Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Franziskaner Hefe-Weisse Malt Liquor

I felt like having a nice light-colored beer after the deliciousness that was Anchor Porter I had Monday, so I pulled a Franziskaner Hefe-Weisse out of the fridge. Now, there are a couple of weird things about this beer. First of all, in spite of being from Germany, one of the country that knows how to make a good beer, they put it in a damn green bottle! Clear and green bottles are a big pet peeve of mine, but especially in this case because I've seen pictures of this beer in a brown bottle. Second of all, I would think that "Hefe-Weisse" would classify it as a hefeweizen, but apparently, in tiny text to the right of the logo on the label, it's clearly classified as a malt liquor. Apparently it's some weird classification thing, but it lumps good beers like this into Olde English 800 and other cheap "high gravity" beers. Third is the naming confusion. I've seen "Franziskaner Hefe-Weisse" (my bottle), "Franziskaner Hefe-Weissbier," "Franziskaner Weissbier," and "Franziskaner Hefe-Weisse Hell" (the hell is German for "bright"), and I think that these may all be the same things.

The Franziskaner brewery can trace its history back to 1363, when a brewer named Seidel Vaterstetter was first mentioned to own "the brewery next to the Franciscans [monks]" in the Munich Residenzstraße. The fact that it was across the street from the monastery is how Franziskaner got its name. After changing hands a couple times and merging with the Leist Brewery in 1861 and Spaten in 1922, Spaten-Franziskaner-Leistbräu AG has Munich artist Ludwig Hohlwein create Franziskaner's mascot, the "Franciscan Friar," which adorns each bottle to this day. I have no idea when Franziskaner was brought under the InBev name, but probably sometime in the last couple decades. InBev says it was sometime after 2001, and Wikipedia says 2004. My guess is that the weissbier has been brewed all this time, even before the German Purity Law, which this beer follows. (Printable Franziskaner history, About InBev, Franziskaner Wikipedia entry, InBev's Franziskaner Hefe-Weisse page)

Here are the stats:

Franziskaner Hefe-Weisse Malt Liquor
BREWERY: Spaten-Bräu, Munich, Germany (under the InBev umbrella)
ABV: 5.1%

I got my first-brewed date inferred from the language of InBev's Franziskaner Hefe-Weisse page, where I also got the ABV.

The beer poured an exquisite cloudy golden color, meaning that it is unfiltered. The head exploded a white puffy cloud of bubbles from the bottom of the glass, though it reduced over the span of a minute or two. The aroma was very pleasing to the nose, a combination of orange and citrus with a hint of wheat. The taste was a little bubbly at first, but transitioned into a nice wheaty-citrus flavor. It wasn't too strong, but I feel it could've been a little stronger. The finish leaves a nice hint of wheat in the aftertaste, almost clean, without tasting stale.

This is a pretty good hefeweizen, and I still have no idea why it's called a malt liquor on the bottle. Because it's distributed by InBev and imported by Spaten, you can find it in a number of establishments.



Joooles_M said...

As a German hefe-weizen freak (no American counterpart comes anywhere close to their quality), I have "painstakingly" analyzed the flavor of all the German wheat beers and find Spaten's version the king of them all. The key, for me, is Franziskaner’s full, sweet flavor -- others simply are less so, simple as that -- and the no-fuss label means this fine beer can be sold most often at the best price on the shelf.

Your comment about the green ("clear") glass bottles is uninformed -- the glass color may have been a marketing decision, but the green color gives the relatively very low hop charge in the beer (standard for the hefe-weizen style) ample protection against the hazards of sulphury recombination of the alpha acid molecule and its propensity to react to light.

About your reference to the confusing, inconsistent and very annoying use of the term “malt liquor” … this merely relates to the goofy and pointless vagaries of American alcoholic beverage regulations that vary from state to state. In some states, "malt liquor" refers to any alcoholic beverage made by fermenting grain and water; in these states a non-alcoholic beer may also be called a non-alcoholic or non-intoxicating malt liquor! But in some states, products labeled "beer" must fall below a certain alcohol content, and beers that exceed the mark must be labeled as "malt liquor." A typical legal definition is Colorado's Rev. Stat. ss. 12-47-103(19):

" 'Malt Liquors' includes beer and shall be construed to mean any beverage obtained by the alcoholic fermentation of any infusion or decoction of barley, malt, hops or any other similar products, or any combination thereof, in water containing more than three and two-tenths percent of alcohol by weight.' (taken from Wikipedia)

Lastly, your pouring job is so sad! The relatively high CO2 levels in the beer (approaching four atmospheres) has a critical balancing role, and with hefe-weizen's very high protein content, the fullness of the beer must be maintained and balanced by an assertive bubble. So PLEASE -- don't pour it into a glass like a cheap domestic! A minimal head, easy to achieve with a moderate side pour, is a sign you've left enough of the critical CO2 balancing bite in the beer.

