Review: Schneider Aventinus (and a history of wheat beer)

I am currently working my way through Roger Protz’s 300 BEERS TO TRY BEFORE YOU DIE!  This was a gift to me from Adam Alter, and has become somewhat of an obsession to me.  I have tried many beers in this book, but have only currently scored 45 of them.  I suppose this is still something to be proud of, as I have a dozen or so at home that just have to be tasted and scored, and many of these are incredibly difficult to find.  Since this is the first review I’ve posted on this style (and book), I will give some background.

Wheat beers have their roots in Bavaria, where the Reinheitsgebot (or Purity Pledge) of 1516 says that beer can only contain barley, water and hops.  This law is still adhered to in many parts of the world, though it has been updated to include yeast.  What I find most interesting is that wheat is not part of the law.  Apparently, this is because the authors of the law were royals who had no desire to allow outsiders to drink wheat beer!  But I digress.

In Bavaria, law dictates that wheat must be at least half of the grain bill in order for the finished product to be considered a wheat beer.  Barley must still be used, because there are not enough enzymes in wheat for a full and proper fermentation.  Wheat tends to give beers body and mouthfeel, and many people would say that wheat beers are more filling than other styles.

There are multiple styles under the blanket of wheat beers, including Belgian Witbier (I’m brewing one of these this weekend!), sour varieties like Berliner Weisse, and the broad Weissbier, which includes the popular Hefeweizen (unfiltered), Dunkelweizen (dark), and Weizenbock (strong wheat).  I’m sure I will hit on these other styles at one point, but the beer I’m focusing on today is the Aventinus Weizenstarkbier (also known as Weizenbock or Wheat-Doppelbock).

In 1589, Georg Schneider was given a license to start brewing wheat beers for the general public.  Eventually, he founded what is claimed to be the oldest continuous wheat brewery in the world.  And man, do they make a good wheat beer.  As a rule, I am not a fan of this style, but the Schneider Weisse and Aventinus are certainly two of the best I have ever had.  The Aventinus was first introduced in 1907.

Like most wheat beers, Aventinus has a huge frothy head.  The color is dark red, and the aroma has hints of raisin and banana.  Banana is common in german wheat beers due to the yeasts used and fermentation temperatures.  The mouthfeel is full, with the same raisin and banana flavors that the aroma suggests, as well as lots of spice and clove.  This is a rich beer that is easy to share.  At 8%, it might even been too big for some to tackle single-handedly.  It’s fairly affordable.  Depending on where you shop, you should be able to pick up a bottle for around $5.  I gave the Aventinus an overall score of 9 out of 10.  According to Roger Protz’s account of a conversation with Georg Schneider VI, if you lay Aventinus down for 25 years, it resembles port wine.  I have no idea how anyone could let this beer sit that long.  It didn’t last 3 weeks in my fridge.



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