An Ode to the Classics

In Beer News by Ben

Ben pens his love for Hefeweizen’s, and classic beer styles in general, some of which are afterthoughts in a world of session IPA’s and barrel-aged stouts.

ode(1)In my younger and more vulnerable days, I used to laugh at my old man as he sipped his Leinenkugel Northwoods. “He just doesn’t get it,” I thought, as I quaffed my barrel aged barleywine. How can he enjoy drinking that lager swill? I mean this is beer, no? Rich, complex and a true expression of grain, yeast and time.

Time has passed and I find myself, more often than not, looking ten years back and generally saying, “Boy, were you an idiot. You didn’t get it.” So the same goes with beer. Maybe it’s my past life’s work in the beer industry or perhaps it’s just a natural trajectory of age and, dare I say it, the wisdom that comes along with age, but I’ve drawn my line in the sand. My palate is shot. My taste buds have done a proverbial changing of the guards. Triple IPA? No, thanks. Barrel Aged Vanilla Bean Coffee Stout? Doesn’t do it for me. While I’ve enjoyed the hell out of drinking and appreciating these types of beers, I’ve simply had enough. Just as John Cusack’s character Rob in the movie High Fidelity oh-so-appropriately describes his girlfriend’s fancy underwear in comparison with the stuff that’s been hung out to dry one too many times, these exotic beers have a time and place in my life, but they’re just not realistic for the every day. There’s something to be said about getting back to the basics. By the way, did I just compare women’s underwear to beer? I digress.

Enter the hefeweizen. A chalice of liquid wheaten-gold. No other style of beer do I pine over as much as I do the hefeweizen and if you want to get specific, of the Bavarian style is what I prefer most. So much depth, so much complexity. The aroma stops me in my tracks. It’s not unusual to catch aromatic amalgamation of cloves, honey, cinnamon, overly ripened banana, plump lemon and toasted wheat all in one sniff. Some variations can be dry as a bone and verging on sour, while others can be malty and almost verging on viscous. While Hefe’s have some serious complexity, they’re versatility is unparalleled; they’re just as suited to being drunk alone as they are accompanying a burger and fries, truly making them the Swiss Army Knife of beers.

So after a hard day’s work and I finish cooking dinner and putting the rugrat down for the night, a glass full of wood and hops just seems unnecessarily complicated and frankly, a tad bit contrived. Rather, the deft balance of a pilsner, the subtle minerality of an ESB, and of course, that spellbinding aroma of a Hefeweizen are what keeps me coming back, day after day. Life’s already complicated, no need to make it more so.

Ok, old man, I think I finally get it.

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Ben earned his craft beer chops working at West Lakeview Liquors and Galleria Liquors -- both in Chicago -- before taking his knowledge north to Wisconsin. He's now a member of the Madison Homebrewers and Tasters Guild and traverses the state looking for craft beer worth crossing the border for.