We recently took a look at Dunkelweizen, a dark German wheat ale (weissbier) with traditional weizen (wheat) yeast flavors. There’s another weissbier with similar flavors at the other end of the color scale, Kristallweizen. You don’t have to be a German language expert to guess that Kristall mean a lighter colored beer, but it’s more than color, it’s the clarity you’ll really notice. Kristallweizen is simply a Hefeweizen that has been filtered.
Most German wheat ales are not filtered and are hazy. Weizen yeast produce the banana and clove flavors and aromas in German wheat ales, but another characteristic of the yeast is low flocculation. Flocculation is a measurement of how much the yeast clump together and settle out of beer. High flocculating yeast cling together and fall out making clean, clear beers. Low flocculating yeast don’t fall out as much and produce hazy beers.
Besides the increased yeast in suspension, proteins from the wheat grain also contribute to Hefeweizen haze. Filtering a Hefe removes both the yeast and wheat haze, giving you a crystal clear beer. If you think the filtration changes the flavor of Kristallweizen, you’re absolutely right. I think they taste crisper and lighter overall. The banana flavors, while present, are subdued. Like other German Weissbiers, the grist must be at least 50% wheat. Kristallweizen also uses the same weizen yeast that gives it fruity and spicy flavors.
Kristallweizen pours clear, but can range in color from pale straw to gold. The Beer Judge Certification Program doesn’t have a style definition for Kristallweizen, but the specs would be similar to a Hefeweizen, with an SRM* of 2-8. There is virtually no hop bitterness, with low 8-15 IBUs*. The low ABV* of 4.3-5.6% makes it a good session beer on a hot day, a very nice lawnmower beer.
There aren’t a lot of breweries making Kristallweizen in America. I found that Aeronaut Brewing in Somerville, MA had made one, but it is not on their current beer list. Most Kristalls are German, and one of the most easy to find in America is Weihenstephaner Kristall Weissbier. It tastes a lot like their Hefe Weissbier, but has lighter flavors and the aromas are lessened because of the filtering. The flavor is delicate, you get some of the famous Hefe banana and clove, but there’s less of it. The beer is clear, a beautiful light gold… if you didn’t taste or smell it, you’d think it was a pilsner by its appearance. Besides the Weihenstephaner, you should also be able to find Kristalls from Erdinger and Paulaner.
Kristallweizen will pair with many foods that Hefes pairs with, but keep in mind its lighter, more delicate qualities because of the filtration. It’s a great beer for brunch, and will work well with nearly any salad. Don’t be afraid to try it with roast pork, lighter pork sausages or ham, all common in German meals. It will also pair well with lighter seafoods, especially sushi.
Just like a Hefeweizen, the Kristall version is perfect in a Weissbier Vase. It’s a common glass and good bars serve German wheat ales in this tall vase. The glass has ample room to showcase the big foamy head of highly carbonated wheat beers. Spiegelau makes great glasses and their wheat beer glasses are perfect for Hefe and Kristall.
*Standard Reference Method
*International Bitterness Units
*Alcohol by Volume
All quantitative specifications are from the BJCP Style Guide.