Many beers contain small amounts of malted or unmalted wheat. However, those with large quantities of wheat and brewed with traditional wheat yeast are often tart and good thirst-quenchers. The term wheat beer is slightly misleading, as this style is not made with only wheat, but rather with malted barley and a high proportion of malted wheat. A typical wheat beer will contain no more than 50 per cent malted wheat. Wheat imparts flavors of plum and apple and the yeast often gives a spiciness.
This is the most refreshing style of wheat beer. It has a low alcohol content, light body and high carbonation, and is very tart. Cold maturation produces a flowery, delicate fruitiness. They are pale and hop bitterness is not obvious. Lactic cultures (Lactobacillus, such as in yoghurt) are used as well as yeast to produce lactic acid, which makes Berliner weisse very tart. Its acidity also means it will not hold a head. Berliner weisse is sometimes served with a dash of fruit or herbal syrup to counter the acidity. It is made with about 25 per cent wheat.
OG: 1.030 to 1.035. IBUs: 4 to 10. ABV: 3% to 3.5%
South German weizenbier
A good summer beer, light and sparkling, spicy and with the acidity of apples or plums. Colour can vary from pale to dark and some are clear while others are cloudy. The yeast imparts clove-like flavors and hop bitterness is low. Traditionally weizenbier was bottle-conditioned (hefeweizen), giving it yeast residue which would make the beer cloudy when poured. These days some are filtered or pasteurised (kristallweizen) and some kristallweizens have a sterile protein added to make them cloudy and appear to be a hefeweizen! Sometimes, but rarely (not rarely enough, some would say), this style is served with a slice of lemon in the glass.
OG: 1.045 to 1.060. IBUs: 13 to 20. ABV: 4.5% to 5.7%
German dark wheat beer (dunkelweizen)
These beers taste of toffee, have the sharpness of wheat and spiciness of Bavarian ale yeast. Lovely as a thirst-quencher or a dessert beer. This is a dark weizen with a more robust flavor. Its colour is light amber to dark amber.
OG: 1.045 to 1.065. IBUs: 15 to 20. ABV: 4.5% to 6.0%
A wheat beer made to bock strength. There will be the strong maltiness and full body of a bock with wheat “breadiness” . Hops are just to balance.
OG: 1.064 to 1.080. IBUs: 15 to 25. ABV: 6.6% to 7.5%
Belgian wheat beer
These beers are spiced, usually with Curacao orange peel and and coriander, and sometimes other spices, as well as hopped. The Belgian wheat beers are generally bottle-conditioned and do not have the acidity or clove-like character of other wheat beers. They are made with large amounts of unmalted wheat, which adds to the body and provides a graininess. Unmalted wheat also aids head retention and these beers have a firm, dense head.
A relatively new style, which has more character than regular wheat beers brewed with wheat beer yeast. However, they remain thirst-quenching and crisp. They are mainly brewed in the US and Britain.
American wheat beer
These beers are light and soft, with low hop bitterness. They do not have the clove-banana flavor that yeast imparts to German hefeweizens. The yeast is usually neutral, like most yeast favoured in US craft beers, and the flavor comes from the wheat and hops. The color is pale straw to gold.
OG: 1.040 to 1.050. IBUs: 15 to 20. ABV: 4% to 4.5%