. Specks of yeast are floating around inside the bottle. So much in fact, that they make the beer cloudy. That’s why it looks different to most other lagers, beers and ales which have had everything filtered out. And, somehow, that yeastiness turbo-charges the flavour, making it tastier and more interesting. If you can offer a better explanation, the comment section at the end of this post is the place to leave it.

So, what is the second of my three wheat beers? It is Franziskaner Hefe-Weissbier, which is also the second most expensive of the lot, at £1.84 pence. And it looks like this.

Franziskaner Hefe-Weissbier bottle

Sticking to conventions, it is brown. Look at it just right though, and you can see a white cloudiness within. And that sight makes my mouth water.

Franziskaner Hefe-Weissbier neck foil

It doesn’t have a neck label. What it does have is a huge piece of neck foil with the word “Imported” written all over it. Don’t get me wrong. “Imported” is a very welcome word. Especially in a world full of licensed foreign beers from Luton. But, it would be nice to have some kind of useful information up here instead.

Franziskaner Hefe-Weissbier front label

The front label gets all German. The roundel has writing so Germanic, that it’s hard to read. Inside the roundel is a hearty monk looking into a tankard. If you’ve got a beer made to an ancient recipe, you want to know that European monks are involved.

Under that are some German words. Deploying the technique of guesswork and Google to deduce the meaning, “Spaten-Franziskaner-Bräu” must be the full name of the brewery. “München”, I think, is the city of Munich, which places Franziskaner in Bavaria.

On the left hand side of the label is a taste of things to come elsewhere. It only says where on the bottle to find the ‘best before’ date, but because it does so in several different languages, it’s the length of a medium sized paragraph.

The right hand side is the same. Picking through the impenetrable block of multilingual text, one finds the vital statistics. Not that you’ll feel rewarded for the effort. This is the ubiquitous 0.5L bottle with the standard 5% alcoholic volume. That does make it a tiny bit stronger than some of the other white beers though. There’s also the full address of the brewer, in case you want to write them a letter.

The big-block-of-multilingual-text syndrome gets even worse on the back.

Franziskaner Hefe-Weissbier back label

The closest it gets to an ‘story’ is the sentence “Franziskaner Hefe-Weissbier Hell is brewed in accordance with German Purity Law”. Would that be the same obsolete Reinheitsgebot that Grolsch Wetzen is made to? All I know is, it’s unfortunate to have the word “Hell” in your company name.

In the big block of text is a list of ingredients. That list is “water, wheat malt, barley malt, yeast, hop extract”. I don’t know about you, but I love how these European beers are obliged to give a full list. Not the “contains malted barley” that you get over here.

The only other bits of information are addresses. One of them is the postal address. The other is a web address at www.franziskaner.info. Sadly, I can’t get past the age check screen, because it was designed for resolutions higher than what my monitor is set to. That makes the website a paragon of awfulness. Nevermind, the most important facts are there on the front page. It turns out that Franziskaner has been made with Bavarian brewing tradition since 1363, which was literally a very long time ago.

With nothing else to read, we get to the fun bit. What does Franziskaner Hefe-Weissbier taste like? Is it better or worse than the brilliance of the other wheat beers? I’m looking forward to finding out.

Franziskaner Hefe-Weissbier poured into a glass

Yes, I know, it’s the wrong type of glass. Until I get the ‘right’ kind of glass, this one will have to do. Forget the glass though. Just look at the beer.

A cloudy, amber colour with a thick, foamy head make Franziskaner Hefe-Weissbier just exactly how you want a wheat beer to look. Compare it to Grolsch Weizen and it looks almost identical. And that’s not a bad thing.

What does Franziskaner Hefe-Weissbier smell of? It smells much like the other live beers. And that, again, is a very good thing. Because it smells delicious. Pungent too, so you won’t miss it. Franziskaner Hefe-Weissbier does smell more wheaty and less of fruit and citrus than some, though. For some reason, it’s making me think about bread. Is that a hint of the taste?

