Ask a Cicerone: The Best Wheat Beers
When you think of wheat beers, the mild witbier (with an orange or lemon-wedge garnish) that you cut your beer-drinkin' teeth on is just the beginning. There's a vast world of beer styles that include wheat, and it can be a little overwhelming to face them all in a store.
Consider this your wheat-beer bucket list: Cicerone-approved picks for the best wheat beers you can find.
"I love the flavor that wheat imparts to a beer—that bready, spritzy, sometimes slightly tangy flavor is lovely. For a traditional German hefeweizen, you can't go wrong with the Weihenstephaner Hefeweissbier. It's got the traditional clovey, banana aroma and flavor without being overpowering. It's the perfect beer for a hot summer day. I also love the American style wheat beers, the new Harpoon Long Thaw White IPA is a great example—it has a great citrusy hop flavor and aroma with a wheaty base. Extremely drinkable."—Lindsay Bohanske (Love Beer, Love Food)
"From the banana and clove of a full-bodied Bavarian Weissbier, to the dark bread flavors of a Weizenbock, to the gentle floral aroma of a Witbier, to the subtle tartness and extremely sessionable Berliner Weisse; wheat beers have a something to offer for just about every kind of beer drinker. A Berliner Weisse is perfect for the summertime and Bell's Oarsman is my go-to yardwork beer because it's refreshingly tart and only 4% ABV."—Tyler Morton (Taste of Tops)
"I'd say the best among imported Hefeweizens that you will encounter with any regularity in US are from Hopfweisserbrau in Miesbach, GER, I am especially fond of Hopf's Spezial Wiesse. The best wheat beer brewed in the US is Heavenly Hefe from Craftsman Brewing in Pasadena, but that is tough to find outside of California. As far as a national brand, I got nothing but love for good ol' Allagash White. Bavarian Weizen and Belgian Wit are actually two cases where the cliche/established pairings are often really fantastic. A Belgian Wit alongside a pot of steamed mussels really does play nicely, as does a Weissbier alongside a Weisswurst style breakfast sausage. For more inventive matches try Hefe with zabaglione and Wit with a spicier guacamole."—Sayre Piotrkowski (Hog's Apothecary)
"As far as domestic examples go, I really like Sierra Nevada's Kellerweisse and Three Floyd's Gumballhead. Salads, grilled fish, vegetable dishes, and shellfish are all good choices for pairing with wheat beer."—Ryan Spencer (Bailey's Taproom)
"Allagash White is an example that's tough to beat—especially when fresh; it's a great companion to lighter fare like salads and simply-prepared fish. There are also some tremendous hoppy wheat ales that showcase modern aroma hops, and a new example that's become a personal favorite is Fortunate Islands from San Diego's Modern Times Brewery. It's a sessionable brew featuring a light body and a clean finish that lets the Amarillo and Citra hop shine; the beer is vibrant yellow and bursting with tropical fruit aromas."—John Verive (Beer of Tomorrow, Beer Paper LA)
"The one wheat beer that will always hold a special place in my heart is Denison's Weissbier from Denison's in Toronto. It's everything you'd want a German wheat beer to be—creamy mouth feel from the wheat, but light and spritzy at the same time with citrusy, spicy clove, and banana aromas. The Brewer, Michael Hancock, apprenticed in Germany and brews German styles to a tee. I'm also a big fan of Three Floyds Gumballhead, on a hot day outside, there aren't many beers that I'd rather drink."—Jesse Vallins (The Saint Tavern)
"Now that the weather is starting to get nice, bring on the wheat beers! My personal favorite is a berlinerweisse—a little sour with the bite from the wheat and very low in alcohol, so perfect for hanging outside and having a few. My favorite is the Bahnhof Berlinerweisse with Brettanomyces wild yeast to give a little extra funk and build flavor, which is tough to do with a 3 or 4% ABV beer. Pair with a freshly pan-seared fish, like red snapper or trout."—Judy Neff (Pints & Plates)
