Difference Between Hefeweizen and Witbier (With Table)

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For the most part, beer is brewed using barley malt because of how easy the process is. However, wheat beers have risen to popularity in recent times even though they are trickier to make. The protein and starches in wheat have the tendency to bind together. This makes it hard to draw out the sugars. Nevertheless, Hefeweizen and Witbier are crowd-pleasing styles of brews made from wheat. However, they have several differences between them.

Hefeweizen vs Witbier

The difference between Hefeweizen and Witbier is that Hefeweizen is a German beer that is brewed by the fermentation of a Bavarian yeast strain known as Torulaspora delbrueckii whereas Witbier originated in Belgium and can be fermented using a variety of yeast strains such as Belgian Witbier, Forbidden Fruit or Belgian Wheat.

Hefeweizen is a traditional unfiltered Bavarian style of beer that is also often called ‘Weizenbier’. A large amount of malted barley in the concoction (at least 50%) is replaced with malted wheat. The use of a specific kind of yeast strain develops an overtone of banana and clove in the drink when fermented.

Meanwhile, Witbier is another style of beer that is predominantly brewed in Belgium and the Netherlands. It contains between 30% to 60% of wheat. A strong hazy appearance makes this beer stand out among others. Nowadays, Witbier typically contains an interfusion of spices and citrus such as coriander, orange, or bitter orange.

Comparison Table Between Hefeweizen and Witbier

Parameters of ComparisonHefeweizenWitbier
OriginHefeweizen originated in the state of Bavaria, Germany.Witbier originated in Belgium but is also commonly brewed in the Netherlands.
Yeast StrainIt is fermented using a Bavarian yeast strain called Torulaspora delbrueckii.It can be fermented using a variety of strains including Belgian Witbier, Forbidden Fruit or Belgian Wheat.  
Wheat ContentThe wheat content in the beer is 50 per cent.The wheat content in the beer is between 30 to 60 per cent.
ColourThe colour can vary from pale straw to dark gold.The colour can vary from pale straw to light gold.
ClarityHefeweizen is relatively clear.Witbier is very hazy and cloudy.
FlavourIt has overtones of banana, cloves, and even vanilla or bubblegum.It has overtones of spices and citrus `such as coriander and orange.

What is Hefeweizen?

Hefeweizen is a German beer that was first created in South Bavaria. It is brewed using top-fermenting yeast and contains at least 50% of malted wheat. The colour of the drink can be anywhere between pale straw and dark gold. Unlike other wheat beers, Hefeweizen only has a slight degree of haziness in its appearance. Overtones of bananas and cloves are its signature feature.

In earlier times, Hefeweizen was typically fermented using only a large proportion of wheat malt or air-dried barley malt. Hence, its name, which literally translates to ‘yeast wheat’ and refers to traditional unfiltered beer. However, the beer is often filtered nowadays to remove the haziness created by the grain’s proteins. It is termed as ‘Kristallweizen’ which translates to ‘crystal white beer’.

The beer has gained massive popularity due to its subtle bitterness and high carbonation. These characteristics tend to cut through the sweet malty taste of the wheat. Moreover, the clove flavour gives it a slightly smoky taste which is nothing but bells and whistles.

Some renowned brands that produce this drink in Germany include Paulaner, Maisel, Franziskaner and Erdinger. These are among the most popular names across the world. Other well-known brands include Schneider Weisse, Augustiner, Andechser and Weihenstephaner.

What is Witbier?

Witbier is a Belgian beer that is characterized by its distinct hazy and cloudy appearance. Yeast and wheat proteins that are suspended during its production account for this. The beer contains between 30 to 60 per cent wheat and has a colour that can vary between pale straw and light brown.

In the 16th and 17th centuries, Witbier was immensely popular in Hoegaarden and Leuven. The drink was concocted using malted barley, unmalted barley and even a slight amount of oats. A popular method of production was to leave the grains on attics for them to dry and get their rich colour. These grains were then fermented using quality yeast strains. However, the beer did not have any spices in it.

This traditional style of production was reinstituted recently by Hoegaarden Brewery as well the Celis Brewery in the US. However, the beer is nowadays made with a variety of spices and citrus including coriander, orange, and bitter orange. This brings about a sour taste that works well with the bitterness.

Some renowned brands of Witbier include Ritual, 50 West, Badger State, Funkwerks, Telegraph, Avery, and New Belgium Fat Tire. The companies have a reputation across the world for being true to Belgian roots and brewing fine quality beer.

Main Differences Between Hefeweizen and Witbier

  1. Hefeweizen is a German beer whereas Witbier is a Belgian beer.
  2. Hefeweizen is fermented using a Bavarian yeast strain whereas Witbier can be fermented using various strains including Belgian Witbier, Forbidden Fruit or Belgian Wheat.
  3. Hefeweizen contains 50% wheat malt whereas Witbier contains 30-60% wheat malt.
  4. The colour of Hefeweizen can vary between pale straw to dark gold whereas that of Witbier can vary between pale straw to light gold.
  5. Hefeweizen is relatively clear in appearance whereas Witbier is very hazy and cloudy.
  6. Hefeweizen has overtones of banana, clove, and vanilla or bubblegum whereas Witbier has overtones of spices and citrus such as coriander and orange.

Conclusion

Hefeweizen and Witbier are wheat beers that are very popular across the world. What sets them apart is their appearance and taste. Hefeweizen has a dark colour and is relatively clear whereas Witbier has a dark colour and is very hazy. Moreover, Hefeweizen has a bitter-sweet taste unlike Witbier, which is sour due to the added citrus. 

Another distinguishing factor is that both the beers have different origins. Hefeweizen originated in the southern areas of Bavaria in Germany whereas Witbier originated in Belgium, even though it is produced in the Netherlands as well. Lastly, their wheat malt content differs with Hefeweizen at 50% and Witbier between 30 to 60%.

References

  1. https://books.google.com/books?hl=en&lr=&id=jc2QAwAAQBAJ&oi=fnd&pg=PP1&dq=difference+between+hefeweizen+and+witbier&ots=n4-FTqUK-h&sig=JK1mTaOi79dHw4ONoy0FCwivoag
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