At a Glance:
Beer: Aventinus Dunkel Weizenbock
Pros: Big as a dopplebock, fresh as a wheat beer
Cons: Limited availability
The Bottom Line: Aventinus is one of the biggest, boldest, baddest wheat beers to ever come out of Germany — here’s why…
What beer best spreads the cheer of Christmas? In my house, nothing says “Merry Christmas to All” quite the way that Aventinus does.
Yes, there are some fine seasonal beers that come out at this time of year, and yes, Aventinus can be purchased any time. But when I’m serving up a rich feast of roast meats, butter rolls, pecan pies, and absolutely nothing low-fat, lo-cal, or salt free, then why should I skimp on the beer? I want a beer that can stand up to the richest of Christmas dinners and that tastes every bit as rich and flavorful as the biggest dish on the table — I want a beer like Aventinus!
What I Expect From This Kind of Beer…
Everything wheat and German — that’s what you should look for in a glass of Aventinus. Think of everything you expect to find in every type of German wheat beer (except for Berliner Weisse) and that’s what you’ll find here. Aventinus is unfiltered like most of the mainstream hefe-weizens. Its got the deep color and malt complexity that you find in dunkel weizens. And its got the big body and sweetness that you find in weizenbocks.
The amount of wheat used in a wheat beer varies from brewery to brewery, but it is usually around 50 percent, although one of the most common recipes is 60 percent wheat and 40 percent pale malted barley (Schneider uses 60 percent wheat). Hops are usually traditional European noble varieties (Hallertau, Tettnang, etc.) but are used at very low levels. There should be some hop bitterness to balance the sugars of malt and wheat, but there should be little or no noticeable hop flavor nor aroma.
The yeast is the key to a great southern German wheat beer. It’s a blended strain rather than being pure ale or lager yeast. Chemically, wheat beer yeast produces a very complex blend of esters and phenolic by-products; what that means to the beer drinker is that you can experience a rich milieau of different flavors and aromas. Typically, you might find the smell of cloves and bananas together, although some people say they get a little bit of peppery spiciness in the flavor, or a little bit of vanilla. In my opinion, cloves is the flavor and smell I look for most often.
Aventinus is a weizenbock. Weizenbocks are like other wheat beers, but they are brewed to the strength of a bock beer (which in Germany, is prescribed by law to be no less than 16 degrees Plato). Instead of a 5 percent alcohol beer, you have a 7 percent alcohol beer. When you taste these beers, you can’t help but notice how much more intense the fruit or spice flavors and aromas become. The banana scent sometimes becomes pronounced, like walking through a produce section full of ripe bananas. You might also start noticing the flavor of alcohol, which might come across with a sweet complexity like that you find in sherry — especially with the strongest weizenbocks.
Aventinus: A Lovely Glass of Beer…
There is no question which glass I’ll use to sample this beer — it’s got to be one of the distinctive tall wheat beer glass that I use only for weizens, and I know that any beer from Schneider can only make the glass even more beautiful than it already is. But enough talk…let’s pop the lid and taste this puppy…Psssssssssttt!!
Big rocky head — that’s the first thing I notice on this beer — it’s definitely an aggressively carbonated beer, taking after other wheat beer styles more than big beer styles. Lots of white yeast slurry in the bottom kicks up a huge cloud of haze in the beer bearing witness to the fact that this is an unfiltered hefe-weizen. It’s got an attractive deep brown color — maybe about 13-14 on the SRM scale. Overall, a stunningly beautiful glass of beer and absolutely perfect for its style.
The beer’s a little colder than optimal, which is probably why I pick up a lot more of the complex phenolic spicy scents, like the cloves, than I do the esters, which is what I thought would jump out at me. There’s some toffee in there as well and light peppery sharpness that I find quite appealling. As the beer warms a bit and I come back to the aroma later, I find much more of the banana ester scent that I commonly find in south German wheat beers. In fact, it’s quite a strong aroma, coming across to me like those circus peanut candies I used to eat as a kid. I love the complexity of this aromatic profile, and I love that it changes slowly as I work my way towards the bottom of the glass.
Rich, smooth, complex and utterly sweet. That’s Aventinus in a nutshell. Any beer with a starting gravity in the bock range is going to be hugely malty, and this is certainly no exception, but I’m really surprised at just how soft and smooth the beer manages to be. I think it’s probably because Schneider uses Vienna malt as a base rather than pale malt, and it really works well in this beer, giving it a somewhat sweet toasty flavor that reminds me of sweet rolls on a Sunday morning. The clove flavor is unmistakable and it adds to the complexity of this fine brew.
As if there was ever going to be any doubt, Aventinus is solidly in the five-star category. This is one of those beers that defines the style. You can’t say it raises the bar though, since with Aventinus, the bar was initially set almost impossibly high. I can’t think of any other weizenbock that seriously works as well as Aventinus. It’s got a hugely complex aroma, a wonderfully soft sweet flavor profile, and an almost deceptively soft body for a beer of such weight and power (8 percent alcohol). Aventinus is an undisputed masterpiece!
About Schneider and Aventinus
Germany is blessed with hundreds of outstanding breweries, but one of my personal favorites has always been Privatbrauerie Georg Schneider und Sohn, where more than a century and a half of brewing tradition stands behind every bottle they produce. I love that the brewery is still family owned and operated — now run by Georg Schneider V. I always respect people who know what they do best and who devote their efforts to uncompromising excellence. The Schneider brewery does best at wheat beers, and you don’t see them spending their time marketing bocks or pilsners, like most of Munich’s larger breweries. Instead, the brewery focuses on its popular Schneider Weisse and on its other wheat beers.
Aventinus was first brewed in 1907. The mash is 60 percent malted wheat and 40 percent Vienna and cara-pils malt.
May your Christmas feast be every bit as merry as mine! Feliz Navidad!!