It is light in color and mouthfeel, and hazy or cloudy in appearance from that deliberate lack of filtration.
Wheat makes up about 30 to 40 percent of the grain bills of most commercial wits today, according to Keith Villa, the brewer who developed the Blue Moon line of wit beers for Coors in the s. Still, that share has traditionally been enough to make wit one of the two dominant wheat beer styles. The other is weiss, also known as hefeweizen. For another, whereas wit might contain spices and additions such as oats, weiss is supposed to be made from malted wheat, malted barley, hops and water — just straight-ahead, wheat-heavy ale.
Both will be smoother than most ales and will look hazy. Taste-wise, weiss is less fruity or spicy than wit, though hints of banana and cloves often pop up.
Like with wit, weiss is generally cloudy due to a deliberate lack of filtration and light on the mouth and the belly , and therefore equally perfect for warmer weather. The modern understanding of the style, though, dates from the early Middle Ages, when weiss became a hot commodity among feuding nobility in a beer-crazy central Europe, particularly modern-day Bavaria in Germany. The popularity of weiss in Bavaria grew well into the 19th century, until cleaner-looking and lighter-tasting lagers, such as Czech-born pilsner, swept the marketplace as did the German response, kolsch.
Weiss was soon on the way out commercially, a stylistic dead end, it looked like. Then, in the mids, a brewer named George Schneider leased from the Bavarian royal family an old downtown Munich brewery that had specialized in weiss.
Schneider nursed the style back to health before his death in , eventually opening a family-run brewery that endures to this day. Modern brewers, especially in the U.
Also, the spiciness in both might be a little bit more forward here. Allagash White: This is a solidly orthodox offering from the Portland, Maine, operation.
There is a lot of complexity in the spiciness, with hints of orange and banana. Its wit is another orange-tinted gem, but sweeter.
Sierra Nevada Kellerweis: The raw, rollicking iteration from the Chico, California—based brewery that can do no wrong has a lot of banana up front and is crisp on the finish. Widmer Hefeweizen: This Portland, Oregon, brewery, had a lot to do with popularizing wheat beers in the U. Like a rum-dipped Fig Newton. First, a fiery flash of lemon. A second sip opens onto floral, grassy and briny flavors.
Exemplary brew: Allagash Brewing Company White, 5. Foamy, fresh and bright as lemon meringue. Subtly spiced and blooming with yeast. Pale amber, super strong, licked with sweet heat but lighter on the palate than bitter imperial IPAs.
Hot enough to comfort, careful not to burn. Melted caramel laced with liquor and hoppy black-pepper spice.
Not an official style, really, but a subset of American-made wheat beers hopped, instead, like pales. Brewed like a wheat, then blasted with hops during fermentation, this beer revs up with aromas of white grapefruit and green grass, then downshifts to a silken finish. Rarely seen stateside, and uncommon even in its native Germany, a lighter, filtered version of the common Hefeweizen.
Juicy white fruit and refreshing carbonation, zesty and bright as Bartlett-pear Pop Rocks. Smooth as whipped cream, buttery as banana bread, with a ticklish spicy finish. All Rights Reserved. Wheat beer is a category so broad you could—and should—spend all summer exploring it.
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