Franziskaner, with its distinctive picture of a Franciscan Friar on the label is one of Germany’s best known wheat beers, and indeed was the first wheat beer I tasted, back the late nineteen eighties.
Franziskaner claims to trace its roots back to 1363; that was when the brewer Seidel Vaterstetter is first mentioned as the owner of the ‘brewery next to the Franciscans’ in the Munich Residenzstrasse; the name ‘Franziskaner’ derives from the Franciscan monastery.
Then it gets complicated in a ‘Dynasty’ sort of way – but without the shoulder-pads:
The brewery in Residenzstrasse was bought in 1841 by Augustin Deiglmayr, a son-in-law of Gabriel Sedlmayr the Elder (the owner of the nearby Spaten brewery) as Franzikaner moved their operations to the Munich suburb of Lilienberg.
In due course Sedlmayr and Deiglmayr worked together and in 1861 Sedlmayr took control of the brewery. The brewery was floated in 1909 and in 1921 the Spaten and Franziskaner companies merged to form (with typical German thoroughness the ‘Gabriel und Joseph Sedlmayr Spaten-Franziskaner-Leistbräu Aktie Gesellschaft’.
Then in 1997 the brewery united with Löwenbräu AG to form the Spaten-Löwenbräu-Gruppe which was in turn sold to Interbrew in 2003.
See what I mean about Dynasty?
In 2004 Interbrew and the Companhia de Bebidas das Américas (AmBev) merged to form InBev and then, in 2006, the company’s Marsstrasse brewery was closed and converted into a museum.
These days Franziskaner is the global number 3 in terms of wheat beer sales.
This review was going to be a straight review of the popular Franziskaner brew, until my neighbour announced that he was going to Germany for a weekend and “would I like anything brought back?” – “well if you find a case of wheat-beer that would be great”.
To my amazement he left a crate of Franziskaner on my doorstep, and when I looked at the bottles, they weren’t just Franziskaner, brewed to 5% ABV, but the dunkel… darker and sweeter than the regular brew.
Bring it on!
This pours with a rich mocha coloured head, really rich… foaming, but very little lacing after it subsided. As expected, this is a lot more accessible that the more popular light weissbeers, the nose is really subtle, the orange peel and coriander notes are subdued, barely noticeable, but there are distinct hints of banana.
As for the taste, well it’s subtler than pale ‘hellas’ weissbeers, it’s dark and sweet, almost like a banana fudge, with maybe some hints of bubblegum. As such this could act as a gateway beer, it’s really drinkable, but has those underlying flavours that tell you this is a wheatbeer, not a run of the mill bitter or mild. There’s just an edge, but a very pleasant one.
When I reviewed Blue Moon Wheat Beer last spring one of the comments suggested serving Blue Moon 50/50 with Guinness to get a ‘Black & Blue’ – well I took a bottle of Blue Moon down to my local and added it to a draught Guinness. When the head finally subsided (and I’d cleaned the froth off the bar top) the resulting beer was very similar to this; well a pimped and chromed version, but the banana fudge flavours were there.
I then dusted off a couple of bottles of the Franziskaner Hefe-Weiss
Again a full bodied head from a full pour maybe slighlty less head, but more lacing. A full Banana, Oramge Peel and Coriander nose. Again not as ‘in your face’ as Blue Moon or Hoegaarden, but still a classic German wheat beer.
All in all I think I have to score these both 3 stars.
In the past I would have rated Franziskaner higher, but more recent weissbeers – such as the excellent offering from Grolsch and the absolute classic from Weihenstephaner has (in my opion at least) pushed Franziskaner down a notch.
And, for the record, I can’t find my Franziskaner glass, so the glass used in the Dunkel review hails from the Cotswold Brewing Company, about whom more soon, while the Hefe-Weizen enjoys my prized Falkensteiner glass, almost a work of art.