When I was researching wheatbeers in Bavaria some 15 years ago I used to bore my travelling chums by repeatedly asking each brewer we met the same question: "What makes your wheatbeer special?" As I received the same answer each time..."the yeast" my friends grew understandably weary until they demanded to know whether I was even more daft that they already thought......Why ask the same question when you keep getting the same answer? Because, I replied, I am waiting for a different answer! I somehow felt that "yeast" alone was not enough.
This finally came from a mighty fine brewer, Eric Toft, then second brewer at the Stein Brewery and now Head Brewer at the Privatelandbrauerei Schonram. His answer was, and this is applicable to all beers was "the totality"....obviously said in an Wyoming/Bavarian accent! He subsequently took the top award for Export lagers at the World Beer Cup in 2006 for his "Gold"....rather appropriate name....so it would appear he knows a thing or two! He has recently persuaded the owner of the Schonram Brewery, Fredi to produce a wheatbeer themselves and jolly good it is too with an unusual amber colour.
So what did Eric mean by "totality". He meant that beer was not made great by one thing but by an application to every aspect of it: from the water through materials, production, conditioning, etc etc everything from the idea in the brewer's mind until it was received by the customer...the "totality"....everything in the process contributed something to the end beer.....most importantly the brewer should have a complete understanding of the beer. And from this and the subsequent "understanding" I gained about a new beerstyle, weissbier, I realised that producing a great beer was so much more than using, as so many breweries say "the very best ingredients".
And which of the very fine beers which Eric brews is his best. Well once one goes beyond technical and craft excellence, objective matters, subjective opinion comes in. I ride motorbikes, Bavarian as it happens (!) and always consider it is more difficult to ride accurately slowly than quickly: so it is I believe with beer.......much more difficult to brew a top quality low gravity beer so my choice is the Leichter Typ...."Surtaler"......... named after the river behind the brewery......a wonderfully structured beer for a 3.4% lager. Beautifully refreshing....I hope you get to try it too. Cheers!
Check out the brewery at www.brauerei-schoenram.de