6. Isarweizen (Heater Allen)
American-made wheat beers tend to be dry, hoppy and, far too often, bland. Compared to traditional German Hefeweizens, these New World cousins typically tone down the yeast’s tutti-frutti punch while amping up the bitterness with extra hops.
But Heater Allen didn’t build its first-rate reputation on Americanized versions of European brews—the McMinnville brewery instead gained renown for its authentically Bohemian lagers. It’s little surprise, then, that Heater Allen’s first ale started with a recipe imported directly from Germany. Lisa Allen, who brews with her father, Rick, had a college roommate who spent time working at a Munich brewpub, and back in 2008 she returned to Oregon with the formula for this Bavarian-style wheat beer. If you’ve only guzzled Widmer or Blue Moon, prepare yourself: This beer will thump your nostrils with the smell of clove and then strike your tongue with the taste of banana. It’s creamy and crisp, something like chewing a slice of Juicy Fruit gum—in the very best way.
“We’ve had several Germans come in and try it,” Allen says. “They’re like, ‘This tastes like a real German hefeweizen.’”
That authenticity comes from the Isarweizen’s German yeast strain and its 100-percent German malt bill. In accordance with German beer-purity laws, wheat makes up half of the beer’s grain bill. Allen says the brewery has tinkered somewhat with the formula since 2008, fermenting it at a slightly colder temperature to enhance the spicy notes and dampen down overwhelming fruitiness. But, she adds, her college roommate still always asks to have a couple cases set aside for her. This year, she can expect to pop those bottles in mid-May: At only 4.8 percent ABV, this cloudy quaff is designed for summer drinking.
“It’s the best beer to have on a warm day,” Allen says. “When I think of Isarweizen, I just want to be sitting out in the sun. It’s refreshing and goes down easy.” REBECCA JACOBSON.