If banana bread was beer, it would be Dunkelweizen. Don’t confuse that to mean that it tastes exactly like banana bread. This is still a beer that “tastes like beer”.
This classic German style brings a full bodied malty flavor and combines it with Hefeweizen yeast to give you banana and clove aromas and flavors. From the malt you get a touch of sweet caramel and bread. There are enough hops to keep the beer from being cloying. In the glass, a giant creamy head tops off an opaque deep brown hue. Supremely drinkable, it will leave beautiful lacing down your glass, sip after sip.
Let’s clear something up. Dunkelweizen means “dark wheat” when translated into English. You’ll find this style under a variety of names that basically end up saying the same thing…dark wheat. It can be a bit confusing but if the beer title has “dunkel” and “weizen” or “weiss” somewhere in it, it’s most likely a Dunkelweizen.
Oh and this style is also called Dunkels Weissbier. Hope that helps.
The style originated in Bavaria (southern Germany). It’s not surprising that this is the same place that Hefeweizen is from as they share the same yeast.
The BJCP vitals say it should be in the range of 4.3 – 5.6% ABV and have an IBU of 10-18. As you can see, it’s not a big beer and it’s not super hoppy. Don’t be fooled though, it’s full bodied and while it may have a touch of sweetness it has enough hops to finish clean.
Due to a large dose of Munich or Vienna malt, you’ll find rich nut and biscuit flavors. There are also malt derived flavors of caramel, maybe some vanilla, and a mild chocolate or roast character can be present. In Germany, this beer must be brewed with at least 50% wheat malt.
Because it’s brewed with a Hefeweizen yeast strain, you’ll smell and taste those classic banana and clove characters from the esters and phenols. Dunkel weizen is copper to dark brown and hazy.
What Makes a Dunkelweizen Good?
There are a few things that really distinguish a great Dunkelweizen. A thick, rocky, and stubborn head is one. This fantastic head comes from the wheat malt and is supported by a high level of carbonation.
The best Dunkelweizens have a nice clove and banana character in the aroma and taste but it is not dominating. If it tastes like a banana bomb, it was likely fermented too warm and isn’t a great representation.
A light sweetness on the palate that doesn’t linger and sometimes a bit of bubblegum or vanilla in the aroma is desirable. There should be a firm and rich malt flavor from munich or vienna malt. The aroma should contain some bready wheat character.
Freshness is of paramount importance. Because the best ones don’t have a ton of fruity esters, given too much time you’ll lose the lovely yeast produced fruitiness.
While the color may be on the dark side, don’t expect to chew your way through this beer. Dunkelweizen should be full bodied and refreshing with a nice creamy mouthfeel.
This list isn’t meant to rank beers in order of best to worst. It’s 10 of the best Dunkelweizens money can buy and they’re listed in alphabetical order.
You may notice that not a single one of these is native to North America. There just aren’t many examples out there. When purchasing a bottle of imported beer, be sure to check the production date and make sure it’s been stored at refrigeration temps.
This classic will not disappoint. It pours with a stubborn, thick, off white head and a nice yeast haze. The aroma is banana and malt. When tasting there’s a light sweetness, then clove, followed by a bready malt. It finishes clean and you’ll be ready for another sip. At 5.8% ABV it’s on the high side for a Dunkelweizen.
This beer is legendary. A multi-award-winner and a must try dark wheat beer. Amber in color and hazy. 5.3% ABV and 14 IBUs. A slight caramel sweetness on the palate to start. Ripe banana and rich malt flavor. It’s not bitter or cloying. This is possibly the most famous and widely consumed example of Dunkelweizen.
This Dunkelweizen distinguishes itself with a somewhat restrained clove and banana aroma and flavor profile. It’s appropriately hazy and it’s highly carbonated. Nutty, malty (bread), and a nice bit of caramel. Like all great Dunkelweizen it’s full bodied and packs a malt punch for its respective 5.4% ABV.
Dark amber in color and nicely hazy. Nutty, bready, with caramel on the nose and palate. The mouthfeel is soft and smooth. A high amount of carbonation lends itself to maintaining a perfectly luscious white head and rinses the palate leaving you ready for the next drink.
This beer is characterized by its deep amber color and a robust malty flavor. It’s distinctly known for having a bit of hops and a slight smoky malt character in the aroma. It’s brewed with a ratio of 60/40 percent wheat to barley.
In the glass, it has a nice deep brown color. On the nose, it’s bready and spicy with a little clove. The aroma is somewhat Saison-esq. In the mouth, a nice full body is supported by medium-high carbonation and a firm bread and cracker note. This one has little dark fruit or caramel and so may come across a bit cleaner overall.
Schneider Weisse (Original)
This beer is debatably a hefeweizen. But it’s deep copper hue is too dark for a standard Hefeweizen. It also used to be under the old BJCP guidelines as a Dunkelweizen.
The aroma is fruity with notes of peach and apricot. This aroma goes hand in hand with a light sweetness and some toffee/caramel flavors on the palate. It finishes nicely without any bitterness or lingering sweetness.
Kapuziner Weissbier Schwarz
This beer pours with a beautiful thick and creamy head. The aroma contains some clove, raisin, and a light citrus note. Up front, there is some sweet toffee followed by bready malt and clove flavors. It ends on the dry side with a little touch of roast character. The roast character could be the power of suggestion from the color of the beer, which is dark brown.
Edelweiss Dunkel Weissbier
Try not to burst into song when drinking this one. Drink one and “you’ll look happy to me”! Ok, enough of the “The Sound of Music” jokes.
The color is deep mahogany with a hint of red. It smells like vanilla and bananas with some clove spiciness. The taste is banana bread-like with some light clove and raisin coming through. Top it all off with the hops just shining through the malt character and a clean finish. You’ll barely notice your glass is almost empty.
Erdinger Weissbier Dunkel
The color is opaque and dark brown. In the aroma, you’ll find a bit of clove and a doughy expression. The flavor is nutty and has a distinct fresh bread quality. It’s also very full bodied and has a nice touch of caramel. It finishes nice and clean. Superbly drinkable!
Depending on your location, it may be hard to find many of the beers listed above. Try your local bottle shop or big box liquor store. If they don’t have what you’re looking for, take the time to ask them to order some in. As a last resort…trade or beg a bottle off somewhat on facebook.
If you like subdued esters (those lovely fruity notes) then age your Dunkelweizen. Personally, I think I should be arrested for even mentioning aging this style of beer. The simple fact is, all the fresh yeast derived aromas and flavors will age out.
It borders on criminal activity to keep a Dunkelweizen at above refrigeration temps and for more than a few months. So drink it fresh…damn it!
How Much Banana and Clove Aroma and Flavor?
There are some that remain in the banana bomb camp. By which I mean, it’s probably gonna taste like you’re eating a banana when you take a sip. That’s fine if you like that and feel free to brew yours that way.
The fact remains that you can’t find an example that is true to the style that has excessive amounts of fruity esters. And it’s mostly the American brewers (l am one) that are forcing ester production up by fermenting too warm.
Banana and clove should be present but not dominate. If the beer was brewed with a Hefeweizen strain, you’ll be able to smell and taste it.