Wheat beer. Beer made with wheat. Sounds simple enough, right? Well, wheat beers can come in many shapes and sizes. The use of specific yeast strains, spices, fruit, and other grains allow for a diverse range of flavors under the wheat beer umbrella.
All wheat beers use significant portions of malted, unmalted, or flaked wheat in the mash. Wheat has a distinct bready flavor and it provides a rich body to beers. The best wheat beers are smooth, full bodied, and packed with flavor. Historic brewing regions in Germany and Belgium are famous for their wheat beers. Craft breweries around the world have long been inspired by these traditions.
Here are the 10 best wheat beers you can find right now.
Arguably the most famous wheat beer in the world, Weihenstephaner Weißbier lives up to its reputation. Precise, balanced, and infinitely drinkable, this iconic ale is the archetypal hefeweizen.
Ripe banana esters explode out of the glass. Balanced clove and sweet malts compliment the expressive yeast character. A hazy, rich body is topped off by an everlasting white, fluffy head. A perfectly brewed beer.
Weihenstephaner is the oldest operating brewery in the world. They’ve been continuously brewing beer for nearly 1000 years. Their hefe is a must-try for any beer lover. A beautifully crafted, amazingly consistent, and delicious beer for any season.
The best hefe outside of Germany. No surprise, really: Live Oak does traditional continental European beers exceptionally well. Their hefeweizen rivals Weihenstephaner for one of the best in the world. These Texans know how to coax that distinctive yeast and copious amounts of wheat to create a balanced and gorgeous beer.
Pouring a beautiful, hazy orange, a puffy head defies gravity as it pushes above the rim of the glass. Full bodied, but very refreshing, spritzy carbonation lets the complex layers of citrus, banana, and clove shine through.
The quintessential American Wheat Ale. Oberon pours a slightly hazy orange with a sticky white head. An almost comforting, bready wheat character adds to the body of this beer and provides smooth richness. Subtle spice and fruit notes from the hops round out Oberon’s high drinkability. Orangey, spicy, balanced, and refreshing.
Bell’s only brews Oberon during the spring and summer months so be sure to keep your eye out for it when it’s available. It’s the perfect warm weather beer and a legendary and influential American craft beer.
Allagash is one of the most respected breweries in America. Their range of Belgian-centric, well-crafted beers are expertly brewed and adored by fans all over the world. Allagash White is really the beer that launched the brewery in the mid-’90s. Inspired by the fabled witbiers of Belgium, Allagash White is a near-perfect ode to tradition.
Hazy yellow with a puffy white head, the assertive carbonation pushes streams of tiny bubbles up the edge of the glass. Aromas of pepper, clove, citrus, and lemon leap toward the nose. There’s a delicately soft mouthfeel from the use of oats, malted wheat, and raw wheat in the mash. This is balanced by the strong carbonation which keeps Allagash White refreshing and sessionable. Layered and complex flavors of orange peel, coriander seed, and spicy Belgian yeast dominate the flavor.
From another German heavyweight, Aventinus is an extraordinary weizenbock brewed by Schneider Weisse. It’s strong, sticky, and full bodied, sitting at an ABV of 8.2%. It’s meant to be consumed in moderation. A slow-sipper that is dangerously too easy to drink.
Notes of banana, raisin, and plum are front and center from the complex yeast and grain bill of wheat and dark, roasted malts. Spice character comes in the form of clove, pepper, and liquorice wrapped up in a smooth, long finish.
In the tiny village of Tourpes, Belgium, Brasserie Dupont brews an exceptional array of traditional Belgian ales. Blanche du Hainaut is their take on a bière blanche. Brewed since 1999, these days it’s 100% organic through the use of organic malted wheat, barley, and hops.
Blanche du Hainaut is fermented with an expressive top-fermenting yeast. Fruity yeast-derived esters are complimented by the additions of coriander seed and orange peel during the boil. Balanced, light, and soft, this beer has a subtle tart finish making it extremely refreshing.
There’s no question that Unibroue brews some of the finest examples of Belgian style ales brewed outside of Belgium. Since 2006, they’ve been owned by Sapporo, but Unibroue has never really let go of their Belgian roots.
One of their most famous beers, Blanche de Chambly, is a wonderful example of Belgian wheat beer. At 5% ABV, the use of wheat helps keep the hazy yellow body smooth and rich. Spicy and citrusy yeast character is complemented by subtle notes of coriander and clove.
