Mashing the Grist

Musings on the History • Art • Science of Beer & Brewing

Pour and Enjoy: Wheat Beer

If you are going to drink a wheat beer - and I really think you should - it is best enjoyed out of a weizen glass.  

This curvy glass looks like a pilsner glass, but taller and sexier.  It’s big, but don’t think that’s in case you’re extra thirsty. All that glass isn’t so much for beer, but for foam. 

You see, the bell shaped opening encourages the fluffy head of the wheat beer, and that helps release the bubblegum, banana and clove aromas right to your nose.  Taste is largely scent, and that is why you want a good bunch of foam at the top of your glass.  Beer just tastes better that way.

It turns out we taste with our eyes too.  That's another aspect of the weizen glass.  All that lanky tallness really shows off the milky haze and beautiful color of the weissbier. 

But wait!  Don't pour just yet!

Because if the glass matters so much in beer enjoyment, you know how you pour the beer is crucial, too.

Start by holding the glass sideways, pouring slowly, then tilt the glass and pour in the rest.  I mean all of it.  Even that really murky yeasty bit in the bottom of your bottle.  It is a wheat beer, you gotta let it shine.

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Know your Brewcabulary: Haze

Haze /hāz/

1.  Cloudy appearance in beer; caused by suspension of yeast or proteins 

2.  Murky fog of wheaty-yeasty goodness

Haze can be a point of contention.  Just read any discussion on a New England IPA and you will see what I mean.  But there is no question that when it comes to most wheat beers, Haze is Good

In point of fact, haze is difficult to keep out of a wheat beer. (Tips for how will be coming soon!) The wheat grain is higher in protein than the barley grain (think gluten) so brewing with wheat adds more protein to your final product.  Like any unique aspect of a beer brewed for generations, this characteristic has become standard for the style.  When it comes to weissbier (literally white beer) the cloudiness is implicit in the name – it is the cloudy protein haze that gives the beer its “white” appearance.

One such weissbier, Kristallweizen, (crystal beer) is the exception which proves the rule. This beer is basically a filtered hefeweizen.  Those haze-causing proteins are filtered out, leaving behind a crystal clear appearance.  It is indeed a beautiful sight, but for me, I'm happy with these lazy hazy crazy brews of summer.  


Best Not Order a Black and Tan

For those that have not traveled to Ireland or have yet to step foot into an authentic Irish Pub, we have a wee bit of advice.


Ordering a Black & Tan is a pretty serious insult to the Irish.


You likely know the drink. A layering of the slightly more buoyant Guinness Stout on top of the paler, more dense, Harp Lager. “Black & Tan” seems a pretty good name. But it turns out the tasty mix of roasty malt and floral hoppiness is not the only place Irish folks have seen that particular pattern.


You see, back in the early 1920's, England sent forces over to Ireland to try and suppress the IRA. Violence and brutality were the chief hallmarks of these forces, and they terrorized the people of Ireland. Known officially as the Royal Irish Constabulary Reserve Force, they wore khakis and black shirts, and “Black & Tans” became their moniker. Even though this happened nearly a century ago, the memory of their brutality lives on.


So when going for your favorite St. Patrick's Day beer this weekend, best to ask for a Half & Half. And by golly, order me one too!


How Beer Changed the World

Beer Commercials Inspired Educational Television

An excerpt from 60 Minutes

"Ganz Cooney, then a public television producer, was asked by the Carnegie Corporation to study whether television could be something different.


Joan Ganz Cooney: The question being, 'Do you think television could teach children?'


Ironically, she says the answer was right in front of her and everyone else, in beer.

Joan Ganz Cooney: They were singing beer commercials, children were.  Well, so obviously, they had learned -

Lesley Stahl: They'd learned the jingle?

Joan Ganz Cooney: So if a commercial could teach beer, couldn't it teach one -- one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight nine, 10?"

And of course, it can.

So we owe educational kids television all to beer!