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Weiss is nice

Bracing brew is a sure sign of spring

By Mark Andel

When Chicago bars start rolling out weiss (wheat) beers, beer garden time can't be far away. Try one of these tall, bold beverages topped off with a tangy slice of citrus at one of these spots.

Konig Ludwig
From the Kaltenberg Brewery in Furstenfeldbruck, Germany--try saying that after downing a few of these--is "King" Ludwig, Germany's own "king of beers." This weiss features a crown of white foam and hazy gold color. It's available at Sheffield's, a serious beer-drinking establishment with one of the city's best selection of brews. It's so serious there's no food served, unless you count the free pretzels (a German meal in itself). What more do you need? Ludwig is an exalted beer in Europe, with traces of vanilla, cloves and a hint of caramel apple. $6 for a 22-ounce glass (draft).

Summit Hefeweisen
This Minnesota weiss is on tap at Witt's. It's a big, fresh, lemony brew, even before you squeeze the lemon garnish into your glass. This golden brew is heavy on the German malted wheat, giving it a banana-licorice scent. Bartender Lindsey Anderson recommends pairing it with the "Damnation" pizza--a hot combination of chicken and spicy wing sauce with cheddar cheese and jalapenos ($7). $4 for a 20-ounce glass (draft).

Franziskaner Weiss
In the 14th Century, the Franciscan friars of Franziskaner, Germany, were perfecting their brewing methods, and you can taste the results at Justin's, a casual place with enough satellite dishes to pick up any sporting event. The beer is made in strict adherence to brewing purity laws of the 16th Century, meaning that only malt, hops, yeast and water are used. The wheat malt content is strictly German, which adds licorice-anise flavors. Be festive and order an orange slice with it. For eats, try a chicken or steak wrap with chipotle and cheese ($7.25). $4.75 for a half-liter bottle.

La Fin Du Monde
The classic turn-of-the-century vibe at Charlie's Ale House is probably a good place to experience the "end of the world" -- the label translation of this weiss from the Unibroue brewery in Quebec, Canada. Out of this world is more like it, with its Trappist monk pedigree and triple-fermented, rich flavor. La Fin Du Monde is as complex as a fine wine, with fruit flavors and a dry, spicy finish. No lemon garnish, please. Designed as a "special occasion" beer, it boasts a rather high alcohol content of 9 percent. Bring it back down to earth with Charlie's chicken pot pie ($10.95). $5.50 for a 12-ounce bottle.

Top Heavy Hefe-Weizen
This excellent Piece offering has proven so popular that brewmaster Jonathon Cutler hasn't stopped brewing it since he dreamed it up two years ago. Cutler's recipe uses a generous helping of imported German wheat malt, imparting classic weiss flavor. Since the taste is already citrusy, you may not want to amp it up with a lemon wedge. The Top Heavy goes great with Piece's house salad, which comes with pears, candied pecans and chunks of Gorgonzola cheese ($5.75-$7.75). Add some chicken slices for an extra three bucks. $5 for a 22-ounce glass (draft).

Mark Andel is a metromix special contributor.

Originally published April 5, 2004