straw to Gold / 3 – 6 SRM
Moderate / 15 – 30 IBU
Sweetness low to medium
Balanced between hops and malt
If you take a bird’s eye view of the origins of American craft beer, you’ll notice a trend in many of the styles coming off of canning lines today: American brewers took the traditional European styles they loved and remade them with local ingredients and cleaner yeast profiles. You can read more about what’s likely the most iconic example of this trend in our post on American Pale Ale, but the American Wheat Beer was born out of similar circumstances.
German Weißbier, commonly called Hefeweizen, has distinctive flavors of banana and clove that come from two different compounds produced during fermentation (read more about those in our post on Hefeweizen here). Weißbier, like most traditional German styles, is brewed for maximum drinkability. Brewing always requires delicately balancing the flavors, mouthfeel, and drinkability of your beer, and those wonderful banana and clove aromatics are crucial for the German style’s drinkability. Without them, you’d either have to add more hops–not typically the German style–or get used to drinking wet bread in a cool glass.
American Wheats, on the other hand, feature traditional American hops from the Pacific Northwest for that same balance –think old school varieties like Centennial, Columbus, and Cascade–which give these beers their signature spicy and citrusy aroma. Whether the primary goal was greater hop aroma and bitterness or cleaner yeast for their brews, early creators of this style decided (we think rightly) that having citrusy hops, elevated bitterness, and banana and clove character from the yeast was just too much stuff in one drink. We’re not trying to haze you, after all, we’re trying to make drinkable beer (anyone else have to drink the dregs of jungle juice mixed with week-old Bud Light in the basement of their frat during initiations?…nobody?…yeah me either…).
Whatever inspired their creation, several brewers were thinking along the same lines in the 1980s and 90s. Three Floyds, Bell’s, Boulevard, and Goose Island all created a version of this style, and they’ve been wildly popular ever since. For many people, wheat beers are a gateway to the craft beer world, possibly because so many of the flavors are familiar–bread, citrus, and spice–and partially because many people find them so easy to drink. We couldn’t agree more, so you’ll probably find one of these on tap at our brewpub if you visit during the spring or summer months. It’s a perfect beer to kick back and enjoy the sunshine and long days with good company.
Aroma – Bready, wheaty malt sweetness. Citrusy and spicy hop aroma.
Appearance – Pale to Gold. Some are clear while others can be quite hazy.
Flavor – Light to moderate bitterness. Balanced finish with some lingering wheat and hop character.
Mouthfeel – Medium-light body. Some have off-dry finish. Fluffy, pillowy mouthfeel from wheat.
Vitals – 4.0 – 5.5% ABV, 15 – 30 IBU
Serve fresh in weißier glass at 38º
Refreshing wheat beers that can display more hop character and less yeast character than their German cousins. A clean fermentation character allows bready, doughy, or grainy wheat flavors to be complemented by hop flavor and bitterness rather than yeast qualities.
Low to moderate grainy, bready, or doughy wheat character. A light to moderate malty sweetness is acceptable. Esters can be moderate to none, although should reflect relatively neutral yeast strains; banana is inappropriate. Hop aroma may be low to moderate, and can have a citrusy, spicy, floral, or fruity character. No clove phenols.
Usually pale yellow to gold. Clarity may range from brilliant to hazy with yeast approximating the German weissbier style of beer. Big, long-lasting white head.
Light to moderately-strong bready, doughy, or grainy wheat flavor, which can linger into the finish. May have a moderate malty sweetness or finish quite dry. Low to moderate hop bitterness, which sometimes lasts into the finish. Balance is usually even, but may be slightly bitter. Low to moderate hop flavor (citrusy, spicy, floral, or fruity). Esters can be moderate to none, but should not include banana. No clove phenols. May have a slightly crisp finish.
Medium-light to medium body. Medium-high to high carbonation. Slight creaminess is optional; wheat beers sometimes have a soft, ‘fluffy’ impression.
Different variations exist, from an easy-drinking fairly sweet beer to a dry, aggressively-hopped beer with a strong wheat flavor. American rye beers should be entered in the Alternative Fermentables specialty category.
An American craft beer adaptation of the German weissbier style using a cleaner yeast and more hops, first widely popularized by Widmer in the mid-1980s.
Clean American ale or lager yeast (German weissbier yeast is inappropriate). Large proportion of wheat malt (often 30–50%, which is lower than is typical in German weissbiers). American, German, or New World hops are typical.
More hop character and less yeast character than German weissbier. Never with the banana and clove character of German weissbier. Generally can have the same range and balance as Blonde Ales, but with a wheat character as the primary malt flavor.
Original Gravity (°Plato) 1.036-1.056 (9-13.8 °Plato)
Apparent Extract/Final Gravity (°Plato) 1.004-1.016 (1-4.1 °Plato)
Alcohol by Weight (Volume) 2.8%-4.4% (3.5%-5.6%)
Bitterness (IBU) 10-35
Color SRM (EBC) 2-10 (4-20 EBC)
Typically the grist includes 30-50% wheat. A single infusion mash is traditional, and hops are often added in a few stages to achieve both desired bitterness and citrusy aroma profile. Fermented around 68º for a clean yeast profile.
This is one of the most pairable beers for food. Try it with almost anything and it’ll likely work. Here are a few possibilities. AT THE BREWPUB: Smoked Peanuts
TAKEOUT: Chicken Tikka Masala or Indian Butter Chicken
CASUAL DATE: Sushi
FROM BF DISTILLING CO: Wheated Bourbon
Put .25 of a habanero pepper in the bottom of an old fashioned glass and top with mango puree. Muddle together for 5-10 seconds, then use a spoon to remove the habanero pepper. Top with wheat beer, then garnish with sliced mango and habanero (if desired).
We brew our traditional wheat using lots of wheat malt and just a pinch of aromatic malt for additional grainy richness. After a single infusion mash that’s meant to give this medium body, we use Centennial and Equanot hops for bittering and aroma additions, then ferment with Chico yeast for a smooth, clean finish. During the warmest part of the year, we also brew a session-strength version of this beer with medium body and similar taste profile that sits around 3.6% ABV.
Bready, wheaty, and richly malty with a nice balancing bitterness. Orange peel, light lemon, and light crushed pineapple from the hop additions lead to a clean, malty finish that tastes like a summer evening.