CROSSHARBOUR ASDA sounded its siren call again, leaving me with three more unusual bottles of beer to sample. First up is what one of my commentors described as the benchmark for clear, unfiltered wheat beer, and another described as the wheat beer for lager drinkers. With a lot of hype to live up to, here is a bottle of Weihenstephan Kristall Weissbier.
What the bottle lacks in quirky charm (compare it to the granite-like bottles of British ale), it makes up for with interesting labels. The informative, and helpfully English language neck-label is our starting point on this German bottle.
The big middle bit boasts three big things. An impressive crest. A date, “Since 1040”, and that it was “brewed and bottled by Bayerische Staatsbrauerei Weihenstephan Germany”. That makes this a genuine Bavarian. On shop shelves dominated by pretend Europeans, that counts for something.
Either side of part you can see in the photo are quiet, understated braggings of awards won. On the left, if we squint, we can see that it won “Gold Medal Australian International Beer Awards 2003, 2004 & 2006”. On the right, it’s the “Gold Medal International Beer Competition 2003”.
Other beers boast a lot more about much fewer awards. We’re only at the neck-label, and already Weihenstephan Kristall Weissbier is giving off the quietly confident air of someone who knows what they’re doing.
The front-label, in a neat and Germanic roundel, says everything you need to know while you browse the shop shelves. And boy, does it get off to a flying start. “The World’s Oldest Brewery” “Since 1040”. In 1040, the Normans had yet to bother the people of Hastings. While in “Dark Age” Bavaria, they were coming up with award winning beer. That’s like going to see Shakespeare performing in The Globe, having just invented the iPod.
The bottom half says exactly what you need to know, in order to know if this is the bottle for you. Handy if you’re staring at a shop shelf, puzzling over what to put in your trolley.
My knowledge of German is ropey at best, but even I worked out that “Kristall Weissbier” means wheat beer with the yeasty bits filtered out. Fortunately, in case you hadn’t worked it out, they say it right there; “Clear Wheat Beer”.
The one other detail you need to know is the alcoholic volume. And they’ve thought to put that in as well. At 5.4%, Weihenstephan Kristall Weissbier is looking to please everyone.
The back label is as clean and effective as an Audi four-dour saloon. There’s a ‘story’ about the brewery followed by an excellent description by Socialist and beer writer, Roger Protz. To quote his quote, “its intensely spicy aroma has powerful hints of cloves and nutmeg balanced by creamy malt. The defining character of Bavarian wheat beers – a banana note – dominates the palate, with rich malt, spices and a gentle hint of hops. A spritzy and wonderfully thirst-quenching drink.” The Michael Parkinson of beer reviewing liked it. But will I? For an ill-informed bunch of opinions and stretched metaphors, read on.
The ingredients are the usual “water, wheat, malt, barley malt, hops”. The full address from Freising, Germany, is on there. There’s a web address of www.weihenstephaner.de. But be warned; it will make you lust after bottles that you probably can’t buy where you live. Lastly, at 5.4% alcoholic volume, this 500ml bottle weighs in at 2.7 UK units of alcohol. A fact so boring that you’re probably loosing interest. So let’s get to the interesting part.
What does Weihenstephan Kristall Weissbier taste like? Will I like it? Will I describe it the same way as celebrity beer writer, Roger Protz did? How will it compare to the other cloudy and clear wheat beers I tried? And should you go out and buy it? Let’s find out.
I know, I know, I still don’t have the right sort of glass. If someone wants to send me a proper glass for the job, leave a comment and I’ll get back to you. For the meantime, in a regular British pint glass, it looks fantastic. The head frothed right up the way a Bavarian wheat beer should.
The head is white, and made of big bubbles which collapsed into itself after a few moments. The beer itself is golden and clear. Bar the storm of bubbles furiously making their way to the surface.
Weihenstephan Kristall Weissbier smell like? In a word; delicious. It has that impossibly good quality that I love about European wheat beers. Roger Protz used words like cloves, nutmeg and creamy malt. I’m going to use words like rich, malty, kind of fruity and awesome. In fact, forget all those words except awesome. For that is how it smells.
What does Weihenstephan Kristall Weissbier taste like? The first sip is as pleasant as the first sniff. Gut reaction is that this is as good as the best cloudy wheat beers. Even though that’s impossible. It’s like expecting the battered cod with your chips to taste as good as lobster. But this seems to be pulling it off.
Why do I think that? After a few more sips and I’m still a long way from figuring it out. The flavours are dry, biscuity and of dried fruit. An understated sweetness. Followed by a gentle, smooth, bitterness of dry malt and spicy hoppiness. All together, making an outstandingly balanced and easy to drink, drink.
What am I loving about Weihenstephan Kristall Weissbier? If you’ve enjoyed a European wheat beer, even ones you’re not supposed to compare it too, such as cloudy, unfiltered ones, and those from the Netherlands and Belgium you’ll know. It has the same, unmistakably lovely smoothness that you can’t quite describe. To help describe that indescribable quality, I’ve invented a new word; “delismoothich”. A combination of “delicious”, “smooth” and “rich”.
Possibly the most astounding thing about Weihenstephan Kristall Weissbier is that it manages to be every bit as good and interesting as its cloudier cousins. Then there’s the flavours and taste which are perfectly balanced and very easy to drink. Give this to even hardened lager drinkers to see what they think. Roger Protz described it as spritzy and thirst-quenching and I can’t disagree. It’s refreshing and very drinkable. Not too gassy either, despite all the fizziness.
What don’t I like about Weihenstephan Kristall Weissbier? Very little. Nitpicking, I suppose it doesn’t pack the same flavour punch as some cloudy wheat beer or British ales. But before you leave a comment saying you can’t compare them, yes, I know that already. I’m also guessing that after three or four, they stop being so refreshing. That said, I’d love to have enough bottles to find out. The only real complaint I can think of is that Weihenstephan Kristall Weissbier and all the Weihenstephan range are so difficult to buy, here in Britain.
To conclude, Weihenstephan Kristall Weissbier tasted great, even if I can’t put my finger exactly on why. It compared incredibly well to every other type of wheat beer, and every other beer, full-stop, that I’ve ever tried. I loved it, even though I used different words to celebrity beer socialist, Roger Protz. Weihenstephan Kristall Weissbier is one of the best, so yes; you should go out and find it.
Have you tried Weihenstephan Kristall Weissbier? Have you tried any other Weihenstephan beers? What did you think? Do please leave your inevitable corrections, or alternatively, opinions, recommendations and places to buy, in the comments.