There seems to be no better time to write this entry about the misunderstood style of beer that is wheat beer than while I am drinking Town Hall Brewery’s Apricot Wheat. The wheat beer has all too often been labeled a “chick beer” by some naïve few. Not only is the intent of this label to diminish the style but it is insulting to the many stout and craft beer drinkers of the female persuasion I know, who would likely threaten me with bodily harm should they ever hear me utter that phrase.
The wheat beer has garnered a reputation over the years as, “a weaker style”, “a sweet light beer”, “a beer for newbs”, “a beer for non-beer drinkers” and with the oft added slice of lemon (or orange) who can blame some for their misconception of this refreshingly complex and diverse style. In the event you have no interest in the history or the characteristics of this style, please skip two paragraphs and get to, “The point”.
History: The modern wheat style traces its roots back to the late Middle Ages in Bavaria, where by Royal privilege wheat was allowed to be used in weizen styles in violation of Reinheitsgebot (German Beer purity law: Water+Barley+Hops+Yeast=Beer). The majority of wheat beers use between 40-60% of wheat malt (remaining is usually barley malt) and have a hazy white/pale complexion (unless filtered) although any beer that contains wheat and yields wheat characteristics can be considered a wheat beer…hence the variety: Weis, Weiss, Weisse (all meaning white-eluding to the hazy appearance), Weizen (wheat), Hefeweizen (yeast-wheat), Dunkel(dark)weiss/weizen, Wit, White, (and that’s just the beginning). Additive spices are often used in the Belgian style Wits/Wheats such as coriander, orange peel and anise which separate them from their German brethren in the wheat family. Wheat beers commonly only use a touch of hops.
Character: With all the varieties within the wheat family, yielding such subtle (and not so subtle) flavors as: clove, banana, bubble-gum, vanilla, spice and fruity tones, what these beers lack in hop character they make up in complexity (wheat yeast strains often create vanilla and spicy notes). With a flexibility that lends itself to being spiked with different fruits or even hops these wheat’s create and offer even more of a variety of flavors to the beer drinker. What follows can be a fruit beer such that I am drinking now; a hopped up wheat with tangerine citrus character; or all the way to an India wheat ale with more of a hop kick.
The point?… Should be obvious! Wheats are not bound by definitive style and there is such a variety that any beer drinker – amateur, enthusiast or Cicerone – can discover one for themselves…but where to look locally?
-Canal Park Neoprenanzug Malfunction http://canalparkbrewery.com/
-Harriet Wodan Weizen http://www.harrietbrewing.com/
-Schell’s Hefeweizen http://www.schellsbrewery.com/
-Steel Toe Sommer Vice http://www.steeltoebrewing.com/
-The Herkimer Tooler’s Weiss http://www.theherkimer.com
-Boom Island Witness http://boomislandbrewing.com
-Borealis White Throated Wit http://borealisfermentery.com/
-Harriet Luv Jus http://www.harrietbrewing.com/
-Herkimer Gose Speziell Weizen http://www.theherkimer.com
-Canal Park 40 Acre http://canalparkbrewery.com/
-Harriet Nourrice http://www.harrietbrewing.com/
-Lift Bridge Farm Girl http://www.liftbridgebrewery.com/
-Lucid Silo http://www.lucidbrewing.com/
-Dangerous Man Belgian Table http://www.dangerousmanbrewing.com/
-Excelsior Big Island Blond http://excelsiorbrew.com/
-Finnegans Blonde Ale http://finnegans.org/
-Fulton Lonely Blonde http://fultonbeer.com
-Great Waters St. Jude American Wheat Ale http://www.greatwatersbc.com/
-Indeed Shenanigans Summer Ale http://www.indeedbrewing.com/
-Northbound Honey Wheat Ale http://www.northboundbrewpub.com/
-Summit Summer Ale http://www.summitbrewing.com/
In no way is this an exhaustive list of local fare, but it should give you a good start and help you to find your way back to the summer we’ve missed in July.
Tweet me @TallPour, on your journeys in wheat and the person who tweets/facebook documents (on my personal page) the most Minnesota wheats consumed by the end of August will receive a growler of their choice on me, TallPour.
Here’s to bringing you the summer brews from a higher altitude.