See, it all started over a Kristall Weizen …
Posted by ytee on 16-April-2011
The news is that Texas Wheat is being discontinued.
At one time I was a huge fan of Kristall Weizen. I used to buy it by the case. I homebrewed a clone of it a number of times. Heck, I just made the clone again last year (
there’s a recipe in the venerable DeFalcos book). I’ll never forget the flavor of that beer, and how unique it was. A slight sweetness to the wheat, but balanced with a nice hop flavor up front. Just a hint of hop bitterness, floral and spicy. No notes at all of banana or clove, some of the Saint Arnold house yeast character and a whole lot of bready aftertaste. I loved this brew. However, back in the day when I was buying it by the case, I just knew I liked it. I hadn’t really thought about why.
When I was first getting into craft brewing, I went through the normal discovery period of wheat beers: hefeweizen (for me, Paulaner), witbiers (Hoegaarden) and the fun flavors those beers throw at your palate. However, during my ‘wheat discovery’ phase, most American craft brewers still were making an ‘American’ style wheat beer. These were most often brewed with a large percentage of malted wheat in the grain bill, just like their Belgian and German counterparts, but were hopped a little more heavily, fermented with clean finishing yeast and usually (but not always) filtered clear. Here in Houston we didn’t get too many of these, and so having Kristall Weizen around was a real plus.
I absolutely fell in love with this style. I felt like it featured wheat flavor more prominently, and man oh man did I love that bread-like, wheat nuttiness on the finish. I must have gone through a sixer a week of Sierra Nevada Wheat (R.I.P.) alongside my Saint Arnold Kristall Weizen.
However, there was something slightly different about Kristall Weizen that I liked very much, and it wasn’t just the little hint of the Saint Arnold yeast character. As a beginning homebrewer, it was the first beer that I really wanted to understand – to know what the ‘trick’ was to it. I got my answers one Saturday afternoon about 11 years ago at the brewery. I tracked down Brock and asked him specifically about what made Kristall Weizen so darn tasty and sessionable.
He immediately started by explaining the critical importance of Liberty hops in the finish of the beer, pointing out the specific floral aroma and slightly spicy flavor it added. He went on to tell me how it wasn’t all that popular of a hop but was one he loved a lot for it’s balance between the traditional flavors of English and the Noble hop varieties. I was hooked. Before we had talked, I couldn’t have explained why I liked Kristall Weizen, just that I did. Brock had just nailed down a very specific flavor component that I definitely enjoyed very much. To this day I consider Liberty hops among my favorite varietals. Every time I buy them I think of this story. I rarely brew a batch of homebrew that doesn’t use them in some way. I also consider that conversation at the Saint Arnold tour as one of the big turning points for me to really start thinking about what I was tasting and why I liked it – the start of a true obsession with tasting and enjoying craft beer.
This was also a big reason why I began to try and learn about the different types of flavors that various hop varieties can contribute to beer, a pursuit I continue today. All because of a silly wheat beer Brock apparently didn’t even want to make.
The rebranding of the beer to ‘Texas Wheat’ was understandable. As general knowledge of craft beer grew, people expected a wheat beer with a German name to be a German hefeweizen. However, sales continued to underperform and that wasn’t helped by how hard it was to find a sixer or a tap, especially after the launch of Lawnmower. On top of that, tastes were changing, and the American Wheat Ale was getting squeezed in brewer’s portfolios by other more popular brews, including the now ubiquitous Blonde Ale and IPA.
At some point Saint Arnold changed the recipe for Texas Wheat and suddenly all that wonderful hop character was gone. I don’t know if this happened at the rebrand or sometime after, but ever since that time the brew might as well have been dead to me. It’s still a tasty wheat beer, but it’s not nearly as enjoyable and I stopped drinking it. Apparently so did everyone else, as now it has gone the way of most other American Wheat Ales.
Here’s hoping Brock dusts off that original Kristall Weizen recipe someday and gets inspired by his appreciation for Liberty hops to brew another batch. I’d be first in line to buy a case.
Note, I learned last week that there actually isn’t a recipe in the DeFalcos book. My recipe is one that Scott must have made up for me on the fly one visit.