What does Franziskaner Hefe-Weissbier taste of? The first couple of sips are pleasant ones. They don’t disappoint, but they do reveal a different range of flavours and tastes. The hints dropped by the smell were right. Franziskaner Hefe-Weissbier seems to be about a straightforward wheaty experience, and less about complex citrussy fruitiness. This is going to need a few more gulps to pin down.

A couple more gulps and some of my suspicions are confirmed. Franziskaner Hefe-Weissbier is mostly about the wheat, but also about maltiness. This is one of those beers where you’ll struggle to find the join between the flavours and the aftertaste. Neither are particularly powerful. About half-way through, and Franziskaner Hefe-Weissbier is as rich and smooth as I’d hoped, with no lingering bitterness.

What am I enjoying about Franziskaner Hefe-Weissbier? There is a lot to enjoy here. I’m liking how honest and straightforward it is. It’s as if the Medieval monks decided to make a simple wheat beer, and make it as well as they could. I like how you can taste the wheat, which gets lost the complexity of others. I like how these things make it different from the other wheat beers. I like how rich and full bodied it is. I love how well made it is. All of which come together to make it an outstandingly satisfying and drinkable bottle of beer.

What don’t I like about Franziskaner Hefe-Weissbier? There are one or two tiny, niggly, issues. If, like me, you were hoping for the complex wave of fruity and citrussy flavours and tastes of its competitors, you’ll be a tiny bit disappointed. Not very disappointed. Just a tiny bit. You might think that because of that, it wasn’t as light and refreshing as you’d hoped. Beyond that, you might not like how gassy it is; to which most wheat beers are particularly prone. Most of all, you’ll balk at how expensive and hard to find, Franziskaner Hefe-Weissbier is, here in Britain.

How to sum up Franziskaner Hefe-Weissbier? It is very, very good. It delivers three-quarters of what I hoped for, but it completely nails the things it does. I opened the bottle hoping for the same complex blend of wheatiness, citrus and fruit that Hoegaarden White Beer and Grolsch Weizen won me over with. Instead, it focussed on the wheatiness and did it better than that other wheaty wheat beer, Erdinger Weißbier. I’ve learnt a lot from this roundup. I’ve learnt that there are wheat beers that have lots of fruit and citrus. And others that stick to the basic wheatiness. And, of the ones I’ve tried, Franziskaner Hefe-Weissbier is the tastiest of the wheaty wheat beers. So far. Does that make any sense?

Rating: 4.4

Have you tried Franziskaner Hefe-Weissbier? What did you think of it? Can you translate anything from the label or explain what makes wheat beers special better than I can?

If so, do please leave your opinions, translations, explanations, requests, recommendations and places to buy, here in the comments, all of which I do read.

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13 Responses to “Beer Review: Franziskaner Hefe-Weissbier”

  1. Mark Raymond Says:

    The word “HELL” on the label of your Franziskaner Hefe-Weissbier bottle translates to light. This should refer to both the color fo the beer and how the malt was roasted. There are three types of wheat beer produced by Franziskaner that I have had the pleasure of drinking. One type is Kristall-Weissen. It is produced in the same way as the beer you just rated with the additional step of the yeast being filtered out before it is bottled. It is somewhat smoother in character and is missing the tangyness of the yeast. The final type of Franziskaner Weissbier is Dunkel. Dunkel translates as dark. Again, this indicates both how the malt was roasted and the beer’s color. I have not yet encountered a wheat beer that is both dark and filtered. Franziskaner uses a red label on the bottles of Dunkel. If you want to try more than one type of wheat beer in a single sitting I would suggest starting with the filtered Krystall. Then progress to the beers containing yeast.

