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Vintage, Vital and Vitus

An item on my beer bucket list is the opportunity to drink a pint (or three) of Weihenstephaner FRESH from the brewery in Weihenstephan, Germany. This 1000-year-old brewery really knows how to brew wheat beer. Most of you will know how good their hefe and their dunkel are – even under the less than ideal conditions of a bottle shipped to western Canada. So, we can only fantasize about how good these delicate beer are brewery fresh. (Plus, I LOVE the fact that they continue to be a state-owned brewery, totally disproving many stereotypes about private vs. public production.)

The third beer available in Alberta flies under the radar somewhat. Vitus is their weizenbock, a style which is stronger, richer and combining the complex maltiness of a bock with the fruity esters of a weisse. When I first tried it, it surprised me. First, it was much lighter than most weizenbocks I have experienced. And it had a more nuanced body than those other versions.

I could have snorted derisively and moved on, but when you have been brewing beer for a millennium, I think you deserve the benefit of the doubt. So I opened my mind and took a second sip. It didn’t take long for me to start to realize that I quite enjoyed this beer. Despite being lighter (in colour and body) than many, the wheat yeast character was sublime, and the balance wonderfully, umm, balanced (this just proves that even beer writers get stuck for an adjective sometimes…).

So instead of dismissing it for it deviation from the “official” style, I decided to write a review in Vue Weekly about it (which you can read here).

What makes the beer more amazing is the knowledge that I am drinking it not at its best. Wheat beer are very sensitive to travel and age as they are beer best drank fresh – hence my bucket wish. I can only imagine how rich and complex the beer would be served a couple of kilometres (or metres!) from the brewery and only a couple weeks old.

Maybe you learn a thing or two after 1000 years.

2 comments to Vintage, Vital and Vitus

  • It is a shame that nobody on the prairies brews a good hefeweizen on a regular basis. Half Pints Weizenheimer is a great one, but it has been a year or two since they last made it. Their Weizenbock was decent too, but it has been even longer since they made that. Paddock Wood’s “Light Wheat” was an excellent one-off hefeweizen released in Jan/Feb of 2009. That’s all I can think of.

    For wheat beer in general, there is Wild Rose Velvet Fog, which is an american wheat ale. The Regina Brewsters make a very good witbier called Farmer Tan, they use the Wyeast Forbidden Fruit yeast. Pretty sure the AB Brewsters make Farmer Tan too, not sure how it compares. These are the only year round wheat beers I am aware of.

    Seems like quite a hole in the market, especially when wheat beers are best fresh, and this is the home of wheat!

  • Matt Sander

    I love Vitus, a truly wonderful weizenbock! Aventinus is another great example of this style. IMO, Velvet Fog is a mess in bottles but is somewhat drinkable on tap. I’d love to see an Alberta brewery produce a year round wheat beer with more of the estery/phenolic profile we all love in Bavarian examples, but it would require them to work outside of their house yeast. Do any Albertan breweries keep more than one strain of house yeast?

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