This ale hails from the land of lagers, but it’s packed with surprising flavors you’ll never find elsewhere. Cloudy, tart, soft, full-bodied, fruity; a good hefeweizen has a lot going on. In Germany, hefeweizen is brewed with at least 50% wheat and the remainder contains Pilsner, Munich and/or Vienna malts. Using an authentic hefeweizen strain is a must, as they provide the clove (sometimes referred to as “phenolic”) and banana notes that hefeweizen is known for. Hefeweizen is traditionally served with the yeast mixed in. If you are serving from a bottle, swirl the last bit of liquid to rouse the yeast and then pour it into the glass. Most examples benefit from a high level of carbonation and are best fresh, without long aging times.
The Dunkelweizen is a close counterpart to the Hefeweizen, but brings in some darker grains to make a reddish brown color and lend some malt intensity. Darker Munich malts (or occasionally Vienna malt) lend the beer a rich, bready flavor that compliments that of the wheat. A Dunkelweizen comes off as richer and denser than a hefe, but is still quite refreshing.
A German wheat beer brewed to bock strength, with intense malt flavors. The same banana and clove yeast character, with occasional tartness or fruity characteristics, that can be found in a Hefeweizen, but with intensely rich maltiness from lots of Munich or Vienna malts. With the ABV approaching 9% in some examples, a slight alcohol flavor can be expected. With good aging the full-bodied flavor and creamy texture of the wheat combines with the dense maltiness to provide a wonderfully rich beer. An excellent winter-time sipper.
Witbier, Belgium's idiosyncratic wheat beer, is an inventive alternative to the German Hefeweizen. Both are cloudy and pale in color, with a similar percentage of wheat used, but a witbier focuses on tart fruitiness and spices. This is one of the few beer styles that is commonly brewed with spices, usually coriander and orange peel. These spices lend some pleasant sweet citrus and spice aromatics and flavor. Witbier often starts out sweet and full-bodied, but moves into a very dry finish, which brings out the tartness. Traditional Belgian wheat beer was brewed with unmalted wheat, which can be quite difficult to work with, and also oats. Witbier is a refreshing style of beer with wide appeal.
American Wheat Beer -
The American style of wheat beer is derived from the German tradition, but greatly tones down the influence of the yeast. The use of a fairly neutral yeast removes the usual clove and banana flavors and keeps the beer crisp, with a bit of malty sweetness and a dry finish. Unlike German or Belgian wheat beers, American brewers will often include some hop flavor and aroma in their wheat beers. This ranges from a subtle flavor from an American variety descended from German noble hops, like Liberty or Mt. Hood, to full blown IPA-style wheat beers, with citrusy American hops like Cascade and Amarillo.