Schneider Aventinus Weizenbock

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Beer: Aventinus Weizenbock Brewery: Schneider & Sohn Style: Weizenbock ABV: 8.2 percent

See also: Dogfish Head Indian Brown Ale

With new breweries popping up almost every day to create unique new brews, craft beer is currently experiencing a renaissance in America. All this excitement over beer may confuse citizens of other countries, where they just call it "beer." Take the Germans, who have been brewing and perfecting beers we'd call "craft" for half a century.

The Germans were the architects of many styles popular today -- among them hefeweizen, a full-bodied and usually unfiltered brew made with wheat, and the dark, raisiny, high-alcohol doppelbock, first brewed by the monks of Saint Francis of Paola to provide sustenance during the Lenten fast.

The brewers at Weisses Brauhaus G. Schneider & Sohn have been masters of these styles since the brewery's founding in Munich in 1872 by George Schneider, but it wasn't until Mathilde Schneider, wife of George's grandson, took over the brewery in 1905 that they got the idea to combine them. When Mathilde brought her combination hefeweizen-doppelbock to market in 1907, it was the first of its kind.

She named the brew in honor of Johannes Aventinus, a Bavarian historian who wrote Annals of Bavaria, a series of seven books that chronicle the early history of Germany.

In a tall weizen glass, Aventinus is a deep burgundy, clouded with unfiltered wheat and yeast. Atop the brew sits with three fingers of creamy, merengue-like head.

Dip your nose into those bubbles and prepare to feast -- the aroma is a lavish blend of banana, raisin, apple cider, clove, a little smoky pork and a touch of teriyaki. Each whiff of the savory brew reveals new facets.

Melted caramel, brown sugar, baked bread, fermented apples and huge clove swirl in the flavor.

The body, soft and creamy, is a silk blanket for the tongue. Mild carbonation massages the tongue absent-mindedly while alcohol provides a pleasant numbness. The swallow, savory and sweet, provides an appetizing flash of teriyaki-soaked steak that leads into the next sip.

There's plenty of craft beer to try in our own country, but you're doing yourself a disservice if you neglect the ones made famous by our foreign friends. Try Aventinus next time you spot the purple bottle on a local shelf, if only for the health benefits. Our friend Mathilde lived to be the ripe old age of 96, so you know she was doing something right.

Zach Fowle is a Certified Cicerone, an accredited guide to beer. He works at World of Beer in Tempe.

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