Wheat Beer: What Is It and Best Brands to Try

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Published: April 20, 2021 Modified: June 25, 2021
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Wheat beer is widely known as a refreshing summer beer. Its lively bright taste, frothy head, and low hop content are ideal for pairing with outdoor barbecues and fun picnic food like these Chicago-style hot dogs. But did you know that brewers each have different ways of spicing up this alcoholic beverage? Stick around to find out more about wheat beer’s various types, how to serve it, and top brands that you can try for yourself. 

What Is Wheat Beer?

Wheat beer label on pump

First, let’s start by answering the question: what is beer made of? Water, yeast, hops, and grains are the building blocks of beer. These ingredients combine to form the world’s most consumed alcoholic beverage. Additional flavorings may be added, but the main taste and appearance of this drink takes after the type of grain used by the brewer. 

Most kinds of beer that we know today use malted barley as the source of grain. But wheat beer uses barley grain with a higher concentration of wheat malt (30 to 50 percent to be exact). This style originated in Germany but has since made waves in the American market after the boom of craft beer production in World War II.

The overall taste of wheat beer is refreshing and easy to drink because it doesn’t contain a high amount of hops (these are flowers that give beer its bitter quality). It’s also an ale, so yeast is top-fermented. In terms of appearance, it is often light in color, unfiltered, and cloudy.

This type tends to produce a good amount of foamy bubbles on top, called head. In terms of alcohol content, wheat beer is in the low to medium range with an alcohol by volume (ABV) of only five percent. However, these characteristics vary depending on where it is produced. Find out more in the following section.

Interested in making your own beer? Check out this buying guide: 10 Best Home Brewing Kits of 2021.

Common Types of Wheat Beer

Group of people toasting with glasses of alcoholic beverage

There are numerous types of wheat beers in existence. Although they all contain a high percentage of wheat malt, each brewer emphasizes different notes with the help of special ingredients. As a result, different kinds of wheat beers have their own distinct flavor. Here are three of the most famous ones:

Hefeweizen Beer

Also known as weissbier, this is an old German beer that dates back to the 1520s. Hefeweizen is an unfiltered wheat beer, bottled and served along with the yeast sediments. No wonder its name is a combination of the German words hefe, which means yeast, and weizen, which translates to wheat!

Hefeweizens are brewed with a special strain of ale yeast that imparts a clove-like flavor to the drink. The yeast also produces flavor aroma compounds called esters, which give off notes of banana, bubble gum, and vanilla to enhance the drink’s depth of flavor. In traditional wheat beer fashion, this type contains very few hops. Overall, hefeweizens taste creamy and refreshingly bright for an old-timer.

Some popular versions of hefeweizen beer include clear (kristallweizen) and dark (dunkelweizen). They may have slight variations in terms of the taste, but the general feel of the beer is the same.

Witbier

This type is a well-known Belgian wheat beer. Witbier is Dutch for “white beer” or “white ale.” Like the German hefeweizen beer, this type is also unfiltered and lightly hopped. The fruity ale yeast strain used in this variant produces beer that is bright and crisp. Distinctly, coriander and orange peels are stirred into the wheat ale mixture before it finishes boiling or cooking to further emphasize the fruity notes of the drink.

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American Wheat Beer

Wheat ale tastes a bit different brewed from across the pond. Unlike the German types, this wheat beer recipe is made with a clean and neutral-tasting all-purpose yeast. It lacks the heat from the clove-tasting yeast strain and the notes of fruitiness from the banana esters and orange peel. Some breweries make honey wheat beer and incorporate other flavors to enhance the taste of the beer. This type tends to be crisp and “hoppier” than the rest.

All in all, American wheat beer is creamy and uncomplicated. The upside to this is that it’s more versatile and can be paired well with a wider range of flavors. In terms of appearance, this type can be clear or cloudy.

How to Serve Wheat Beer

Woman serving beer to two men

Consider two factors: how to pour the beer and the vessel you’ll be using. Always aim to preserve the drink’s carbonation. After all, just the right amount of bubbles and a foamy head adds so much to the beer-chugging experience. Not only do these pockets of air release the aroma of the beverage, but they also give a creamy feel to the beer. Follow these steps to get the most out of this drink:

Prepare the Wheat Beer Glass

The best wheat beer glass to choose is one that is long and fluted, with a narrow bottom and a broad top. To keep your beer cold for a longer period of time, chill the glass first in the freezer.

