Ah, Widmer Hefeweizen, the quintessential Northwest craft beer… You know, Widmer’s Hefe often gets a bad rap among beer snobs for not being a "proper" hefeweizen of the Bavarian style. Even its BeerAdvocate score isn’t very good compared to other microbrews: it only scores 78 and has a dismal 66% approval rating.
Here’s the key thing about Widmer’s version that they’re missing, though: Widmer re-invented the style into what I like to think of as an "American hefeweizen," or even a "Northwest hefeweizen." And that made it accessible to the general beer-swilling masses; I like to think of Hefe as a "gateway" beer; people who have never tried craft beer and/or are intimidated by it are often introduced (in my experience, anyway) to Hefeweizen and they find it good. They realize that microbrew is not so off-putting after all.
(Whereas those same people, if they tried a traditional hefe with fruity flavors and clove and banana in the nose and such, would possibly be turned off by the strangeness of it to them. I’ve seen this happen, too.)
Is it obvious I’m fond of it? It was also one of the first microbrews that I tried, waaaay back in the day, and it was probably the best beer I had ever tasted up to that point. Widmer did something remarkable with this beer, and don’t really get the credit for it they deserve.
And, since I received a six-pack of it in the press kit the other day, it’s the perfect time to review it! (I didn’t drink it with a lemon, though, even though that’s traditional. Not that I’m against the lemon; I just didn’t want to waste the whole lemon for one slice.)
Appearance: Orange-ish, yellow straw in color. Cloudy (as it should be). Nice thick creamy white head.
Smell: Very light. Yeasty (slightly bready). No hops.
Taste: Wheat; grainy. Yeast, but not so much. Like a good light wheaty bread; has that creamy wheaty flavor that (to me) marks it as the "American hefe." Not fruity (like a traditional hefe would be) but grainy. Hops are so mild as to blend into the background. Bitterish, but not; no aftertaste. Very clean tasting.
Mouthfeel: Thirst-quenching, nice body that rolls around the mouth. Creamy texture from the yeast.
What can I say? It’s a classic.
I already mentioned its poor ranking on BeerAdvocate; on RateBeer it fares little better, scoring only 2.95 out of 5 and landing in the 39th percentile for the style. Don’t let those numbers be off-putting, though. I won’t beat the dead horse any more, but don’t ever count Widmer out on this beer.