Wheat Beer is a popular beer type known for its light body and refreshing taste. This beer style is loved by craft beer enthusiasts who appreciate fruity and unique flavors. Wheat beer’s straw-to-light amber color, coupled with its low to medium hop bitterness, adds to its appeal among beer lovers.
The taste of wheat beer is characterized by its fruity and aromatic flavors, which come from the high quantity of malted or unmalted wheat used in the brewing process, as opposed to malted barley.
Additionally, wheat beer is often served unfiltered, giving it a cloudy appearance and a smooth, creamy mouthfeel.
Wheat Beer Features
Wheat beer is beloved for its distinctive characteristics, which include:
- Strength (ABV): 2.8% – 5.6%
- Bitterness (IBU): 10-35
- Color: straw to light amber
- Taste: light, fruity, and aromatic
Food Pairing With Wheat Beer
Wheat beer’s light and fruity flavors make it an ideal beverage to pair with various dishes. Some excellent food pairings for wheat beer include:
Types of Wheat Beer
There are several styles of wheat beer, each with its unique flavor profile and characteristics. Some of the most popular types include:
This style is characterized by its hazy appearance and the use of spices like coriander and orange peel, which contribute to its refreshing and slightly citrusy flavor. It is brewed using unmalted wheat, which plays a large role in its flavor profile.
Hoegaarden is a well-known example of Belgian Witbier.
Also known as German Weißbier, Hefeweizen beer is an unfiltered wheat beer with a hazy appearance and a distinct yeast-driven profile, featuring banana and clove-like flavors.
Franziskaner and Weihenstephaner are famous examples of German Hefeweizens.
American Wheat Beer
This style is brewed with a significant portion of wheat malt and can be either filtered or unfiltered. American wheat beers have a clean, crisp flavor and are usually less fruity and spicy compared to their European counterparts.
Widmer Brothers Hefeweizen is a popular example of American Wheat Beer.
This sour wheat beer from Germany has a pale, hazy appearance and a tart, acidic character. It is often flavored with fruit syrups, such as raspberry or woodruff, to balance the beer’s sourness.
Wheat Beer History and Origins
Wheat beer has a rich history that dates back centuries. It is believed to have originated in medieval Europe, where it was brewed by German and Belgian monks.
The popularity of this German wheat beer eventually spread across the continent, with the style becoming a staple in regions like Bavaria and Flanders.
In the 1960s, wheat beer experienced a resurgence in popularity, thanks to the efforts of Belgian brewer Pierre Celis. He revived the traditional Belgian Witbier style, which had nearly disappeared due to the rise of pale lagers.
Today, wheat beer enjoys a dedicated following among beer enthusiasts worldwide.
The brewing process for wheat ale differs slightly from other beer types, mainly due to the use of a higher percentage of wheat malt. This grain imparts the beer’s unique flavor and mouthfeel. Typically, a wheat beer recipe contains 30-70% wheat malt, with the remaining percentage being barley malt.
During the brewing process, the wheat and barley malts are mixed with water and heated to extract sugars. This mixture, called the mash, is then lautered to separate the sweet liquid known as wort from the grain. The wort is boiled, and hops are added for bitterness and aroma.
After the boil, the wort is cooled, and ale yeast is added for fermentation. The yeast used in wheat beer, particularly for German Weizen and Belgian Witbier styles, contributes to the beer’s distinctive fruity and spicy flavors. Finally, the beer is conditioned and packaged, ready to be enjoyed by beer enthusiasts.
Popular Wheat Beers
Some of the best wheat beers from popular wheat beer brands include:
- Telluride Brewing Co.’s Whacked Out Wheat
- Bell’s Brewery Inc.’s Oberon
- Altitude Chophouse and Brewery’s Tumblewheat
- Blue Moon Belgian White Wheat
Storing and Serving Wheat Beer
Wheat beers are best stored at a temperature between 40-45°F (4-7°C), which helps maintain their optimal flavor profile. They generally have a shorter shelf life than other beer styles, lasting around 3-6 months, due to their delicate flavors and higher risk of spoilage.
Typically, when you serve wheat beer, it is recommended to use a specific type of glassware, such as a Weizen glass or an American pint glass. These glasses are known to enhance the beer’s aroma and appearance. Plus, these glasses are designed to showcase the beer’s color, head retention, and effervescence while releasing the unique fruity and spicy aromas.
Wheat Beer vs. Pilsner
Comparing wheat beer to a popular beer style like Pilsner can help highlight the unique characteristics of each beer type.
- Color: Wheat beers are typically straw to light amber, while Pilsners are usually pale gold to light amber.
- Flavor Profile: Wheat beers have a fruity and aromatic profile with a slight citrus flavor, whereas Pilsners are characterized by a crisp and clean taste with a subtle hop bitterness.
- Brewing Ingredients: Wheat beers use a higher percentage of malted wheat, while Pilsners primarily use barley malt.
- Malt Character: Wheat beers have a softer, creamier malt character, while Pilsners have a more pronounced, slightly bready malt character.
Wheat Beer vs. Pale Ale
Comparing wheat beer to another popular beer style like Pale Ale reveals the differences between these two types of beers.
- Color: Wheat beers range from straw to light amber, while Pale Ales typically have a golden to amber color.
- Flavor Profile: Wheat beers offer fruity and aromatic flavors, while Pale Ales have a more balanced profile with moderate hop bitterness and malt sweetness.
- Brewing Ingredients: Wheat beers use a higher percentage of wheat malt in their recipes, while Pale Ales rely on barley malt.
- Malt Character: Most wheat beers have a softer, creamier malt character, in contrast to the more robust malt backbone found in Pale Ales.
Wheat Beer Festivals and Events
Wheat beer enthusiasts can celebrate and enjoy their favorite brews at various festivals and events worldwide, such as:
- Great American Beer Festival (USA)
- Oregon Brewers Festival (USA)
- Great British Beer Festival (UK)
- Munich Oktoberfest (Germany)
- Belgian Beer Weekend (Belgium)
Wheat Beer FAQs
What Is The Difference Between Wheat Beer And Lager?
Wheat beer is brewed with a higher percentage of wheat malt, has a fruity and aromatic flavor, and is typically served unfiltered, while lager is brewed with barley malt, has a clean and crisp taste, and is usually clear.
What Types Of Food Pair Well With Wheat Beer?
Wheat beer pairs well with dishes like burritos, salads, and fruit desserts, thanks to its light and fruity flavor profile.
How Long Does Wheat Beer Last?
Wheat beer generally has a shorter shelf life compared to other beer styles, lasting around 3-6 months when stored properly.
What Is Considered A Wheat Beer?
A wheat beer is a type of beer that uses a significant amount of wheat malt in its brewing process, resulting in a light body, hazy appearance, and a fruity, refreshing taste.
Is Budweiser A Wheat Beer?
No, Budweiser is not a wheat beer. It is an American-style lager made primarily with barley malt, rice, and hops, which gives it a light, crisp flavor and a clear appearance.
What Is The Difference Between Wheat Beer And Regular Beer?
The main difference between wheat beer and regular beer lies in the ingredients used. Wheat beer contains a significant amount of wheat malt, while regular beer typically uses barley malt. This difference in ingredients results in a unique flavor profile, with wheat beers often having a light body, fruity taste, and hazy appearance compared to regular beers.