There aren’t many cities in the world that can match Munich’s devotion to beer. The place is teeming with breweries, bars and beer halls flaunting centuries of drinking tradition to eager locals and tourists alike – whether they’re clad in leather pants or not. So it was a happy slice of fortune that we both found ourselves working in Munich for one of the beeriest nights in recent history – seeing in the new millennium.
Neither of us can recall much about that night, except that for most of the time we were freezing cold, wandering along the wide old streets chugging on booze from roadside beer tents. However, I do remember what beer I supped as the clock struck midnight – because I still have the glass it was served in and it’s emblazoned with the words ‘Erdinger Weissbier’.
I’m a big fan of wheat beer and the authentic Bavarian stuff – a style known as hefeweizen – is readily available in UK supermarkets, so that same glass is often dusted down and filled with more of the cloudy, golden liquid. Weissbier glasses are tall, narrow and curvy, bulging towards the opening to allow the frothy head to rise majestically above the rim and forcing your nose deep into the beer zone for a full intake of boozy perfume. To me, it is the smell of Munich.
The unique characteristics a weissbier are as much a product of the special yeast used as they are the wheat and hops. In a well made example they’re said to produce an even balance of clove and banana flavours, and they’re both present in Erdinger’s version – a slightly sweet, fruity banana taste lingers on the tongue while a richer, subtly spicy essence of cloves fills the mouth. Erdinger is the largest producer of weissbier, which causes some folk to give it less favourable reviews, but I have no problem with it. It’s lighter than some of its wheaty rivals but has a nice dry crispness and a delicate hop bitterness, making it it a great choice for a lengthy drinking session besides savouring as an occasional treat. And it’s the perfect beer to see in a new millennium.
Brewery: Erdinger Weissbräu, Erding, Bavaria
Beer name: Weissbier