The Session takes place on the first Friday of every month across the beer writing world. One blogger suggests a theme and others post their thoughts or responses. For November 2010, the Session is hosted by Bruce Ticknor at beertaster.ca – and the theme is wheat beer.
For our first entry into the Session, we wanted to come up with something special. Finding wheat beer in the depths of a Scottish November can be quite tricky – the brewers having since moved on to more warming, malty offerings. But we managed to pull off something of a BeerCast hometown exclusive by securing the only preview copy of a brand new release from Edinburgh’s Stewart Brewing – which very conveniently happens to be a hefeweizen.
Stewart are one of Scotland’s recent success stories when it comes to brewing. After several years of working for other producers, an internship at Boston’s Harpoon Brewery prompted Steve to take the plunge and go it alone. Together with wife Jo he opened the Stewart Brewing premises in 2004 – initially brewing at Strathaven before their bespoke site at Bilston came on-line. Their beers are now a common site in Edinburgh, and last year Stewart launched a range of bottled beers to complement their traditional range – one of which (Hollyrood) subsequently won the best Blonde/Golden Pale Ale at the 2010 World Beer Awards.
Alongside this core range are the new premium series – a 5.6% Pilsen, a 7.0% Dopplebock [sic] – and as of November 16th, a 5.5% Hefeweizen. All are shipped in identical brownish-black bottles, with a silver foil cap. The Hefe pours a totally opaque apricot colour – even after 24hrs careful storage there was no discernable sediment retention in the bottle. So “mit hefe” it was – although I’d have mixed it in anyway. A small head arrives on pouring, but quickly reduces to a thin lacing with only a little rising carbonation to keep things going.
The suggested serving method is to drink it chilled, in which state the aromas are dominated by banana, backed by a syrupy sweetness. But once the hefeweizen warms towards room temperature, only then do other aromas start to mingle – butter, cream and a slight hint of winter spice. But straight from the fridge it smells very much like a banana caramel – which is no bad thing. On the palate, more banana comes to the fore when cold, with pears, yeast – and at room temperature vanilla flavours and the tang of cloves. This really is a beer of two halves – cold bananas to warm wheat.
It’s never less than hearty on the palate either – drunk quickly it can be extremely sweet and almost cloying – but it just pulls back before that mark. The bitterness is just about there, before the rich, sweet custard-cream aftertaste follows with a push of alcohol. The bottle clearly states this is their take on the classic hefeweizen style, but it really delivers – esters, phenols, wheat, vanilla sweetness. The only thing missing is the carbonation, which fails to give a weizen-esque pillowy head. But this is only a minor knock – the Dopplebock markedly improved given a few months from release, and we fully expect this one too. Open it cold, then let it warm to really get the best from it.
Stewart Hefeweizen will go on general sale on Tuesday 16th November, following the official launch at Cloisters, Brougham Street, Edinburgh. The launch begins at 8pm, and of course the BeerCast will be on hand. Alongside this review, we also added Stewart’s Hefeweizen to the lineup for our upcoming 53rd BeerCast podcast – so check back in a couple of weeks for the panel’s thoughts on that, and four Schwarzbiers. Many thanks to Steve Stewart for the preview samples.
The Session is the brainchild of Stan Hieronymus of Appellation Beer, and has been going since March 2007. The BeerCast are due to host a Session sometime next year, until then we’ll be contributing on a monthly basis. For previous Sessions, Jay Brooks has a list of topics and responses. The theme for December 2010 is Finding great beer in the last place you’d look.