Another method you can do to lower the temperature of the glass is to pour cold water into it and swirl it around. When the glass feels cool enough, pour the water out.

Pour the Beer at a Certain Angle

Tilt the glass at a 45-degree angle. Then, slowly and gently pour the beer from the side. Leave about an inch of beer in the bottle.

Tip: The ideal temperature for serving wheat beer is around 40 to 50 degrees F.
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Swirl Remaining Beer in the Bottle

With one hand, hold the bottle by the neck and swirl it in a circular motion to vigorously swish the remaining beer around. Do this until the beer catches all the ale yeast sediments and turns foamy.

Quickly Pour Foamy Beer on Top

Lastly, pour the foamy beer quickly from the bottle to the glass. Serve the beer cold by itself or with food, and enjoy!

Top Wheat Beer Brands to Try

Beer being poured into a glass

Hoegaarden Brewery

Dubbed as the “original Belgian white,” Hoegaarden is one of the most famous wheat beer brands globally. As a traditional witbier, Hoegaarden White Ale boasts notes of coriander and orange, as well as hints of honey and fruity aromas. It is unfiltered with a cloudy appearance. This brand has one of the best wheat beer stories of all time: from almost disappearing from the face of the earth, only to be resurrected by a brewer named Pierre Celis in the 1960s.

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Blue Moon Brewing Company 

This is another famous witbier brand. Blue Moon Belgian wheat beer sticks true to the Belgian tradition by incorporating sweet Valencia orange peels and coriander into the drink. It has a hazy appearance from being unfiltered. This beer is best served cold with an orange slice to highlight its citrus flavor.

Boulevard Brewing Company

This brewery in Missouri is the bastion of craft wheat beers in the Midwest. They offer light American wheat beers with notes of citrus via draft, bottle, and two sizes of cans. Like Hoegaarden and Blue Moon, their version is also unfiltered and cloudy. Their beer is more bitter than the first two brands, but with a lower ABV of only four percent.

Note: Some people may have a wheat beer allergy. Before consuming this beverage, always check the label to see if you are sensitive to any of the ingredients used.

Best Food to Eat With Wheat Beer

Glass of alcoholic beverage with food on a table

Nothing beats a dining experience with tasty food and a tall glass of cold and crisp beer. Check out the recipes below for some of the best dishes to pair with wheat beer:

Hefeweizen: German Food and Banana Pudding

  • Reuben Sandwich This sandwich embodies European flavors with the combination of corned beef, dressing, cheese, and the German favorite sauerkraut (made of fermented cabbage). Not only will this taste great with hefeweizen beer, but it’s also a satisfyingly filling meal.
  • Banana Pudding – This is a traditional companion to this German wheat beer. It complements and emphasizes the notes of banana flavor produced by the esters in a hefeweizen.
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Witbier: Fries, Fruits, and Seafood

  • Fruit Salad Make a bowl of this fruit salad with fresh strawberries, mangoes, grapes, and kiwis to have alongside a glass of witbier. The flavor of this dish highlights this ale’s fruity notes.
  • Shrimp Scampi The bready and lightly spicy quality of witbier shines through when paired with seafood. Try this mouthwatering shrimp scampi made with perfectly seasoned shrimp cooked in a buttery white wine reduction.

American Wheat Beer: Fresh and Spicy Dishes

  • Chickpea Salad – Embrace the bright quality of this beer by having it with this refreshing salad made of chickpeas, tomatoes, cucumbers, bell pepper, and cheese tossed together with herbs, spices, and zesty lemon juice.
  • Fresh Avocado and Cottage Cheese Salad – This is another salad recipe you can recreate to bring out the freshness of wheat beer. This salad combines avocados, cheese, tomatoes, spinach, and lime for a meal with perfectly balanced flavors.
  • Spicy Fiesta Burger – American wheat beer goes great with spicy food. Recreate this burger with juicy meat patties topped with spicy salsa and avocado sandwiched in between toasted burger buns.

Certain dishes taste even better when beer is added to them. Check out our guide to Cooking With Beer: 10 Beer Recipes to Try.

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