My brother died earlier this year and I miss him more than words can say. I spend at least a little time each day struggling to get used to his absence and looking back at his life. He did not drink much alcohol but he did enjoy a good weissbier. When I see bottles of the stuff on a tap list or a store shelf I think of him. And so I've decided to try a few examples of his favorite bier style in his memory.
The German "weissbier" means "white beer". The term developed at some point in the dim and distant past and referred to any pale brew which, several hundred years ago, meant that it used air dried malt. At some point – which looks more and more like the 19th century – the term began to be reserved for Bavarian wheat ales which had been brewed for a long time. These beers are also referred to as weizens as "weizen" means "wheat". (And "hefeweizen" means "yeast wheat", those cloudy yellow iterations of the style.)
Weissbier is known for the phenolic compounds produced by the particular strain of yeast used to brew it. These phenols give the beer flavors that are like clove, banana, bubble gum, et al
. The style also has a signature glass which is hourglass shaped but narrower at the bottom than at the top.
The Saint Francis Brewing Company is located in St. Francis, Wisconsin which is just south of Milwaukee. The beer served at the brewery's restaurant is brewed on premise while bottles are filled with beer made up in Black River Falls at Sand Creek. Saint Francis is a brewery that seems to fly under the radar. Or just doesn't seem to get much press. I don't know what the brewery's reputation is in the Milwaukee area but it doesn't even seem to have one here in Madison. The only time I can recall a tavern promoting their beer was this past summer during a pre-Great Taste event
at Buck and Badger. But considering the brewery's expansion plans
, people are drinking their beer. They just don't write about it much, I guess.
Lust pours a light gold color. Being unfiltered the yeast makes the beer cloudy. Wheat is high in protein so you are guaranteed a nice head no matter how slowly you pour your weissbier. I got a big frothy white head that was like the Energizer Bunny – it lasted and lasted. There were a goodly number of bubbles heading up my glass.
Truth be known I am not a huge fan of clove. I don't hate it, by any means, but I much prefer my phenols to be of the banana smelling/tasting variety than clove. Lust endeared itself to me from the get-go as my nose caught banana when I opened the bottle. In addition to that fruity scent there were some vanilla notes as well as grain/cracker. It was difficult not to think of Nilla Wafers as I inhaled Lust's mellifluous aroma.
That wonderful banana scent translated into the taste as well. Lust has a medium body and is apparently 6.5% A.B.V. so this is no small bier. Correspondingly, the banana taste was moderately intense. A mild dose of clove was underneath it which was perfectly fine to my taste. A biscuit/grainy flavor made its presence known as did the carbonation.
Recently I've become much more cognizant of carbonation and what it does to a beer's flavor. In some brews it will add a small acidic bite while in others you end up with a little dryness. (And I suppose a cicerone out there can also tell me a dozen other things that carbonation does to a beer's taste that are beera incognita to me.) Here the carbonation adds a touch of dryness which takes the edge off the phenolic rush. Lust has some heft and the bubbles help keep the flavor from drifting off into cloying mess.
At the finish, the banana/clove flavors fade into a coda of mild grassy and peppery hops. The carbonation adds a bit more dryness as well. When I had finished the beer my glass was left with a couple large blotches of Schaumhaftvermoegen
along with a fair amount of webbing.
In a word, ausgezeichnet! While it's true that I've not done an in-depth survey of Wisconsin weissbiers, Lust is at the head of the pack to my taste. In contrast to the last couple I've had, Lust has a bigger, more rich body, which I liked. In addition to not having a thin, watery taste, Lust also abounds in banana flavor instead of clove or bubble gun. This beer just hits all the right weissbier notes for me. I'm sure my brother would approve.
Junk food pairing: Although you cannot go wrong with pretzels, Lust is flavorful enough to stand its ground against more intense junk foods. For something different, try lime-chili tortilla chips or plain ones with a spicy pico de gallo or salsa.
Labels: Beer, Hefeweizen, St. Francis Brewing, Weissbier