Comprised of the German words for dark (dunkel) and wheat (weizen), the name, dunkelweizen already reveals so much of what you need to know about this Bavarian beer. It is dark in colour and made of wheat… but there is so much more to dunkelweizen.
For a more detailed description of dunkelweizen German beer – its origins, how it’s made, what it tastes like, and more – read on. We have even listed what we consider to be the five best dunkelweizen beers currently on the market.
What Is Dunkelweizen?
Dunkelweizen – the dark horse of the numerous wheat beer varieties out there. It is an unfiltered Bavarian beer, with a complex (though accessible) flavour and rich, dark colour.
How Do You Pronounce Dunkelweizen Or Dunkles Weissbier?
If you aren’t fluent in German and don’t want to sound too much like a neophyte when you order your beer, note that dunkelweizen is pronounced “doon-kel vite-sen” and dunkles weissbier is pronounced “doon-kels vice-bee-eh”.
How Is Dunkelweizen Made?
Dunkelweizen is prepared like most ales, with a few notable differences in its ingredients and brewing process. The primary distinguishing characteristic of dunkelweizen is its high percentage of wheat. Wheat makes up at least 50% of the malted cereal used to brew dunkelweizen. This grain is then roasted and caramelised (which accounts for its unique flavour and dark colour) before mashing, after which German noble hops and weizen ale yeast are added to the mix.
Fermentation at low temperatures is a key feature in the dunkelweizen brewing process. A cooler-than-average temperature of roughly 21 Celsius is used in the first phase of fermentation, which takes about a week. Thereafter, the top-fermented beer is further lowered to around freezing point and kept there for 24 hours. This beer crashing enables any undesired hop particles, proteins, and grain particles to escape, thus enhancing the beer’s flavour.
Is Dunkelweizen A Lager Or An Ale?
Not to be confused with dunkel lager, dunkelweizen is an unfiltered ale, brewed with a very high percentage of wheat.
What Is The History Of Dunkelweizen?
Similarly to hefeweizen, dunkelweizen originated in Bavaria in the south of Germany, where beer-brewing tradition runs deep. All wheat beer can trace its origins way back to the birth of agriculture, around 10 000 years ago, when wheat was first used as a beer fermenting agent.
There is evidence of wheat fermentation (specifically for dark wheat beer) in Bavaria as early as 800 BC. The heyday of weizenbier began in the 1500s, largely under the control of the strongest local Bavarian clan or, later, German royalty. Interestingly, at this time, wheat was a privilege of the ducal and so weizenbier was considered the drink of the nobility, while barley malt was used for cheaper beers for commoners.
Weizenbier experienced a decline in popularity in the 19th Century, as technological advances made barley a more popular choice for beer brewers. This trend reversed somewhat following the Second World War, and weizenbiers today make up a considerable portion of all beer produced in Bavaria, as well as Germany as a whole.
More recently, craft breweries outside of Germany have begun to develop their own dark wheat beers to rival Bavaria’s dunkelweizen.
What Does Dunkelweizen Taste Like?
Considered by many to be the most natural-tasting beer in existence, dunkelweizen is characterised by a surprisingly sweet, malty flavour that can include notes of nutmeg, banana, cloves, and vanilla. It has a fluffy, bread-like texture and is hazy in appearance – ranging from dark golden to dark brown in colour. Bear in mind that dunkelweizen is highly carbonated, so be prepared for a lot of fizz.
How Is It Different To Other Wheat Beers?
Dunkelweizen is considerably more complex and fuller in flavour than other wheat beers. The wheat malt used for all wheat beers is roasted and caramelised for dunkelweizen. This gives it its characteristic rich flavour notes.
Examples of other wheat beers include:
- Hefeweizen or weizenbier (literally “white beer”): Bavarian beer containing pale, air-dried malt.
- Witbier (white beer, bière blanche, or simply witte): Belgian or Dutch top-fermented wheat beer.
- Berliner Weiss (Berlin white): Low alcohol German wheat beer.
- Leipziger Gose: Stronger version of Berliner Weiss, containing coriander and salt (atypical among German beers).
- Lambic: Belgian wheat and barley beer, distinguished by the wild yeasts and spontaneous fermentation employed in its brewing process.
What Is The Most Popular Dunkelweizen Brand In The World?
Arguably, the most esteemed brewer of dunkelweizen on Earth is Ayinger, an award-winning Bavarian brewery that has been operational for over 130 years.
What Are The 5 Best Dunkelweizen Beers To Try Right Now?)
Although Germany (and Bavaria, in particular) remains the heartland of dunkelweizen, craft brewers worldwide (especially in North America) are increasingly cottoning on to the appeal of dark wheat beer.
To get you started on your international dunkelweizen tasting journey, try these five best dunkelweizen beers right away:
- Ayinger Urweisse (Brauerei Aying Franz Inselkammer, Germany)
- Belle Gueule Dunkelweizen (Brasseurs RJ, Canada)
- Piece Dark n Curvy (Piece Brewery, United States)
- Weihenstephaner Hefeweissbier Dunkel (Bayerische Staatsbrauerei Weihenstephan, Germany)
- Schneider Weisse Tap 07 – Original Weissbier (Schneider Weisse G. Schneider & Sohn, Germany)
How Do You Serve Dunkelweizen?
Dunkelweizen beer should be served in tall, rounded glasses that leave room for the brew’s considerable head.
The ideal option is the weizen glass (or wheat beer glass or weizenbier glass). This tall glass has a narrow base, with walls that flare out slightly. Some versions of the weizen glass are really larger incarnations of the standard pilsner glass. Others taper in again after bulging outward to form a “tulip bulb” shape, not unlike that of a Guinness pint glass.
What Foods Can You Pair With Dunkelweizen Beer?
Unsurprisingly, dunkelweizen pairs perfectly with classic German dishes. Salty roast chicken, roast pork, and pork sausages are great for offsetting the sweet malt flavour of the dunkelweizen. If your dunkelweizen has dominant notes of clove, you’ll do well to pair it with something like cured ham.
Also, save a little dunkelweizen for dessert – it pairs brilliantly with bananas and caramel!