Aren’t they the same, a white beer and a weizen? Not quite. Belgian white beer is brewed with wheat and the German word for wheat is… indeed; Weizen! Of course, they are both wheat beers (in that they are made from wheat) but there are essential differences between these beer styles. Here is how to differentiate the two.

German wheat beer or Belgian white beer?

First things first, to avoid any confusion, weizen, weissbier and German wheat beer are all the same things. White beer, Belgian white ale and witbier are also the same thing. Bare this in mind, as the names are used interchangeably. As the names suggest this is really all about the battle of two major beer-producing nations: Belgium and Germany. Simply put, weizen is German and white beer is Belgian. Their use of wheat is a central part of this rivalry. For a white beer, brewers use un-malted wheat, while for a weizen they use 50% wheat malt. White beer also contains less wheat than weizen. It is the wheat that gives the beer a typically sour and wheaty taste.  Wheat also has less starch and more protein (than barley), which gives it the foamy head, though the weizen one will be creamier. Both beers are opaque to cloudy, again from wheat.

The type of yeast also plays an important role when it comes to the differences between these two wheat beers. Both beers are top-fermented, but a weizen is brewed with special weizen yeast. This yeast is what makes those characteristic clove and banana flavours. A weizen beer complies with the Reinheitsgebot (the German purity law), forbidding it to be brewed with a `anything other than water, barley, and hops. That’s no herbs and no fruits. All of those flavours and the soft, sweet and slightly fruity character, come just from the yeast.

You will generally not find this banana flavour in a white beer. Flavours that are more typical for the Belgian white beer are citrus and coriander. During the brewing process, the brewer adds coriander seeds and curaçao peels, which are the peels of a bitter orange.

Belgian white beer

Wieckse-Witte-2L-Keg_1_1.pngWitbiers have been brewed as early as the 14th century in Belgium. The word translates from Dutch to “white beer”. Now, when you see a beer described as “white” eg, White IPA—that will mean that there is a decent portion of wheat in it.

Belgian white beers to try

The Dutch La Trappe Witte Trappist is a must try. It's tasty, fresh and thirst quenching but it's also the only Trappist white beer in the world.  Blanche De Namur is fruity and floral with distinctive orange peel and coriander aromas and of course Wieckse Witte is everything you want and more.

Hoegaarden

Say the word white beer and most people automatically think of Hoegaarden. The village of Hoegaarden has been known for white beer since the Middle Ages. In the 18th and 19th centuries, white beer had become one of the main Belgian beer styles. Witbier was popular for centuries, however it was almost entirely wiped out in the 50s by the expansion of lager.  

German wheat beer/ Weizen / Weissbier

edelweiss_bw_clear.pngThis style of beer originated in Bavaria, Germany. A Weissbier, despite its name, isn’t always white in colour; it can also be golden and dark. Weissbiers are characterised by a complex flavour and aroma with fruity notes. There are also both clear and cloudy varieties.

Weizen beers to try

Well-known weizen beers are brewed by breweries such as Schneider, Paulaner, and Weihenstephan. They are a must for anyone new to the weizen scene. Erdinger is a prime example of brewing with only the finest ingredients. At The SUB you can enjoy the Austrian Edelweiss Hefetrüb.

Hefeweizen

It is important to note that weizen encompasses a few substyles, the most common is the Hefeweizen ("yeast wheat"). Notable examples include Paulaner Hefeweissbier, Weihenstephaner Hefe Weissbeer, Sierra Nevada Kellerweis and Erdinger Weissbier.

Wheat beers at Beerwulf

Paulaner Weissbier - 5L Draught Keg

German Wheat Beer | 5.5% | 5 Litres

£ 27.99

Brand Weizen - 2L SUB Keg

German Wheat Beer | 5.1% | 2 Litres

£ 8.99

Paulaner Weissbier - 2L SUB Keg

German Wheat Beer | 5.5% | 2 Litres

£ 12.49

Edelweiss Hefetrüb - 2L SUB Keg

German Wheat Beer | 5.3% | 2 Litres

£ 8.49

Edelweiss Hefetrüb - 8L BLADE Keg

German Wheat Beer | 5.3% | 8 Litres

£ 34.99

Affligem Blanche - 5L Draught Keg

White Beer | 4.8% | 5 Litres

£ 21.99

Look, Smell, Taste

When it comes to appearances, there are discernible similarities and differences. As mentioned before, one similarity is that both beers are opaque to cloudy. When it comes to colour however, a white beer is often a bit lighter (pale to light blond) than a weizen (pale to amber). Both beers have a nice full head, but the foam of a weizen has just a little more volume and is creamier.

If you smell both beers, then white beer has more fresh, sour, fruity aromas of citrus with sometimes a slight sweetness. The weizen contains spiced and sweet aromas from the yeast, such as clove, nutmeg, banana and vanilla - you’ll be able to taste these in the beer, too.

White beers are sweet with hints of acidity, citrus tones and the herbal flavours of coriander and other spices, while a weizen is sweeter, maltier, and mildly acidic, containing tones of banana and yellow fruits as well as clove. If you focus on how the beers feel in your mouth, they're fairly similar, both with a thin to medium body. There are bigger differences in the aftertaste: a white beer has a herbal, mildly acidic and dryer aftertaste than a weizen, which has more of a spicy, tangy, slightly sticky aftertaste (from the sugars). There’s hardly any difference in alcohol percentage, or none you’ll be able to taste: white beers contain slightly less alcohol at 4.3-5.2% compared to weizen which are around 5-5.6%.

weissbier-glas.jpg

Serving wheat beer: Weizen and white beer

White beer is best served from 3-5 degrees Celsius in a thick and sturdy glass - a Hoegaarden glass is perfect. A weizen is served slightly warmer, at a temperature of 6 to 8 degrees Celsius in a tall, narrow glass which flares outwards (think of a Paulaner or Erdinger glass). Read more about beer glasses here.

Weizen vs white beer: and the winner is…

...Well, that’s up to you. These beer styles are two sides of the same coin, but which has the edge is completely a matter of taste. To learn more about how to differentiate the two, the best thing to do is start tasting.