What is Wheat Beer? (And How is it Made?)
Have you ever wondered what wheat beer is and what exactly all the fuss is over it, but maybe you were too scared to ask something that seems so obvious? There is a lot to know about this beer and all of its variations.
A wheat beer differs from other beers in that it’s made with mostly wheat. It’s very old and has many variations most of which are German or Belgian. The beer is brewed using a combination of wheat and barley with other flavors if desired. It’s considered a light beer and perfect for summer parties.
When you think of going to a pool or lake party, what do you think of drinking? What do you crave most at a summer dance when it’s hot? For many people, a good wheat beer like Blue Moon or Shock Top is the best option for their summer drinking.
Where Did Wheat Beer Originate?
Brewing wheat beer was allegedly first done by the family Degenberger who ruled in Bavaria in 800 B.C. where Germany now is. The license to brew wheat beer was eventually passed to a duke who built a brewery in Munich which was the first to brew wheat beer.
The beer fell out of popularity in the 1880s because many breweries had to shut down, but the wheat beer was revived again when Georg Schneider opened a new brewery again in Munich.
You can’t go wrong with a cold wheat beer on a hot day in the spring or summer. A wheat beer is a great light beer for the summer season.
It’s called wheat beer because it’s got at least 50% wheat to other grains. Normally beers are made of barley, rye, corn, or even rice, but not wheat beer.
What Brands Are Most Popular?
There are really two brands of wheat beer that take the cake as the most popular brands in the US. The two typical brands of wheat beer that you’ll see in the U.S. are Blue Moon from Molson Coors and Shock Top from Anheuser-Busch InBev.
The Blue Moon beer is lighter than a typical Belgian beer, but it is Belgian-styled, and usually served with an orange slice. Shock top, on the other hand, has a bit more of a citrus kick but is also lighter than a Belgian beer.
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Wheat beers are considered ale and not lagers. They use ale yeast in the fermenting process which gives the beer a hazy look because the yeast ferments on the top rather than on the bottom, which clouds up the color.
They also have more calories than other light beers like the American light macro lager, but they stack up nearly the same with 170 calories a bottle which is comparable to other beers that are full-strength. A good rule of thumb is that the more alcohol content, the higher the calories.
What is Wheat Beer Like?
The aroma of a wheat beer is sort of varied from place to place. A good Bavarian beer will have a clove or banana flavor with hops for bitterness. Add malt to that and the smell is, well, like malt. American wheat beers use more citrus, vanilla, or perhaps bubblegum flavors to them, which can show up in the smell.
The taste of wheat beer is a dry one, but somewhat less bitter due to the lack of hops, or at least the fact that there is less hopping in wheat beer. Overall it is even and easy to drink.
After a taste, the mouth feel is important to testers as it tells them how it is or what sensations it produces when it hits the mouth. For this beer, it’s medium feel which goes into a creamy sensation as the wheat flavor kicks in.
The beer is hazy in appearance because of the top fermentation. It has a pale yellow color to it because of the high amount of wheat proteins floating around in it. The cloudy look is set off by a swath of foam at the top when just poured which contrasts its color nicely.
Different Variations of Wheat Beer
Wheat beer is typically brewed with 40% wheat to 60% barley, the combination of wheat and barley ranging from 30% to 70% proportions. The wheat gives the beer less flavor and makes it hazy. But there are loads of styles that you can make with wheat beer:
The German Hefeweizens have a clove flavor in them because of the specific yeasts that are used in the brewing process which can make the flavor change dramatically from vanilla to bubble gum depending on the temperature at fermentation and the use of some hops in the process. Pale malt, used in the lighter versions of wheat beer is used in wheat malts.
Weizenbock and Dunkelweizen
The darker malts are styles like Weizenbock and Dunkelweizen. Dunkelweizens use different kinds of malts that give them their dark color and Weizenbock are nearly the same with just a higher alcohol content.
Belgian Witbiers on the other end of the spectrum are considered white beers because they are often brewed with white wheat which gives them a lighter color than the other beers.
The yeast used in this beer gives it a crisp flavor when it ferments. The crispness of tartness can be expanded upon with coriander and orange peel and/or hops and other flavoring at the end.
American Wheat Beers
American wheat beers are typically less flavorful because of the yeast used to brew them. That being said, they can include honey, and/or fruit in the brewing process, or they can be flavored at bottling time.
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How To Make Wheat Beer
Wheat beer is made in much the same way as many other beers. To make two gallons of beer you would steep the wheat, barley, and whatever other grain of choice in 2 gallons of hot water for 20 minutes.
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Stir any malt extracts into the mix after removing your steeped grains, then bring the whole thing to a boil. Then add hops to the mixture, and boil it all for 1 hour. Once you’ve boiled the liquid for an hour you can add flavor, cool it down, and add yeast.