You can’t predict when summer will come or go here in England. Thankfully this weeks beer of the week, SUMMER wheat ale from And Union, is much more reliable and will take you to sunny fields whenever you drink it. I couldn’t think of a better drink to enjoy while taking in all the beautiful rolling countryside at Stansted Park on a sunny day.
Rather than a tardis or an adapted DeLorean car, it is the wheat in the beer that transports you to those sun baked afternoons. Wheat beer comes in a few different forms. Most notably German weissbier and Belgian Witbier. Wheat brings about that magical summer touch. It gives beer a great thirst quenching ability that makes the beer go down so easily. Even the most average of German weissbiers are great on a summers day, well..until you become used to the really good stuff!
Weissbeirs (white beer), also know as hefeweizen (yeast wheat), have been doing the rounds in Bavaria for nearly 600 years. This beer style became so popular, that after a bit of regal feuding, the Royal Wittelsbachs family decreed that they, and only they could make wheat beers. Over the centuries tastes changed and other beers became popular. As a result in 1872 George Schneider was able to negotiate the end of the Royal patent and the style was free to be brewed again by the common brewer.
Weissbier is made from a minimum of 50% wheat barley, malted barley, water, hops and yeast. However, rather than with a lot of beers where hops are the star of the show, it is the top fermenting yeast strain that gives weissbier it’s renowned banana and clove flavours. The yeast and wheat almost make it a health drink. The wonderful wheaty haze is full of protein and the yeast is full of vitamins, particularly B-complex vitamins! Don’t leave the yeast in the bottom of the bottle. This isn’t sediment, it’s a big part of the flavour. It was in a Berlin dining institution, Rogacki, that I learned how a weissbier should be poured. Carefully pour 4/5ths of the beer into the glass, letting the foamy head settle if it’s a bit too lively. Holding the top of the bottle steadily with your fingers, use your wrist to swirl it around (I do it anti-clockwise) 6 times. This mixes the last bit of beer with the yeast in the bottom of the bottle. Now pour this in but this time moving the head of the bottle in a anti-clockwise motion, allowing the foamy head to reach all its cumulus potential, like a beery Mr Whippy.
And Union have called SUMMER a wheat ale rather than a weissbier (and they do make a super tasty weissbier called STEPH WEISS), as it may be related but it’s more the rock n roll listening, leather jacket wearing, motor bike riding cousin of the smart, clean and respectable weissbier. Think the Fonz from Happy Days, compared to Richie Cunningham. Everyone loves the Fonz! I digress… Rui from And Union wanted to move the traditional weissbier on to new heights. SUMMER wheat ale is a 21st century reinterpretation of the classic Weissbier. And as far as I’m aware, he is the only person to have done it this way. So what makes it different? SUMMER has a different yeast strain to STEPH WEISS. SUMMER has more hops than STEPH and has an open fermentation (promoting the formation of fruity esters, amongst other things), then a second fermentation in the bottle. STEPH is conditioned in the tank before bottling. Different methods bring about different flavours. This process all contributes to the rambunctious attitude SUMMER has.
I find SUMMER wheat ale to have a pleasant honey boozy warmth. For me it has a touch of big Belgian blonde beers (I put this down to the open fermentation) but without the high abv. It’s a beer like nothing I’ve had before and has been made in its own indomitable way that makes And Union beers so good with food.
On the nose it’s bananas and cloves that you’d expect from a wheat beer. But a little bit of rhubarb and vanilla comes through too. In the mouth you get bananas again, but these bananas are smothered in vanilla cream that gives it a wonderful mouthfeel. You also get a touch of floral honey and a squeeze of blood orange too.
With a drink as refreshing as SUMMER it is easy to write it off as a drinking beer rather than to pair it with food. If you are able to save some bottles for food you will be rewarded. It goes wonderfully well with aromatic Thai food like green curry. I gave it a test with some lemongrass, garlic and coriander stuffed poussin that I cooked on the BBQ along with some pork satay. They went wonderfully with SUMMER, clearing you palate but the food enhances that squeeze of blood orange. AND UNION recommend pairing it with pan fried calamari, smoked chicken, tuna Niçoise salad, steak with salsa verde and shell fish off the BBQ (I think we both have an obsession with BBQ!).
SUMMER wheat ale is no ordinary ale. Buy a few bottles, chill well before sitting in the sun with friends and family while having a BBQ. It’s what SUMMER is all about!