A classic American wheat ale, Gumballhead combines bready wheat with a tropical hop assertiveness. It’s a moderate 5.6% ABV with a hazy yellow appearance.
Gumballhead is definitely a hoppy beer. But it has enough of a unique grainy backbone to differentiate itself from an ordinary American pale ale. The use of white wheat provides a soft mouthfeel and gives those zesty Amarillo hops a platform to shine. Very drinkable and unique.
Hitachino Nest brews their White Ale with a heavy hand of both flaked and torrefied wheat. Fermented with a fruity ale yeast, even more oomph comes from the additions of coriander seed, nutmeg, orange peel, and orange juice.
Juicy, hazy, and soft. No this isn’t an NEIPA. But the smooth body, massive drinkability, and distinct fruity esters aren’t far off. There’s a dry finish, light hoppiness, and delightful spice note that keeps you coming back, sip after sip.
A beautiful hefeweizen courtesy of the monks at Kloster Andechs. Andechser Weissbier Hell pours a hazy orange, with a sticky, dense bright white foam. Soft mouthfeel and smooth body are balanced by a lively carbonation that keeps this beer extremely thirst quenching.
Distinct clove and allspice notes mesh perfectly with creamy banana-forward esters. Andechser Weissbier is similar to the gold standard, Weihenstephaner, but slightly sweeter. A beautiful and versatile beer for a hot summer day, paired with al fresco dining, or pretty much any other occasion.
What Is A Wheat Beer?
Wheat beer is beer that is brewed with a significant percentage of wheat. Brewers use malted wheat, unmalted wheat, and flaked wheat to add distinctive bready notes. In addition to flavor, wheat has a high protein content which gives beer a richer body, more stable foam, and – often – a hazy appearance.
A lot of beer is brewed with wheat. In fact, wheat malt is one of the most common ingredients in brewing. That said, not all beers brewed with wheat are called “wheat beers”.
These are the most common types of wheat beers:
Probably the most famous style of wheat beer, Belgian witbier (in Flemish) or blanche (in French) is adored worldwide.
Witbier is usually spiced with coriander seed and orange peel, though not a hard rule. Distinctive yeast notes of citrus, spice, and pepper dominate both the aroma and flavor. They’re light beers, between 4% and 5.5% ABV and have a pale, hazy appearance.
In German, hefe means yeast and weizen means wheat. Another name for the same style is weissbier, meaning “white beer”. These traditional German beers are famous for their hazy appearance and massive flavor profile.
Hefeweizen is dominated by banana esters supported by clove-like phenolics. Full bodied, yet refreshing. Almost always unfiltered, they’re cloudy (or naturtrüb in German), glowing, and topped with a pillowy foam. Easy drinking at around 5% to 5.5% ABV and massively thirst quenching.
Bock is a strong german lager beer. Weizenbock is a bock made with 40% to 60% wheat and ale yeast.
Weizenbock is a stronger version (6.5% to 9.0% ABV) of a hefeweizen that’s also brewed with darker Munich malts. Expect subtle notes of caramel backed by that same hefe banana and clove-heavy yeast component.
Dunkelweizen is a dark hefeweizen but in the same ABV range of 5% to 5.5%. We’ve covered our favorites here.
Hailing from Berlin, these historic beers are light, refreshing, and lip-puckeringly tart. Brewed with wheat and barley malt, and fermented with a blend of yeast and lactobacillus, Berliner weisse has recently seen a bit of a resurgence. Check out our list of the best Berliner weisse.
Since the start of the craft beer boom, American brewers have had their own take on wheat beer. Between an American pale ale and a blonde ale, American wheat ale’s large percentage of wheat provides a smoother and softer body.
Generally hopped with American varieties like Cascade, Citra, or Amarillo, these beers can be tropical, dank, or citrusy. Yeast character is not front and center like the European wheat beers. Instead, clean fermenting American ale yeast is mostly used.
Wheat beers are usually designed to be rich in body but easy to drink. That’s because wheat is a high protein grain. Used in the mash, these proteins carry over to the final beer to boost mouthfeel and provide a perception of richness.
A good wheat beer will have a distinctive fresh bread character, soft mouthfeel, and a long-lasting, tight foam.
Some of the most popular wheat beers in the world include the macro-giants Blue Moon, Hoegaarden, and Shock Top. While these beers can be refreshing in the right setting, the world of wheat beers is way bigger!