Those who have not only tasted, but truly experienced, the beer culture in Germany are spoiled for life.
As a teenager, I lived as an exchange student during two summers in Braunschweig, Germany. If you’ve been reading my column for the past two years, you know that this is when my love of beer sparked. Unfortunately, my virgin taste buds had no idea that my first introduction to the beer world involved, in my opinion, the best of the best.
I had accidentally set the bar too high. When I turned 21, I attended several Oktoberfest events in Georgia, eager to find beer that even remotely resembled what I had in Germany.
Seven years later — yes, now you know my age — and I’ve finally found what I’ve been looking for. I admit, I had forgotten what fresh German beer tasted like until I tried a pour of Ironshield Brewing’s Lorelei Hefeweizen.
This brew is bold yet delicate, imparting notes of banana, cloves and bubblegum. There’s something about its acidity and subtle nuances that left me captivated. A part of me wanted to gulp the whole beer down, but I took my time with this one. It deserved my respect.
Glen Sprouse, the brewery’s founder and brewmaster, has been making German-style beer for over 20 years, and boy, does it show. Ironshield Brewing focuses on authentic German and Belgian-style ales, paying homage to the original masters of the craft.
“If this were music, I’d be a classical musician,” Sprouse said. “You can make a lot of music with three chords, and three chord rock ‘n’ roll is a lot of fun. But, there’s a lot to be said for the classics as well. What I’ve done and with breweries I’ve opened over the years, focused on beer that’s made beer famous for the last thousand years.”
Sprouse shared that the hefeweizen has been brewed in Germany since the early 1300s, making it a style that’s inseparable from the history of beer. He noted that the style can prove particularly challenging to make, requiring special equipment, as well as experienced brewers.
When making Lorelei Hefeweizen, Sprouse said he brews the style the same way someone in Germany would, making sure to keep to the German Beer Purity Law, also known as Reinheitsgebot. The decree was established in 1516 and limited the ingredients in beer to only water, malt, hops and yeast. It remained a part of German law until 1987. Although newer, more liberal laws have been in effect since 1993, many German brewers still keep to the old ways and glorify the use of noble hops.
Sprouse said with traditional hefeweizen, or any kind of German wheat beer, the beer must have a grain bill (raw materials) of over 50% wheat.
“So there are steps in the process where the more wheat you have in the grist, the total grain bill, the more difficult it is to execute the process,” he said. “You might say it gums up the works.”
Most hefeweizen beer requires secondary fermentation at a higher temperature and pressure than the first time. If this is done incorrectly, brewers risk too much pressure building up in the cans. And, you know what happens next.
If you plan to try this beer, I implore you to pour it in a glass. You’ll be hard-pressed to find an American-made hefeweizen that sings this sweetly, and it deserves your full attention.
Brewery: Ironshield Brewing
Alcohol by volume: 5.2%
Bottom line: Honestly the best American-made hefeweizen I’ve ever tried