by Nathan Hak Beer Journalist at Beerwulf.com
Wheat beer: a summer or winter beer? Enjoying wheat beer year-round
Wheat beer is the ideal summer beer: refreshing and light, perfect for when you’re sitting outside and enjoying the sun. But lovers of winter sports will know it also tastes excellent after skiing or snowboarding. So is wheat beer a beer for every season?
Wheat beer - known as weizen beer in most of Europe - is originally from Bavaria, a province in southern Germany. It’s brewed with at least 50% wheat and a special yeast which gives off aromas of banana and cloves. The yeast ('Hefe') needs to be shaken loose while pouring, and provides a lot of the beer's taste. Wheat beer is at its best at a temperature between 6 and 10 degrees. Only at the correct temperature will you feel the full force of all the aromas.
Classic wheat beer
As it often goes with traditional beer styles, the classics of the style make the difference in the details. Erdinger Hefeweizen is such a classic: lightly coloured, foggy with a full head of foam. That foam is caused by the wheat, as it contains more egg whites than the yeast, and egg whites provide foam. The difference? Erdinger is a little spicier than most classic wheat beers. Of course the beer also contains the classic aromas of banana and clove, with the latter being a tad more prominent.
Winter wheat beer
The Paulaner Hefe-Weißbier Dunkel is white, yet dark. How is that possible? Because Paulaner is a dark wheat beer, brewed with dark malts. It has tones of toffee and roasted bread, and on top of that a mild bitterness. The yeast makes this unmistakably “weizen", but it has that twist which gives it a wintery feel. Perfect after skiing or a winter walk!
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A Belgian twist
Belgium also has its take on weizen beers, which some beer fans believe should be considered ‘white beer’. But not according to Brussels Beer Project, where the brewers reject classification and purposely “don’t do classics". Any classic beers they do brew always have a unique twist – which is true of their German version. The result? Grosse Bertha, a full-bodied brew which contains the typical banana-and-clove aromas of a weizen. It is fuller and sweeter than the classics and also heavier, containing as much as 7% alcohol. A great beer to kick back and relax with.
If you’re looking to put the winter weather out of your mind completely, try a Tropical Ralphie from Two Chefs Brewing. It's named after the first member of the brewery staff, who is also a true ambassador for this beer: with Ralphie it’s always summertime! Feel free to wear shorts or go all the way and don some red Speedos to look just like Ralphie (though maybe not in public). The first thing you'll notice when drinking this beer is the scent of tropical fruit. The creamy taste and refreshing character with a whiff of banana are typical of this style, but it is quite a bit hoppier than the classics, despite also having a slightly bitter aftertaste. This beer truly is sunshine in a bottle!
Of course, we're left with the orginial question which has yet to be answered: is wheat beer a summer beer or a winter beer?
We think it’s fair to say: it can be both. The many versions and iterations gives this beer style a different face each time, making it fit for all seasons. Don't believe us? Then we invite you to try some of them at home…
How to drink a wheat beer
Last but not least we’ll leave you with some instructions on how to get the best out of your wheat beer, taking into account the peculiarities of the style. So before you take a long sip, make sure you read these instructions:
✔️ Make sure your beer is between 6 and 9 degrees to maximise the aromas
✔️ Pick a glass that can fit the entire contents of the bottle, and be sure to rinse it well before pouring
✔️ Tilt your glass at a 45 degree angle to pour
✔️ Pour the beer in calmly and slowly
✔️ As the glass fills up, start tilting it into an upright position - but never hold it completely upright
✔️ Leave the last 2cm of beer in the bottle and shake it up to spread the yeast out
✔️ Pour this last bit of beer in with the yeast, and add the foam from the bottle
Ideally you’ll end up with a murky beer with a tall round head of foam which protrudes above the rim of the glass. Don’t scrape the foam off! It's exactly where it belongs on a wheat beer.