Wednesday, November 05, 2008
Tasting Weissbier in Wine Country
After arriving on an early train to Wurzburg we made a stop at Wurzburger Hofbrau for a tour and lunch with brewer Michael David and Roland Schafer, who is responsible for the brewery’s export business. Wurzburger’s brewery is large compared to the breweries we visited in Bamberg – producing 300,000 hectoliters annually -- but it is a mid-sized German brewer when compared to the giant brands.
Founded in 1643, the company is the oldest business in Wurzburg. After the 30 Years War and occupation by Sweden, much of the area’s vineyards were destroyed. Beer helped fill the void.
Wurzburger makes 17 varieties of beer using ingredients from Franconia and Bavaria. Its flagship brands are Wurzburger Pils and Julius Echter Heffe-Weissbier.
After Prohibition Wurzburger’s brands were among the most widely available German imports in the U.S. Its brands can still be found in the American market, but brands like Beck’s and Spaten have eclipsed it through marketing power.
David toured us through the brewhouse, lagering tanks, bottling area and warehouse. The 31 fermenters can each handle 2,000 hectoliters of beer during the 4-6 week maturation period. One of David’s critical jobs is monitoring the carbon dioxide levels as the beer is made.
“CO2 is extremely important to the drinkability of a beer. It’s a big part of what makes a beer a healthy drink,” David says. Getting the hop profile right in each beer is also very important. For Wurzburger Pils they use four different hops, including aromatic hops at the end of the process.
In walking through the massive warehouse you get an idea of the scope of the operation. Trucks pull into an enclosed area to have containers of empties removed and new kegs and cases of filled bottles loaded. In Germany, 90-95 percent of all bottles are returned to the brewer for refilling. Before they can be sent to be sanitized, each case needs to be checked to be sure all of the bottles are matching.
The Wurzburger restaurant and beergarden are beautiful spots to spend a lunch. We had roasted pork shoulder in dark beer sauce and a Wurzburg wedding plate (sliced pork and a tangy horseradish sauce) that went perfectly with the fresh beer. Here are notes for some of the beers tasted during the visit to Wurzburger:
Wurzburger Pils: Golden color pilsener with a soft mouth feel for the amount of hops. Made in the Franconian style with 34 IBUs. Good hop character that makes the beer very refreshing.
Wurzburger Citizen Pils: This is Wurzburger’s “value” brand that comes in at 30 IBUs. It is less crisp than the than the flagship Pils, but still is refreshing and light.
Julius Echter Heffe-Weissbier: Classic wheat beer qualities. A frothy head and bright cloudy yellow color. Cloves forward aroma. Nice banana notes in the flavor profile.
Wurzburger Schwarzbier: Rich red, brown color and a rocky and firm head. Nice Munich malt flavor that is extremely smooth and rewarding.