Despite the way pints are served in bars, no lemon wedges were harmed for this tasting panel.Besides this blogger, panelists included Bryan Hermannsson, who hosted at minor league Clara St. Brewing in SOMA, Hedonist Beer Jive blogger Jay Hinman, and aspiring publican Gabrielle Chan. We sampled the beers ― all widely available for $2-$3.49 per bottle ― in this order:
1. Napa Smith Wheat (Napa, Calif.)
2. Sierra Nevada Kellerweis Hefeweizen (Chico, Calif.)
3. Franziskaner Hefe-Weissbier (Munich, Germany)
4. Pyramid Haywire Hefeweizen (Seattle -- but really Burlington, Vt.)
5. Spoetzl Shiner Hefeweizen (Shiner, Tex.)
Weinhenstephaner Weihenstephaner Hefe Weissbier ( Frieburg Freising, Germany)
Each beer was scored on a 1-to-10 scale and given a sum total. Continuing the trend in these blind tastings, the yardstick,
Weinhenstephaner Weihenstephaner, rapidly approaching its millennial anniversary, reigned supreme with a total score of 28. Hinman awarded it his personal gold star for its "strong banana and bread-y flavor."
A single point behind but the top choice for this blogger, Sierra Nevada's relatively new Kellerweis elicited the refrain "true" or "authentic" hefeweizen aroma, taste, and feel. It is marked by both slightly spicy esters and a tinge of bubblegum aftertaste.
On the flipside, the other locally brewed contestant, Napa Smith Wheat, sullied the field and sponged up everyone's lowest scores for a total of 16 points. For a typically pungent, flavorful style, this filtered one warranted observations such as "lacking," "light, almost pilsner-y," "simple," and "small aroma."Haywire Hefeweizen scored a respectable 23, and Hinman, who claims it's his go-to wheat beer, corroborated that by commenting, "I want more." Chan gave it faint praise for being "balanced."
Shiner proved to be the wit in hefe's clothing by labeling itself a hefeweizen but discreetly adding orange and lemon peels and honey. Whereas Hermannsson commended its "sharp carbonation and wonderful aftertaste," this blogger felt it was so lemony fresh it resembled floor polish: 22 points.
The other old-school, Old World hefe in the batch belonged to Franziskaner, which totaled 19. The foamiest of the bunch, it got knocked for being at turns soapy, lemony, and sugary.