Two American Wheat Beers

Two American wheat beers from Fordham and Widmer Bros.

I’m such a huge obsessive enthusiast for American wheat beers,’ said no-one, ever.

After our recent expe­ri­ence with a Japan­ese wheat beer that brought noth­ing to the table, we had low expec­ta­tions for these two spec­i­mens from Wid­mer Broth­ers and Ford­ham. We were pleas­ant­ly sur­prised by both, at least in terms of their dif­fer­ence from oth­er wheat beers on the UK mar­ket.

The Original American Weizen

Wid­mer Broth­ers Hefeweizen (4.9% ABV, £2.19 330ml from Noble Green Wines) has been around long enough to have earned an ‘oral his­to­ry’, being first brewed in 1984. Its claim to fame is that it invent­ed a new ‘style’, Amer­i­can Wheat: despite its oth­er­wise Ger­man-inspired recipe, it is not fer­ment­ed with the famous yeast strain that makes Bavar­i­an wheat beer smell like bananas.

Or, to put it anoth­er way, it is Ger­man wheat beer with­out the very thing that makes it so dis­tinc­tive. Cur­ry with­out all those stu­pid spices. Opera with­out all the singing.

We expect­ed some­thing like Erdinger Alko­hol­frei, espe­cial­ly giv­en its jour­ney across the Atlantic, and it had the same dirty, dusty look about it. But – phew! – it was actu­al­ly bright and fruity – a whole­some mul­ti-grain health food of a beer. (The Port­man Group can’t tell off blog­gers, can they?) In lieu of bananas, we were remind­ed of pineap­ple cubes. There was a spot of spici­ness, too, that brought to mind Chi­may Gold.

One com­plaint: we’d have liked a big­ger bot­tle, as this is a beer to be drunk by the pint with­out too much pon­der­ing or pon­tif­i­cat­ing.

Too orangey for crows

Ford­ham Wis­te­ria (4% ABV) was one of a case of sam­ples we were sent by the brewery’s UK dis­trib­u­tor last month. Though it is an Amer­i­can wheat beer, it is not an Amer­i­can Wheat, if you see what we mean, being fer­ment­ed with the ‘authen­tic’ Bavar­i­an yeast.

It need­ed more car­bon­a­tion and sparkle – not some­thing that can be said of most Ger­man wheat beers – and its semi-flat­ness made it look unap­peal­ing in the glass, and taste some­what sick­ly.

As well as the expect­ed banana, we also thought we detect­ed orange oil, and a spot of rose-water. It had a dry chalk­i­ness, pre­sum­ably from the sus­pend­ed yeast that made it cloudy, which helped to coun­ter­act some of the tof­feeish malt and fruiti­ness.

That malt might be this beer’s oth­er prob­lem: it is dark orange in colour, exact­ly like wheat beers we’ve bodged togeth­er at home using Eng­lish pale ale malt rather than the pre­scribed super-pale pil­sner malt. We would prob­a­bly pre­fer it if it had been made with a paler base malt, and with more wheat in the mix.

After all those com­plaints, on the whole, we liked it, and would drink it again.

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