Schneider Weisse is Germany’s oldest wheat beer brewery, dating back to 1872. Prior to that, the Bavarian royal family held the exclusive rights to brew wheat beer, but when King Ludwig II decided to get out of the business, Georg Schneider bought the royal brewery. The company has stayed in the Schneider family ever since with the sixth-generation Georg Schneider currently in charge.
Weissbier is a traditional and popular style that is now brewed by dozens—perhaps even hundreds—of breweries in Germany, and comes in a range of styles, including Hefeweizen, which is unfiltered with yeast remaining in suspension; Kristallweizen, which is filtered; and darker/stronger versions such as Dunkelweizen or Weizenbock.
While the German brewing industry in general has been reluctant to join the predominantly North American craft beer revolution, rather sticking to traditional German styles almost across the board, Schneider has shown some interest in trying new things. The first sense of this was its collaboration with Brooklyn Brewery that resulted in a hybrid Weissbier called Brooklyner-Schneider Hopfenweisse (hoppy wheat beer), which was brewed for the first time in 2007 and has since been released annually (I believe) in limited batches.
Schneider first released Mein Nelson Sauvin in 2011. It is packaged in a beautifully designed 750-ml bottle that is ideal for bottle conditioning. Each bottle is numbered and dated.
The name refers to the Nelson Sauvin hop variety from New Zealand, which is the dominant aroma hop used in the brew. It was bred and released commercially in 2000, and is known for its aroma of “fresh crushed gooseberries,” a descriptor often used for the grape variety Sauvignon Blanc, hence the name. Personally, I don’t really know a gooseberry from goose liver paté, but to my palate, the aroma is very grapey, but in a sweet, candy-like way , much like how Amarillo hops are reminiscent of Tang more than actual tangerines, in my opinion. I think Nelson Sauvin is a wonderful hop variety that has not been utilized very much in BC yet—it features prominently in Nelson Brewing’s Full Nelson Imperial IPA, which I reviewed here in May.
Mein Nelson Sauvin
7.3% ABV / 750 ml
Limited availability in private liquor stores only
I love Weissbier. I have ever since my first taste of a proper Hefeweizen on the first night of my backpacking trip to Europe back in 1991. More recently, I travelled to Germany for Oktoberfest in 2011 to celebrate my buddy Shawn’s 40th birthday. On our way to Munich from Frankfurt, we drove down through the Black Forest and then through the wine- and hop-growing region along the Bodensee that borders southern Germany. Everywhere we stopped, we sampled the local Weissbier—each town seemed to have its own local brew and each one was delicious and just different enough to be unique. Generally the flavour differences have to do with the type of yeast and ratio of barley and wheat malts used in the brew; hops don’t usually play a significant role in Weissbier. But in this special release from Schneider, the Nelson Sauvin hops are front and centre.
Pop the top on this stylish bottle and you will instantly notice a sweet, fruity aroma. Pour it into a good, suitable glass that you can get your nose into and breathe deeply. There are heaps of grape and berry aromas—I flashed back to neon-coloured Kool-Aid concoctions and candy store visits from my childhood so it’s more of a candy grape aroma than actual grapes or wine. As with the tropical citrus/grapefruit-tinged hops that work so well in big IPAs, this aroma is instantly mouth-watering and very appealing. Behind the hop aroma, I also detected the characteristic banana/bubblegum scent generated by the yeast in proper German Hefeweizens.
The beer pours beautifully: a hazy orange with a very creamy head. Bottle-conditioned using a Belgian yeast (according to the label), the carbonation is high, but settles down quickly. The first sip is very satisfying—the beer is as good as it looks and smells. It is creamy, fruity and slightly spicy.
Typically, Weissbier is brewed at about 5% ABV, but this one has been amped up to 7.3%, reminiscent of the excellent King Heffy Imperial Hefeweizen from Howe Sound Brewing, which is one of my favourite BC beers. Without actually comparing them side-to-side, I’d say King Heffy has a bigger malt/yeast flavour profile than this, although I’m sure Schneider wanted to provide a softer foundation so the Nelson Sauvin hops would really jump out. (Hey Howe Sound, maybe you should try a special version with Nelson Sauvin hops to see how it compares.)
All in all, this is an excellent beer, especially for Weissbier fans. It is quite expensive ($12.99 at Cascadia Liquor in Victoria where I found it) so it won’t fit into everyone’s budget, but if you can afford it, it is exceptional and unique.