Born in Germany, the hefeweizen is an unfiltered, well-carbonated ale with little bitterness. Brewed with malted wheat as well as malted barley, a traditional hefeweizen winds up yellow and cloudy with a good-size head and an aroma that can suggest bananas, cloves, and bubblegum.
The style must be difficult to perfect. For all the strides that have been made in craft brewing in the United States, Americans still have a hard time competing with the Germans when it comes to hefeweizens.
That doesn't mean made-in-the-USA hefeweizens are not good. Beers like Smuttynose Summer Weizen, Flying Dog In-Heat Wheat, Thirsty Dog Whippet Wheat, Magic Hat Circus Boy, and Harpoon's popular UFO series make for fine 90-degree thirst-quenchers. They're good gateway hefeweizens. But they're tame compared to the likes of Weihenstephaner and Schneider Weisse. (More about that coming in Saturday's 99 Bottles column in the Globe.)
In this country, the best hefeweizens I've come across are Sierra Nevada Kellerweis and Troegs Dreamweaver. Straw-colored with medium carbonation and big, plush heads, they're lighter and sweeter than their German cousins (and they're nearly indistinguishable from each other). They're excellent Americanizations of the style, and given their price -- $9 or $10 for a sixpack -- they're my go-to wheat beers in the summer.
What's your favorite hefeweizen? Post your thoughts in the comments section.