TriplePoint Brewnanza: The Hefeweizen and The Brown Ale

Brewnanza (in case you missed the first or second posts) is an end-of-week office gathering intended to expand our collective knowledge and appreciation for craft beer – a market we’re eagerly looking to offer our services to. In fact, since the last post, we’ve added a page detailing the services we’d like to offer to craft brewers!

We’ve also just kicked off a casual blog over at Brewnanza.com, reporting on industry news we find interesting, and detailing our various beer adventures.

San Francisco Beer Week starts today (not to mention the fact that February is 21st Amendment and Magnolia‘s 8th annual Strong Beer Month), and we’ll be at the SF Brewer’s Guild‘s opening gala event tonight to partake in the delicious wares and meet some of the best brewers in the business.

This time, we report on our San Francisco crew’s thoughts on the Hefeweizen and Brown Ale styles.

The Hefeweizen

The Hefeweizen, often imbibed by Americans with a slice of lemon or orange in it – more on that later – is a wheat ale of German origin. It’s typically an unfiltered ale, often bottle-conditioned, and often extremely refreshing. Because of their unfiltered nature and high carbonation, these golden-amber brews often appear cloudy.

While an orange wedge in your Blue Moon might be advisable, don’t mess with a good thing if you’re trying a proper Hefe. Citrus cuts the wheat flavor and negatively impacts the head retention, which is important for the beer’s scent and flavor.

We tried a proper German example of the style – Hacker-Pschorr’s Hefe Weisse Natürtrub – and a nice American take on it, Sudwerk’s Hefe-Weizen from Sudwerk Restaurant and Brewery in Davis, CA.

We tried Sudwerk’s entry first, and enjoyed the offering. A bit one-dimensional and light, perhaps, but very drinkable and supremely refreshing. Vice President Eddiemae Jukes thought it had a bit of a tangy character, with a sour finish and aftertaste.

The nod easily went to the German offering, which was complex, refreshing, and incredibly drinkable. A bit darker and more opaque, the consensus was reached almost before downing a drop. The strain of yeast used in the hefeweizen is known for often having the scent and flavor of bananas, and this defining characteristic shone through on the Hacker-Pschorr brew. Account Executive Ryan Morgan thought it was “Very Nice” – and he actually underlined it, so you know it’s serious.

The Brown Ale

Spawned from the Mild Ale, Brown Ales tend to be maltier and sweeter on the palate, with a fuller body. Color can range from reddish brown to dark brown. Some versions will lean towards fruity esters, while others tend to be drier with nutty characters. All seem to have a low hop aroma and bitterness. A derivative of the English Brown Ale, the American version can simply use American ingredients. Many other versions may have additions of coffee or nuts. This style also encompasses “Dark Ales”. The bitterness and hop flavor has a wide range and the alcohol is not limited to the average either.

We tasted Hazelnut Brown Nectar, from Rogue Brewing Co. in Portland, Oregon, and Samuel Smith’s Nut Brown Ale from North Yorkshire, England.

Being marketing people, we were impressed by Rogue’s packaging. They’ve always been a standout brewery in the graphic design department, and the stylized visage of a bearded-man-appearing-to-do-a-Jersey-Shore-style-fistpump on the bottle has an eye-catching aesthetic.

Beyond the logo, Account Supervisor Manny Lopez was a fan of the beer itself, giving it straight 5s in all categories, and labeling it “freaking tasty.” Account Executive Ben Karl thought it had a “mild” character, with “nutty and woody” flavors.

The Sam Smith offering – one of the first high-quality beers I ever tried, oddly enough – was relatively well-received, but most TriplePointers tended to prefer Rogue’s brown ale over the one from across the pond.

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