Whe(a)tting the appetite

Summer is just the right time to sit at the club bar and sip a chilled bottle of wheat beer.

Dhiman Chattopadhyay | Print Edition: May 4, 2008

Wheat beer is still a new concept in India and only a couple of brands are available in the market. But in Belgium and Germany, where beer is drunk like water, Witbier and Weißbier (Weissbier) are highly sought after.

What makes it different? Lager, the most popular type of beer in India, differs from wheat beer in the way it is fermented. Wheat beer is a “top fermenter” and can ferment in just a few days. It also contains more alcohol than lagers.

As the name suggests, wheat beer is fermented with a significant amount of wheat. This top-fermented beer has a light and sweet flavour. The yeast plays a significant role in its maturing. In some varieties, such as Hefeweizen wheat beer, the yeast is not filtered and stays in the drink even after the packaging and keeps on acting on the beer.

Cheers to good health. Wheat beer is apparently a healthy beer. If drunk in moderation, it fights ailments. The flavonoids present in wheat beers, for instance, fight cancer and artery-narrowing blood platelets. And while we are on the subject of health, wheat beer also contains Vitamin B2.

The varieties: The two most common varieties of wheat beer are Belgian Witbier and German Weissßbier. The Belgian white beer gets its name from suspended yeast, which gives it a whitish colour. It has spices such as coriander or bitter orange peel added to it, giving it a distinct flavour. German wheat beers are perhaps the best in the world, and the name changes from Weizen in the western and northern regions to Weissbier in Bavaria.

Serving it in style

What’s the big deal about serving a bottle of beer into a glass? Wheat beer should ideally be served in special wheat beer glasses. German-style wheat beers are usually served in glasses that hold half a litre (plus additional room for the foam). They are tall and taper slightly towards the base. Belgian wits are usually served in smaller, 25cl glasses . Like lager, pouring wheat beer into the glass requires a bit of practice, as one has to avoid producing too much head.

1. Sainsbury Bavarian wheat beer
2. Kronenbourg 1664 Blanc
3. Erdinger-Weissbier

Availability: The first two are not yet available at liquor stores in India. Erdinger-Weissbier has two variants, which have just been launched in India: the Premium and the Dark Weissbier.

Price: Premium Weissbier Rs 100 for 330 ml

Dark Weissbier Rs 130 for 500 ml

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