Last time out we looked at a couple of weizen bocks, so we’ll continue that today with the Baeren Ursus and the Schneider Weisse Tap 6 Unser Aventinus.
Baeren Ursus (ベアレン・ウルズス)
Package: 330mL bottle
Pour – Orange gold, lots of foam that settles slowly
Aroma – Lots of banana and sugar, also very wheaty with some cloves
Flavor – Initially lots of spicy banana, tangy in the middle, then some hop bitterness with slightly bitter and banana wheat finish, nice creamy texture
Baeren are one of the better German craft brewers around in Japan, but I find their Summer Weizen to be nothing to write home about. Their Ursus weizen bock, however, is one of my favorite Baeren brews, so let’s take a closer look at it.
When Baeren was first getting established, they had a German brewer by the name of Ivo Odenthal, who incidentally also used to be the head brewer at Ginga Kogen. In any case, this beer was not only conceived and brewed by Odenthal in the early days but also named by him – Ursus being a genus of large bears, with Baeren meaning bear in German. As if brewing beers and naming them was not enough, Odenthal also designed the Baeren logo!
The first thing you’ll notice about the Baeren Ursus is banana. Lots of it. Don’t let that fool you into thinking this is a one-dimensional beer, though – there’s actually quite a lot going on here. Plenty of spice and cloves, wheat, slight booze, but best of all, hops! There are noticeable hops and bitterness, and while I don’t think that’s the primary raison d’être for a weizen or weizen bock, it’s always a very nice bonus.
Overall this is a very interesting and delicious beer, and the pick of the weizen bock litter in Japan for me. Let’s see how it stacks up compared to another favorite of mine, the Aventinus.
Schneider Weisse Tap 6 Unser Aventinus
Package: 500mL bottle
Misc: IBU – 16
Pour – Cloudy, ruby red-brown, not much carbonation
Aroma -Slight banana, also malty, but very faint
Flavor – Sweet toasted malts, caramel, a bit of banana and booze
Earlier we discussed Schneider Weisse in our review of their Tap 7 Unser Original weizen, and while we won’t go into the same details here, the main takeaway is that they are a very old brewery, having been established in 1872. The Aventinus is one of their best-known beers, and even has its own Wikipedia page, if a bit thin. Much like how the original weizen uses the same recipe it did from long ago, the Aventinus weizen bock also uses the same original recipe from 1907.
The product page notes that the recipe calls for 50% wheat and 50% barley, with Hallertau Tradition and Magnum hops (which, by the way, are the same hop varieties used in the Tap 7 Unser Original). Also, while we have been referring to it as a weizen bock, they call it a wheat doppelbock. With doppelbock essentially meaning a double bock, it’s not surprising then that the ABV of the Aventinus at 8.2% is a bit stronger than the 7% of the Baeren Ursus and the Fujizakura Weizen Bock. Finally, on a naming note, the beer is named after the Bavarian historian Johannes Aventinus.
Enough history – let’s try the beer! It’s hard to actually say why, but the one word that comes to mind when I drink this beer is mature. The flavors are very consistent, with a dark malty flavor, and also hints of spice and caramel. The booze is mostly well-hidden but is there in the background. However, one of the the most interesting aspects about this beer is that no matter how much of it you drink, or how much it warms up, it doesn’t change much. Maybe that’s what I mean by mature – this beer knows where it’s been and where it’s going, and doesn’t care what you think about it.
So overall, the Aventinus has tremendous flavor and tremendous balance. I especially appreciated the dark roasted aspects of it together with the spice and banana, and that kind of roast is unusual with weizen bocks. The Baeren, of course, differentiated itself from the crowd with its hops, which made today’s tasting great – two wonderful weizen bocks that have a slight twist compared to most of their brethren, but both with great balance and complexity. Of course the Weihenstephaner Vitus from last time out was also a nice one, so it’s been a good run of weizen bocks here.
We’ll end with a brief purchasing note – the Baeren Ursus is getting harder to find, but I did find it at Tanakaya. The Aventinus can usually be found at Tokyo Liquor Land, and I’ve seen it at Tanakaya as well. I think this is probably going to be it for the weizen bock reviews this year, but Iwate Kura and Mojiko Retro also make weizen bocks, so we’ll have to wait until next winter to try those.