The purpose of drinking is to assuage thirst. At least that's what some people tell me. As the summer season starts to heat up, you'll probably find yourself reaching more frequently for the proverbial "cold one." Cabernet rules, sure, but it's not exactly what I'd call a poolside quaff. Beer is more like it, especially Weisse beer. Weisse is a dangerously thirst-quenching brew, pronounced, appropriately enough, "vice." It's made with a high percentage of wheat (Weizen in German). Once considered an obscure holdover from Bavaria, consumed mainly by Alpine yodelers in leather shorts, Weisse has now become a booming business, thanks to the continued interest in craft brews.
In Bavaria, Weissbier has commanded a 30 percent share of the market. In the States, Weisse is mainly known as wheat beer, although some brewers use German designations. I particularly like Hefeweizen, a wheat beer with a fluffy head and a cloudy appearance due to unfiltered particles of yeast (hefe) left in the finished product. Belgium's version, called wit, is the most recent wheat beer to seduce American taste buds, and is undergoing a craze of its own, fueled by the nonstop trend for Belgian brasserie foods.
Wheat-based brews are summery and refreshing, with tropical fruity flavors. Serve them - in a glass, please - with a slice of lemon for a little extra pucker. Here are three of my favorites, Weisse-guy that I am.
MICHELOB HEFEWEIZEN ($7 per six-pack)
When the American craft-brew movement really took off in the 1980s, the large corporate breweries were left holding their pull-tabs, wondering where a significant chunk of their market had disappeared to. It took a while, but they finally wised up - or should I say Weisse-ed up? Craft-brews have become such a hot commodity that the big guys are now in the game, too. Even if you live in a town without a corner brewpub, you can get interesting beers at your local supermarket.