Tasting the Erdinger Weissbier Dunkel

What is a Weissbier Dunkel? A Weissbier is a German Wheat beer; a classic beer style brewed with 25% or more malted or unmalted wheat. These beers are typically very refreshing, effervescent, lightly fruity with a wheaty fresh aroma and flavor. So what’s the Dunkel all about? Come the colder months of the fall and winter the German people wanted a beer with greater depth, something that would reflect the season a bit better than a quenching summer weisse. Thus was born the Dunkel, a Weissbier brewed with a portion of darker caramelized malts.

What you get is the fresh feeling of a Weissbier, with an added touch of spice, malt, dark aromas and caramel. The authentic versions of this beer style, such as the Erdinger, which may be one of the most authentic, are all bottle conditioned, and medium in strength. The Erdinger is 5.6% abv, is bottle conditioned, and comes in a standard German 500ml bottle. It is available at the LCBO year round, and is a treat year round.

I love wheat beers, and I love them all year. But its a funny thing, I often forget than the Dunkels exist! Its really strange because I really enjoy the maltier sensations of the dark weisse, but somehow they escape my memory banks. A few weeks ago I was walking through the Queens Quay LCBO and noticed the Dunkels sitting there – it was like finding an old friend I hadn’t spoke with in years.

I opened the Dunkel cold around 7C (45F) and poured it into the tall Erdinger glass than mounts the front of my glassware cabinet. This is also one of my favorite things about this beer; its glass and the way it it served. I mean, just look at it! The tall weisse glass facilitates an eruption of carbonation pouring up from the bottom cascading to a pillowy and airy mountain of foam. The pour was smooth and gentle at first, but once the beer crashed onto itself a great rush of life was created and a creamy tan brown head began to form very easily. By the end of a gentle pour I had a tall amber brown beer with a 3 inch cap of walnut brown foam. The beer was lightly cloudy with streams of bubbles rushing to the surface. Hints of dark gold and maroon could be seen as you gaze through it, but rich browns and caramel dominate this beer.

The nose is light and delicate, but if you lean in for a good long breath you will get soft vanilla aromas, wheat, hints of pepper, spice, cinnamon, cloves, and light fruit. Soft banana and wheat is present as it is with the typical wiesse, but light brown sugar, a hint of toast and caramel is also here. Overall it is gentle, fresh and slightly warming; pretty much exactly what this beer is designed to encompass.

Bringing the tall glass to your mouth is a momentous feeling. Your hand will easily grasp the middle of the neck with a good 4 inches of beer sticking out both sides of it. The first wave of the Dunkel is so classically German – it is filled with fresh wheaty flavors and textures that dance and tingle over your tongue and across your cheeks. It is cold and refreshing brining with it a mirror of the aromas.

Light citrus and soft banana balance with vanilla right of the front, but by the time that beer reaches the back of your mouth you are already exposed to warm caramel, cinnamon, clove, spice and pepper. It is crispy peppery with a wheaty fresh seasoning. Enormous amounts of gentle malt show up here much more than a normal weissbier, as does hints of brown sugar and molasses.

Fading in the back are bits of dried fruits and dark candy with a touch of earth and yeast. Carbonation helps the beer stay alive on your palate the whole time, and also keeps it quite light and easy. It is not very strong, not to potent, and is easy to drink with a lightly warming touch. I think I actually might have enjoyed it more if it was closer to 7%, and maybe with a bigger dosing of aromatic hops, which are fairly nonexistent here. In either case, it is a quenching and sparkling beer perfect in the summer and winter, or with a huge range of roasted foods.

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