Many craft beer drinkers tend to have specific favourites, but one that everyone can agree on is wheat beer. This light, easy-drinking beer is perfect for a refreshing pick-me-up on a hot summer day. Wheats tend to be lower in alcohol content, so they make for a perfect beer on the patio in the sunshine. There are a few variations of wheat beers. Knowing the differences in style can help make for an easier decision when purchasing beer.
Why Call It a Wheat Beer?
Wheat beers are given the name for a specific and obvious reason—they are made of wheat! In addition to water, malt, and hops, most craft beer companies primarily use ingredients such as barley, rye, rice, or even corn. Wheat beers, however, mean that at least 50% of the ingredients used while brewing is wheat. Wheat beers are noticeably cloudier than many other ales and lagers.
The most classic wheats are broken down into three categories. Each category is known for certain flavour profiles that a drinker can expect:
- Hefeweizen: Literally German for “wheat beer”, a hefeweizen beer uses Bavarian yeast, which will have strong flavours of banana and clove, with a spicier finish. Hefeweizen ales are the most classic and common of the wheat beers.
- Witbier: This also translates from Dutch to “white ale” and is a popular, easy-drinking ale. Witbiers are known for their cloudy appearance and light fragrance. Belgian yeast is typically used, which will carry flavours of citrus or coriander. The result is a bright and light ale with light spice and fruity flavours.
- American Wheat: As the name implies, American yeast is used during this brewing process, which creates a clean and light taste. American wheats are sometimes not as cloudy as other wheat ales. These typically use notes of citrus and have a slight crisp taste and light hop profile. American wheats are seriously easy-drinking ales.
Beyond the most well-known wheats, there are a few worth mentioning that fit their own profile. Two types of wheat beer that are becoming quickly popular are Berliner Weise or Gose beers, which tend to be tart and lower in alcohol content. There are also “hazy IPAs” which tend to be higher in alcohol content due to hops, but still a very drinkable beer.
Wheat beers appeal to a wide range of drinkers, due to the many different flavour profiles and overall, ultimate drinkability.