The dunkelweizen isn’t a beer style you see very often here, but there is one regular well-regarded one, which is the Minamishinshu Dunkel Weizen. We’ll try it together with the Paulaner Hefe-Weißbier Dunkel for comparison.
Minamishinshu Dunkel Weizen (南信州ビール・デュンケルヴァイツェン)
Package: 330mL bottle
Pour – Cola black, not too much carbonation
Aroma – Nice soft caramel roast, fair amount of banana, also some wheat
Flavor – Soft wheat, chocolate is strong, sweet chocolate roast finish
We haven’t reviewed a dunkelweizen before, so let’s do a quick introduction. “Dunkel” in German means dark, so the dunkelweizen is basically just a dark wheat beer. Ingredient-wise, as a dark weizen, it should (at least in Germany) contain at least 50% wheat for the grain bill, with usually Vienna or Munich malt providing the dark beer aspects. Historically, German wheat beers were actually darker in the old days, with the focus on paler weizens actually being a relatively recent phenomenon. In that sense, what we today call a dunkelweizen might be closer to what the original wheat beers were like a long time ago.
Our Japanese example today is the Minamishinshu Dunkel Weizen, which although isn’t really their flagship or most well-known beer, but scores the highest on RateBeer for them. Their seasonal Alps Weizen was not very inspired at all, but in their brief product description it mentions that this is their own original interpretation of a dunkelweizen so we’ll see if their dunkel version fares any better.
Compared to their bland Alps Weizen, the Minamishinshu Dunkel Weizen is a much better effort. It has lots of banana on the nose, although the overall flavor is mostly chocolate wheat. Although it’s not overwhelmingly superior, it is a decent enough beer. I would have like to see more of the weizen aspects carry over to the flavor – the banana is there on the aroma but the flavor is dominated by the darker aspects.
Overall this isn’t bad, and as the dunkelweizen is a pretty rare style here in Japan it’s worth tracking it down if you can. Minamishinshu seasonals are not so easy to find, but you might be able to find it at Izuya, Shinshu Osake-mura, or Tanakaya.
Paulaner Hefe-Weißbier Dunkel
Package: 500mL bottle
Misc: Hops – Herkules, Taurus
Pour – Amber-brown, quite frothy, cloudy
Aroma – Lots of wheat and banana, not as much roast
Flavor – Tart and tangy and fizzy, solid wheat in the middle, banana finish, just the slightest hint of caramel but not much
We’ve done a couple of Paulaner reviews before (the Oktoberfest Bier and the Münchner Hell), so you kind of know what you’re getting with them. We would expect to see a traditional German beer that adheres to style pretty closely, and has the consistent quality you would expect out a brewery a few centuries old and now owned by a massive conglomerate. They don’t have too much in the way of brewing notes about this beer, but it does note that they use a fair amount of Munich malt in this beer (Munich malt is supposed to be very malty, bready, and nutty flavor-wise), and that it is unfiltered.
The Paulaner Hefe-Weißbier Dunkel is in some ways kind of a mirror image of the Minamishinshu Dunkel Weizen, in that it focuses more on the weizen and less on the dunkel (whereas the Minamishinshu took the opposite approach and was more dunkel than weizen). This means that while it has a bit of caramel, it’s behaves mostly like a weizen, despite the brown coloring. The aroma is very strong on the wheat and banana, and that carries over to the flavor as well, where it has a nice slight tart wheatiness to it with a very banana finish.
Interestingly, you can see this in the colors as well – the Minamishinshu pours very very dark for a dunkelweizen and looks like a porter, where normally you would expect a dark brown like you see with the Paulaner. Accordingly the Minamishinshu is much darker flavor-wise as well, with strong roast chocolate notes to it. Of course, reading the style guidelines again it states that “roasted malt character is inappropriate” for a dunkelweizen, so perhaps this is what Minamishinshu meant when they said this is their original variation on the beer. The Paulaner, on the other hand, adheres to the style guidelines pretty closely, giving you mostly weizen with a nod to some caramel.
Both of these dunkelweizen examples are pretty solid, and while neither is super exciting it’s interesting to be able to see these two different approaches side by side. The Paulaner is closer to what you would expect from the style, whereas the Minamishinshu is a lot more roast than normal for a dunkelweizen. I’d certainly recommend trying them together to see the different approaches, and we’ll keep an eye out for more local examples if we can find them.