Reviewed: Live Oak HefeWeizen
Product description: Modeled after the classic wheat beers of Bavaria, Live Oak HefeWeizen is cloudy and straw-colored with a meringue-like head that lingers to the bottom of the glass. Brewed with equal parts wheat and barley malts and few hops, this beer features a unique yeast strain that produces harmonious notes of clove, banana, and vanilla. A proper execution of the classic style, this idiosyncratic Bavarian style is perfectly at home here in Texas. Skip the orange slice for an authentic experience. 5.3% ABV, 10 IBUs.
Live Oak Brewing Company – Live Oak HefeWeizen – 12oz can served in specialty glassware – 5.3% ABV
I recently reviewed Live Oak’s Pilz. I’d recommend reading through at least the beginning of that review before going through this one. My sentiments about the graphic design and packaging date remain. The big difference here is that Live Oak’s HefeWeizen is ranked #2 in the world on both RateBeer and BeerAdvocate for the hefeweizen category. Both lists have Live Oak HefeWeizen behind Weihenstephaner’s Hefeweissbier. That’s monumental considering Weihenstephaner has been brewing beer since 1040 and is considered by many to brew the quintessential example of the style. I’ll be reviewing the latest from Weihenstephaner soon. I first tried Live Oak’s version in 2013 when it was still a tap-only beer. At the time I thought it was refreshing, apple and pear-centric, but was missing the ripe banana flavors expected in the style.
Sampled from a 12oz can, Live Oak’s HefeWeizen pours out clear, pale straw in color with soda-bubbled, weaker foam. It looks more like a kristallweizen at this stage (filtered Bavarian wheat beer). You need to dump in the yeast sediment in the bottom of the can to make it look the part. Digging in, this is a very clean beer as far as hefeweizens are concerned. Instead of overripe banana and bubblegum, you get fresh yellow apples and green pear in the aroma. It’s still estery as expected in this style, but it’s a more pleasant, brighter bouquet vs. typical hefeweizens. Heavy clove phenols are absent, which is one of the hallmarks of the style.
The mouthfeel is also lighter than its Bavarian progenitors with some acidity in the finish. Tossing in the sediment adds a bit of chalk to the mouthfeel and that’s about it. Mild lactic acidity continues to build with each sip, which sets it apart from more traditional hefeweizens. Even with all of the yeast sediment added in, the flavor profile continues to match closer to kristallweizen than hefeweizen. Banana and clove is absent while you get some subtle vanilla and continuing apple and pear esters. I had my wife try this blind (she didn’t hear any previous comments of mine or see the can it came from). She said it smelled floral and sugary with a flavor she described as banana bread. So, we had different takes on this one regarding the banana character and sugar content.
Overall, Live Oak HefeWeizen is crisp, bright, and light-bodied with an impressive refreshing quality. It has little in common, though, with what I normally envision in this style: thick banana and sharp clove, richer mouthfeel, and hefty proteins creating a thick, soupy beer. Just in overall drinkability, I give the edge to Live Oak’s rendition, especially in the summer months. This is a clean take on a style that is usually pigeonholed into unoriginal clones of classic Bavarian examples. My main criticism is that it doesn’t immediately remind me of a hefeweizen and would do very nicely reenvisioned as a kristallweizen.
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