Origin: Freising, Bayern, Germany
My 2012 top tastings feature not just the brewery that claims to be Britain’s oldest (Shepherd Neame), but the one that claims to be the world’s oldest too. Weihenstephan, or ‘Holy Stephen’, began brewing as a Benedictine monastery in Freising in Upper Bavaria, now part of the metropolitan area of München. The brewery’s quoted of founding date of 1040 is that of the first known brewing license, though the monks may have been making beer before that.
In 1803 the monastery was secularised by Napoleon but brewing continued on the site under the auspices of the State of Bavaria. Since 1923, it’s operated simultaneously as a working commercial brewery and one of the world’s leading brewing schools, run in partnership with the Technische Universität München.
Though it also brews lagers, Weihenstephan is arguably most famous for its wheat beers, and Vitus, added to the range as recently as 2007, is its big, beefy Weizenbock. Named after a 4th century martyred saint, it tastes appropriately like a decent everyday Bavarian wheat beer racked up several notches in strength and impact.
The beer is a delicate yellow with a massive white head and a complex aroma with plenty of tempting cereal, clove, bubblegum and light creamy hops. The palate is reminiscent of a clove spiced apple crumble dished up with custard, with candyfloss notes, a beautifully rich and fluffy mouthfeel and notable hop bitterness for the style. Similar flavours play on a mouth coating and long lasting finish, with complex fruit, chewy hops and more custard and vanilla spice.
My bottle came from a selection of spares left after judging 2012’s World Beer Awards – where the beer ultimately won World’s Best Wheat Beer, having scooped World’s Best Beer overall the previous year.