"German Weizenbock is a gorgeous wheat beer style with far more body, depth of flavor, and rich maltiness than a more common pale hefeweizen. Weizenbocks are German wheat beers brewed to bock strength, meaning they'll have an ABV of at least 6.5% and often much higher. They typically feature lots of dark fruit esters (prune, raisins) and clove-like flavors thanks to the German ale yeast, a full creamy body from all the malt, and a bit of throat-warming alcohol. My favorite example is the widely available Weihenstephaner Vitus. I love to pair this with rich beef stews because it stands up to the flavor intensity while the high levels of alcohol, carbonation, and the dryness in the beer serves to cleanse the palate of the rich beef."—Chris Cohen (San Francisco Homebrewers Guild)
"Wolf Creek Brewery in Valencia, California has my favorite wheat beer to date. Wolf Creek Howlin' Hefeweizen is a traditional Bavarian-style wheat with bold aromas of fresh banana, spicy clove, and juicy apricots, and flavors to match. Beautifully unfiltered, this brilliant hazy orange brew clocks in at 6.0% ABV and is perfect to enjoy from a tall glass on a sunny porch in the middle of summer, paired with a citrus glazed slab of salmon and fresh arugula salad topped with strawberries and tangy goat cheese."—Becki Kregoski (Bites 'n Brews)
"My favorite style of wheat beer has to be the Belgian Wit or Blanche. When brewed properly, these beers are dry, crisp, flavorful, and balanced with a nice hit of spicing to add interest. While most tend to reserve wheat beers for the warmer months, it's a style that I love to drink year round. My 3 favorite would have to be Blanche de Bruxelles, Blanche de Namur, and Allagash White. The Blanche de Bruxelles is classic in its styling, with a mix of coriander and orange peel. It has a nice balance between sweet and dry that's finished off with velvety carbonation. The Blanche de Namur has a more dominant coriander presence that's balanced out with a bit of brewer's licorice. For those who prefer American brewed beers, the Allagash White may be the best and most authentic Belgian wit available in the US."—Christopher Barnes (I Think About Beer and Columbia Distributing)
"One of my favorite wheat beers on the market is Ayinger Ur-weisse. Ur-weisse is a traditional style of German wheat beer that uses some darker grains which give the beer a toastier, more bread-like flavor in addition to the banana and clove flavors from the yeast. I have found some pancake recipes that use Ur-weisse in them to give a little banana flavor without adding actual bananas to the batter. The best part of the recipe is that the left over beer is perfect drinking alongside breakfast. The toastiness of the grain pair well with the pancakes, the softness of the wheat and the delicate nature of eggs can match each other while the medium body and slight sweet flavors of the beer are great with sausage."—Bill Carl (Southern Wine & Spirits of Hawaii)
"On the traditional side, I love Weihenstephaner Hefeweissbier, which is a real-deal German brewed weizen featuring loads of banana and clove aroma and flavor. These flavors are expressions of the Bavarian ale yeast strains which differentiate German wheat beers from their American counterparts. In their country of origin, Hefeweizens are commonly paired with breakfast sausages called weisswurst. On the cutting edge is New Belgium's Snapshot, an American wheat beer that I really enjoy. It's brewed with light spices but also a portion of lactobacillus spiked beer blended in. The same bacteria that makes yogurt tastes sour gives Snapshot a subdued but noticeably tart finish. It's a very interesting take on what can be a very uninteresting style."Chris Kline (Schnuck Markets)
"A Dunkelweisse is like a marriage between a Hefeweizen and dark, caramel, toasted malt-forward beer. You get the nice banana and clove from the Hefe and the caramel on top, like a bananas Foster. I would pair dessert with this beer, no question. Try an Erdinger Dunkelweizen with a rich pecan pie. The complementary nutty, caramel and biscuit flavors are perfect together. Or, how about a Hacker Pschorr Dunkel Weisse with a creme brulee? That burnt sugar top mirrors the flavors of the nutty roasted malts that go into the beer. My mouth is watering just thinking about it."Hannah Davis (Molson Coors UK)