Pros:Very big, very yeasty, but doesn't tire the palate.
Cons:Prone to Band-Aid and hospital-like off flavors.
The Bottom Line: A great brew when it's good and a good one when it's gone bad, Aventinus is the sipping beer for hefeweizen lovers.
With Coors's Blue Moon on tap approximately everywhere and more than a few German weissbiers/weizenbiers and Belgian witbiers plus many more American beers inspired by these styles widely available, wheat beer is now a mainstream thing. This makes a lot of sense: like light lager they're somewhat tart and suitable for cold drinking in the summer.
Less often imitated or imported--not that more than a handful are brewed in Germany, anyway--are weizenbocks: chestnut-brown wheat beers brewed to doppelbock strength, with as much fruit and spice flavor as a Belgian dubbel but a character all their own thank to their German weizenbier origins. Aventinus, reviewed here, was the first of the style, Schneider Weisse brewer Schneider and Sons's 1907 reponse to the growing popularity of doppelbocks.
A good bottle of Aventinus starts off with a rocky, caramel-colored head and aromas of clove, followed by banana esters (not unlike a hefeweizen) and breadlike wheat aromas. The flavors of a sip are dominated by banana and prune or sour cherry, with a toffeelike background and the tangy acidity typical of wheat beers. The finish is long, with sour cherry flavor lingering and the clove spice returning. On the light side of full-bodied, and with a silky mouthfeel, it's surprisingly dry for a beer of its kind. It isn't sticky at all--I wouldn't say that there are any more residual sugars than a regular dunkel weizen--but there is a bit of sweetness from the alcohol (at 8% ABV, Aventinus is strong). Accordingly, the finish is on the warm side, but unlike many beers this big Aventinus doesn't fatigue the senses. The last sip is as enjoyable as the first.
Aventinus must be peculiarly delicate even for a bottle-conditioned ale. I've had bottles, the worst of which was kept too long in the fridge following a move, in which the phenols are grossly out of round. Instead of a whiff of cloves and pepper, there is an intense odor of Band-Aids and hospital disinfectant. That's a fairly common flaw in homebrewed hefeweizens, but one isn't used to seeing it in commercial beer. The off flavors will eventually dissipate as the glass sits out and the bottle is left open, but only slowly, and when it happens the beer is never quite as good as it should be. Buy Aventinus from reliable suppliers and either cellar it properly or drink it soon after purchase. Fortunately, for a beer of its strength and quality, it's cheap at $3-$4 for a 500 ml bottle at the time of writing, so a bad bottle isn't much of a loss.
It's tempting to pair Aventinus with carrot or chocolate cake, but it isn't sweet enough. That does have an advantage: Aventinus doesn't need to be reserved for dessert. Serve it with a cheese plate, or pair it with chili, bean soups, duck, or roasted meat.
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