We haven’t done a weizen review for a while, so we’ve taken this chance to review the Fujizakura Heights Summer Weizen. We’re trying it with the Minoh Weizen, and for some old-school touch the Benediktiner Weissbier.
Fujizakura Heights Summer Weizen (富士桜高原・サマーヴァイツェン)
Package: 330mL bottle
Misc: IBU – 33; hops – Perle, Zythos
Pour – Very pale yellow, very foamy and creamy, fizzy, cloudy
Aroma – Spicy wheat and yeast, lemon, dirt
Flavor – Tart with lemon, fizzy, not as creamy as expected, slightly bitter on the finish, a little bit earthy overall, becomes more bitter and dry as it warms up
I suppose it’s not limited to Japan, but there’s a strong notion that summer beers should be light and refreshing. That leads to a tendency to release weizens in the summer, with Baeren also having a summer weizen and Minamishinshu also using the summer for their annual Alps Weizen release. Of course, Fujizakura Heights release limited edition weizens all year long, so it’s no surprise that they have their take on the summer beer with this Summer Weizen.
Their particular aim with this beer was to have a refreshing hoppy weizen, with the IBU kicked up to 33 IBU as compared to 12 for their regular weizen. To accent the hoppiness they’ve used Zythos hops, which are quite citrusy and normally seen in IPAs and the like. Finally, in keeping with having lower-alcohol summer beers (it does get hot here!), the Summer Weizen is only 4.9% ABV compared to 5.5% for the usual weizen.
The Fujizakura Heights Summer Weizen is another winner from Fujizakura, with a very solid lemon tart aspect to go with a mild-but-noticeable hop bitterness that picks up steam as you work through the beer. It has a slightly earthy character to it, which I think is nice, although it might benefit a bit from letting the wheat characteristics shine through a bit more. Also as it warms up while you get some more hops, the lemon fades away, so best to drink this one quickly.
Comparing it to their other weizens, I would probably put this between their Mandarina Bavaria, which I really liked, and their standard Weizen, which is solid but less exciting. The regular weizen is very banana, while the Mandarina Bavaria and this Summer Weizen are more citrus. The Summer Weizen has a lot of lemon tartness, which is nice, but I enjoyed the tangerine citrus of the Mandarina Bavaria a bit more I think, and the Mandarina also had more wheatiness to it. This one was slightly more bitter (which is also borne out by the relative IBU at 33 to 28), and the bitterness became more prominent as it warmed up. It’s overall a good one, and while I prefer the Mandarina Bavaria they are actually quite similar.
Of course it’s not a surprise that Fujizakura Heights would deliver another nice weizen, I’d definitely recommend this one. It’s a summer release, and I’ve seen it at Tokyo Liquor Land (where I bought mine for 508 yen) and also at Le Petite L’ouest in Shimokitazawa. A quality beer, and a comparison tasting with their normal Weizen and the Mandarina Bavaria would be quite interesting.
As with most of the Fujizakura seasonals, I was only able to find this at Tokyo Liquor Land for 508 yen. They’re in the midst of a move/remodeling, so it’ll be interesting to see what Tokyo Liquor Land looks like when they resurface shortly.
Minoh Weizen (箕面・ヴァイツェン)
Package: 330mL bottle
Pour – Cloudy apple juice gold, not so carbonated for a weizen
Aroma – Soft banana and cloves
Flavor – Somewhat watery, a bit of cloves, dry, some wheat and spice, but overall not so exciting
Although Minoh is more known for being one of the first brewers in Japan to stake their reputation on hoppiness (their Pale Ale is quite hoppy and pretty good, although their W-IPA is very sweet and fails miserably), their Weizen is surprisingly well-received on RateBeer. I say surprisingly because I’m not a big fan of most of their stuff, and the thought of a Minoh Weizen doesn’t appeal to me too much. Their Momo Weizen, in fact, is one of the most anticipated seasonal releases in Japan from any brewer, and is usually sold with limits on how many you can buy at once. Although I wasn’t blown away by the Momo Weizen, it was just interesting enough to balance out the skepticism I have upon hearing Minoh and weizen, so let’s see what it can do.
Unfortunately, the Minoh Weizen is, to me, just the next in the line of mediocre beers from Minoh. The aroma is actually decent, if a bit mild, with banana and cloves definitely detectable. The flavor itself though is somewhat boring, although the one plus I would give it is that it holds up well over time, with a bit more spice and flavor coming through near the end. Overall though, it’s not a very exciting beer, and as such kind of fits the Minoh profile.
If you’re still interested in tracking down this uninspiring weizen you can find it pretty easily. I bought mine at Liquors Hasegawa for 410 yen, but I’ve seen it a Shinanoya and Deguchiya, among other beer shops around Tokyo. Easy to find and cheap, but I wouldn’t say it’s worth it.
Package: 330mL bottle
Pour – Very orange for a weissbier, cloudy, fluffy foam
Aroma – Lots of wheat, some caramel, cloves
Flavor – Earthy bitter, also somewhat malty, definitely lots of wheat, slight caramel finish, overall somewhat bland
As with many of these German beers, even if Benediktiner is not so well-known (compared to say Weihenstephaner) it traces its history back hundreds of year. All the way back to 1609, in fact, and that’s only when the brewery was first established at the Ettal Abbey (side note – the name should give it away, but yes, this is a monastery brewery run by Benedictine monks). They were actually brewing even before then, and even now they appear to be an independent brewery still operating at the monastery. The Bitburger website (Bitburger is their international distributor) states that beer for the Germany and Austria markets are still brewed within the monastery walls, while they contract out the beer for international distribution. That means we are having the international version, which is brewed at Licher Privatbrauerei, so let’s see how it does.
The Benediktiner Weissbier is a surprisingly vivid orange color, which is very unusual for a weizen. The aroma and flavor are both quite wheaty, which is decent enough, but ultimately the beer is quite flat in terms of flavor. Aside from the wheat it has a bit of earthiness and malts, but it ends up being watery and the flavors don’t really hold. It’s not a great weizen, with only its striking color to set it apart.
So going back over them all, the Fujizakura Heights Summer Weizen takes it by a large margin. This shouldn’t come as a surprise as they make some really world-class weizens, and this one is pretty close to their awesome Mandarina Bavaria. The Minoh and Benediktiner efforts are basically a wash, with neither really being that great. There are a lot better weizens available both domestic and imported, so I’d give both of those a pass. Hopefully we can find a couple of better weizens next time to review.