The Beer: Humphrey's Hefe
The Brewery: Lumberyard Brewing Co.
Beer Style: "Hefeweizen" literally translates to "yeast wheat" and is a style of beer made with, according to German brewing law, at least 50 percent wheat malt and produced with the yeast still in the finished product. It's the yeast that provides the characteristic flavors and aromas that make a hefeweizen what it is — according to the Beer Judge Certification Program Guidelines, "a pale, spicy, fruity, refreshing wheat-based ale."
Many people notice both a banana and clove-like sensation when they drink a hefeweizen. And though some think actual bananas or cloves were used in the production of the beer, both flavors are naturally derived from yeast. The banana comes from an ester (namely, isoamyl acetate) and the clove coming from a phenol (specifically, 4-vinyl guaiacol).
Flavor/Aroma: Lumberyard's take on the southern German-style hefeweizen delivers the clove-like phenols one looks for in this style of beer but very little of the characteristic banana aroma and flavor. The grain bill produces a grainy pilsner-type character supported by, but certainly not dominated by, wheat bread flavors and aromas. A slight aromatic tartness is present along with some spicy hop notes.
The beer pours a deep gold color, a little dark for style, and surprisingly clear. Keep in mind that a traditional hefeweizen is made from at least 50 percent wheat and the yeast is usually left in the finished product, typically producing a cloudy beer that usually can't be seen through. Lumberyard's hefeweizen, however, is clear and almost lager-esque in its appearance, closer to a krystalweizen. It does have an off-white head consisting of small bubbles with good persistence but nowhere near the frothy behemoth of foam that one would find in a traditional German iteration.
The flavor lacks soft wheat notes, instead leading with clove and grainy malt, with some background alcohol notes atypical of a traditional hefeweizen. Typically hefeweizens fall in the 4.3 percent to 5.6 percent ABV range and Humphrey's Hefe checks in at the high benchmark of 5.6 percent. The brewery's higher-than-normal use of hops is somewhat out of style, and hops are definitely present in both the flavor as well as in the bitterness of the beer. Lumberyard's hefe checks in at 25 IBU (international bitterness units) whereas a typical hefeweizen will fall between eight and 15 IBU, letting the focus rest on the smooth wheat malt and the wonderful yeast derived flavors and aromas.
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This style of beer is meant to be refreshing, light on the palate, and with a smooth body and creamy texture. Hefeweizens even have their own tall glass meant to be able to hold the rocky, long-lasting foamy head that is a byproduct of the high amounts of wheat in the beer exacerbated by the high levels of carbonation. They're intended to be effervescent beers that drink similarly to a sparkling wine. Humphrey's Hefe is highly carbonated but lacks the creaminess of a traditional hefeweizen. The combination of (higher than usual) bittering hops, slight alcohol warmth and the carbonic bite at the finish is somewhat distracting, but still in line with what a consumer would expect from a hefeweizen.
Pairings: The wide flavor profile that exists because of the clove, banana, wheat, and grainy malt flavors make this fairly easy to pair with many lighter dishes. Thai food, pasta and chicken dishes prepared on the lighter side would all be fine pairings. Salads featuring citrus fruits and/or with citrus-based dressings would work wonderfully. There may be no better, simpler pairing than a hefeweizen and a pulled pork sandwich.
Awards: This beer has won over many people, including some of the country's finest beer judges as it was the 2007 Gold Medalist in the Southern German Hefeweizen Category at the Great American Beer Festival, the most prestigious competition in America.
The Brewery: The Lumberyard Brewery is located in downtown Flagstaff on South San Francisco Street and has many excellent beers to choose from, including an IPA, Red Ale, and several others. This brewery is a must stop for those who love to check out craft breweries and are traveling to the Flagstaff area. To learn more about Lumberyard, visit the Lumberyard Brewery website.