Before we get into what a Dunkelweizen beer is, we're going to have a quick German lesson. When breaking down the word, "Dunkel" means dark, and "weizen" means wheat, therefore a Dunkelweizen is a dark and wheaty southern Germany beer.
A Dunkelweizen can be considered a cross between a German style Dunkel, and a Hefeweizen. However, this dark wheat ale it is not to be confused with a Dunkel lager. Compared to Hefeweizen, historically, the Dunkelweizen was more popular. This was true until the end of the 19th century when technological advancements made the lighter Hefeweizen easier to brew.
With a name that translates to dark and a color range of amber brown to dark brown, some feel intimidated by the brew and the expected flavor. In reality, sweet maltiness, chocolatey flavor, and notes of vanilla, banana, clove, and nutmeg characterize a German Dunkelweizen.
Dunkelweizen recipes usually consist of German noble hops, weizen ale yeast, and of course at least 50 percent malted wheat. The Dunkelweizen yeast that is used, weizen ale, is what provides the fruity and spicy flavors such as banana, clove, and vanilla esters in the brew. The grain used is roasted and caramelized to give the creamy, full-bodied beer its dark appearance and smooth flavor.
Fermentation is an important part of the Dunkelweizen process in order to get the best beer possible. The Dunkelweizen fermentation temperature is cooler than average at around 70 degrees Fahrenheit for the first round, which lasts about 7 days. During the second fermentation round, the brew is kept at around 32 degrees Fahrenheit to crash the beer, allowing any unwanted proteins, hop particles, and grain particles to fall out and make a better beer.
American craft brewers have tried their hand at this German style, creating their own Americanized Dunkelweizens. An American Dunkelweizen is more likely to be found under the name American Dark Wheat Ale, which similarly features caramel and toasted malt flavors, but lacks the flavors and aromas of banana esters and clove like phenols.
The best Dunkelweizen glass is a spiegelau wheat glass or vase style glass, which are tall and rounded with plenty of room for the head. The ABV of most Dunkelweizen's is in the 4-7% range. As far as food is concerned, Dunkelweizen is a great match with traditional pork dishes such as roasted pork and pork sausages, as well as roasted chicken.
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