I’ve wanted to start doing tasting comparisons between my beers and commercial examples to help me figure out if I’ve hit the intended style and how they stack up to the big boys. For my Solaris Hefeweizen, I selected Weihenstephaner’s HefeWeissbier as the standard. It’s rated 98 in Beer Advocate and Weihenstephan Brewery, located in Bavaria of course, is considered the world’s oldest continuously operating brewery. In other words, no one has more experience, especially when brewing a Bavarian style such as hefeweizen. So here it goes…..
Appearance: Weihenstephaner is a deeper gold color while Solaris is more pale straw yellow. Both have a nice white fluffy head with mostly small bubbles, making the head look soft and pillowy. Solaris’ bubbles become larger at the perimeter where beer meets glass. Based upon the heads and the number of rising bubbles floating from the bottom of the glass to the top, Solaris is more carbonated. I targeted 3.6 vols. Both also have that nice hazy appearance due to wheat proteins and suspended yeast.
Aroma: Both have almost identical character in the aroma. Esters (bananas) and cloves are prominent. But the Weihenstephaner’s aroma is just slightly more pronounced.
Mouthfeel: Both have a medium mouthfeel with some prickliness from the carbonation at the front that gives way to smoothness. Weihenstephaner is a tad more creamy in feel.
Taste: Just like the aroma, the characteristics of the taste profile for both are nearly identical: banana and phenols supported with a nice crisp, malt forward profile. There is little to no hop presence in either, as it should be. But also just like the aroma, the estery and phenolic characteristics are just a little bit more pronounced in the Weihenstephaner. I almost sense a slightly more sweetness in it too.
Tasting these side by side really helped me to ascertain whether I hit the style or not. Just like with most things, you need a good standard to compare to. Overall, I think I hit the mark for style. Solaris smells like and tastes like a clean hefeweizen. However, let’s be honest, the yeast is the work horse here, contributing almost all of the unique characteristics that make a hefe a hefe. I can only take credit in not messing it up and getting in the way of the yeast. It’s always nice to be able to make a beer that you are proud to share with others (as long as a hefeweizen is their cup of tea).