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 provides aromas of banana and cloves. The yeast (Hefe) needs to be shaken loose while pouring, and provides taste to your beer! Wheat beer is at its best at a temperature between 6 and 10 degrees, only then will you feel the full force of all the aromas these beers contain.
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, of which the latter is a tad more prominent.
Winter wheat beer
Paulaner Hefe-Weißbier Dunkel: White, and dark. How is that possible? Because Paulaner is a dark wheat beer, brewed with dark malts. It provides this beer with 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 winter feel. Perfect after skiing or a winter walk!
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Available at Beerwulf: Wheat beer
A Belgian twist
Belgium also has it’s take on weizen beers, which some beer fans believe should be considered as ‘white beer’. Not according to Brussels Beer Project, where the brewers dislike classification and “don’t do” classics. And if they do, they give it a personal twist – as they did with 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 beerto calmly enjoy.
If you’re looking to put the winter weather out of your mind completely, try a Tropical Ralphie from Two Chefs Brewing. Named after the first member of the brewery staff, who is also a true ambassador of “his” beer: with Ralphie it’s always summer! Feel free to wear shorts or go all the way and put on your red Speedo’s to look just like Ralphie (maybe don’t do this in public). The first thing that you notice when drinking this beer is the scent of tropical fruit. Typical for the style are the creamy taste and the refreshing character with a whiff of banana. 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, that leaves the initial question to be answered: is wheat beer a summer beer or a winter beer? We think it’s fair to conclude it can be both! The many versions of the style give these beers a different face every time, which makes it fit for all seasons. If you don’t believe us, we invite you to try it at home…
How to drink a wheat beer
Last but not least we’ll leave you with some instructions on how to drink your wheat beer. There are some particularities to take into account. With a wheart beer the yeast is always poured into the glass. Here’s how to proceed:
- Make sure your beer is between 6 and 9 degrees, then the aromas will be most clear.
- Use a glass that can fit the entire content of the bottle, and rinse it well before pouring.
- Tilt your glass at a 45 degree angle
- Pour the beer in calmly, have it “roll in”.
- As the glass fills up, start tilting it into an upright position, but never hold it completely upright.
- Leave the last 2 cm of beer in the bottle and shake it to spread the yeast.
- Pour this last bit of beer in with the yeast, don’t forget to 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 take the foam off! It belongs on a wheat beer.