More research in your posts, Mr. Beerocrat – you need to do more research!!!

The Beerocrat said...

MaMan, and I thought I was a beer snob!

I make a point to read every comment I get in full. That way, I can make sure that I am doing the best job I can do. Keep in mind that this is just a hobby for me; I am a web developer who just wants to catalog my experiences trying new beer. Compared to people like the late Michael Jackson and Fred Eckhardt, I admit that I am a novice and do not have the palette that beer drinking experience will help me obtain. This can only improve with time. I'm 23, so hopefully I have a lot of time left.

Everyone's taste is different, and I make a point to never bad-mouth a beer (unless it's a "cheap domestic"). People like different beers for different reasons. This is a friendly blog, unless I'm ranting about draconian beer laws wherever they may be. This does not mean that constructive criticism cannot be left, but negatives definitely bring down the atmosphere of the blog. We are all brothers in drinking a delicious beverage made from hops, malts, yeast, and water.

That being said, I have responses to some of your claims. I did not say in my entry anything about green bottles being the cause of "sulphury recombination of the alpha acid molecule;" I simply commented that it was a bad decision. I also never said Franziskaner's beer was skunked, so I'm puzzled why you'd indirectly claim I did. According to BeerAdvocate, "[a]lthough brown bottles aid in protecting beer from being light-struck, it hardly makes the beer invincible. Green or clear bottles provide little to no protection." While not the cause of skunky beer, green bottles do let in more light and thus lead to a higher percentage of "light-struck" beers, and to deny so seems silly.

With regards to your malt liquors comment, I wasn't planning on going into a large discussion on the differences between every state's statutes regarding what malt liquors are; I just wanted to review the beer. There are differences, yes, but I stand by my statement. I liked this beer, and I am ashamed that I live in a country where this beer is lumped with Olde English 800 under law. Those two should not be next to each other in any regard except for the fact that they will both get you drunk in high quantities.

I would like you, and my readers, to be aware of how much research I put into my entries. Yes, this is a hobby, but I pride myself on getting the best and most accurate information about each beer and brewery I review. I go to brewery websites. I go to distributor websites. I email breweries, I call breweries, I talk with the people who brew and sell the beer. I read beer magazines, I read beer books, I subscribe to brewery newsletters, I wade through brewery press releases. I research the styles, I compare to other styles, I track down a beer's history. I even translate from foreign languages just so I can understand how this beer came to be. I cite my sources to show that I'm not pulling anything out of thin air. And I do it all while avoiding Wikipedia whenever I can; I get first-hand information from the people who handle the beer day-in and day-out. For this blog being a part-time thing, I don't think I can do more research without writing a thesis on each beer I review.

Finally, I pour my beers into a glass so that I, and the readers, can see the color of the beer. I also rush to take a picture as soon as the beer is poured so I can enjoy it quicker. Gauging the size of the head by a still photograph taken less than 5 seconds after the beer was poured seems to me a bit presumptuous and rash. I take as good a care of my beer as I can with what I have available. I enjoy my beers, and I enjoyed this one, maximal head and all. That is the main point of The Beerocrat: Drinking beer and enjoying it. I'm not enough of a snob to nitpick a person's pouring style.

This is all my opinion, and I do appreciate the feedback. I hope that now you understand my opinions. Am I right? No. Are you right? No. Who knows anymore. I just love my beer and accurate information on it, and that is what I will continue to focus on.


Anonymous said...

The Beerocrat said...

For those not sure whether or not to click the above link, it's alright: It's "How to Pour a Franziskaner, with Brother Helmut."

Personally, I was wondering whether I was gonna get Rickrolled, but no, that's not the case.


Luciano said...

The strange thing about this post is that every single criticism you make about the beer is a result of importation. Franziskaner Hefe-Weissbier (Hefe-Weisse is the Americanization) is sold only in 0,5l brown glass bottles in Germany. The imported beer is also a lot less crisp, and has a questionably overripe aftertaste.

The Beerocrat said...


That is a good point. The next time I swing by Germany (which will also be the first time I swing by Germany), I'll have to try one from the source.

Since posting this, I've also had this on tap, and I couldn't complain.


limbo the incredible hung said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

The comment about importation is 100% accurate. I just came back from a trip to Germany for Oktoberfest (my first), and while I was there I tried Franziskaner in Munich (the source). I didn't know it was possible to fall in love with a beer. I tried many other beers on my trip, but none could compare the the "monk bier". It was simply spectacular.

Upon my return home to Texas, I spotted this beer at the grocery store and of course bought some. It was still very good, but not the same. Original I would give an 11/10, the import an 8/10.

You owe it to yourself to taste this beer in Germany, it is so much better. While in Germany I also highly recommend going to the BMW museum/factory, and the mountains in Garmisch.

Anonymous said...

Franziskaner is ever so much better in Germany. My most recent bottle in the US was disappointing.