  2. LuckyDuck Says:

    Comparing the bavarian weissbiers to the belgian ones is a mistake. Hoegaarden for example is spiced with citrus, coriander and Cumin. There is also a lot of non-fermentable sugar added (maltodextrine) to give it a more rounded mouthfeel.
    The bavarian wheatbeers on the other hand are made according to the reinheitsgebot stating that only water, malted grain, hops and yeast may be used.
    The best examples of south german wheatbeers are Paulaner, Franziskaner, Weihenstephan and Augustiner. Kristall is a product aimed at the lager drinkers, but a real bavarian makes sure he gets all the yeast (hefe) out of the bottle and into his glass by twirling the bottle while pouring. All the contents of the bottle should be poured in one go.
    On a trip to Munich a few days ago I tried to taste as many different weissbiers as possible. After about half a dozen varieties I must say Paulaner Dunkel (dark) is my favourite.

  3. Matt Says:

    I’ve had this beer regularly from the local Bavarian Beer Cafe, absolutely love it! I’ve never had it from the bottle but from the tap I’d say it has some subtle fruity tastes (banana mostly) which I really enjoy.

    This has got to be my favourite wheat beer which I use as a measure for all others.

  4. Jimburg Says:

    As a resident at the moment of Hamburg, pilsner is the favoured tipple up here in the north of Germany. Jever and Flensburger being my two favourite. I read somewhere that Jever is Germany’s bitterest pilsner but great on a hot day.

    Back to Franziskaner, well after sampling most wheat beers that Germany has to offer, this is by far my favourite. It’s my autumn, winter beer, just like Guiness was back in the UK. At 5 percent, it’s capable of having ‘a few’ compared to its stronger brothers, Erdinger, Paulaner etc… My favourite is the Dunkel one. Prost.

  5. Vic Parker Says:

    Hywel, over the last month or so I have been stocking up on Franziskaner Hefe-Weissbier bottles, from my local TJ Morris Home Bargains where is retails for a bargain £1.39 per bottle!! There are a couple of their stores in London too.

    Link:-http://www.tjmorris.co.uk/tjm/stores/.

  6. Anonymous Says:

    It’s clear you know absolutely nothing about beers. Keep drinking your Hoegaarten and believing it’s a classy beer to use as a standard-And above all please keep believing you write cynical reviews.

  7. jay Says:

    For me, it’s not great. I just don’t enjoy the aftertaste.

    Call me a philistine, but I enjoy Waitrose Bavarian Weissbier far more (brewed by Arcobräu).

  8. Rodrigo Says:

    Nice blog! i´m form uruguay and we have some nice wheat beers around here. There arn´t too much abroad beers available but this is one you can find in supermarkets and i think is one of the best you try here

  9. Matt Says:

    I love this beer. I’m from the UK get this beer on draught or tap it’s amazing. If I knew the guy or ladies that made it I would hump there leg and use this beer as lubrication so this beer is a taste sensation. LOVE THIS BEER THANK YOU GERMANY

  10. vali Says:

    the best beer in the world

  11. John Says:

    This is definitely my favourite wheat beer. Nice enough out of the bottle here in the UK, but you should go to Munich and drink it draft to enjoy it at its best. Oh, and ‘Hell’ just means “light”, i.e. light in colour, the opposite of ‘Dunkel’, which means “dark”; there is a dunkel version of Franziskaner too, although I prefer the light one – which unusual for me; generally I drink dunkel beers in Germany.

  12. Basterix (@leidenhaag) Says:

    It’s been said but this white beer in’t like the ones outside the Rheinheitsgebot, they add citrus and coriander flavour. Two well known witbieren for a sunny terrace are Wieckse Witte and Korenwolf. Hoegaarden is owned by Dutch brewer Heineken or an American conglomerate and Grolsch is about to be bought by …Japanese! If you care about your Belgian beer being all Belgian, try one of their trappists. The Netherlands has Trappe and Zundert trappists.
    Hearing “German purity law” has a pretty nasty ring to it btw, but that’s because of the translation. Their history is always just around the corner, just not something any German has a responsibility for today. Try googling the designer of the Franziskaner label, his signature is there.

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