Wheat beer is a beer that is brewed with a significant proportion of wheat. Wheat beers must also contain a certain percentage of malted barley as the enzymes required for starch conversion are not available in wheat alone. The addition of wheat lends wheat beers a light flavor and pale color. Wheat beers are usually top-fermented (in Germany they have to be by law). Wheat beer is distinguished by its creamy texture and sweet flavor, and some styles have overtones of banana and clove.
Belgian witbieren ("white beers") get their name from suspended yeast, which give it a whitish color. Belgian white beers often have spices such as coriander or bitter orange peel added, giving them a slightly fruity flavor. They are also often made with raw unmalted wheat, as opposed to the malted wheat used in other varieties.
German wheat beers are a well-known variant throughout the country, the name changing from Weizen in the western and northern regions to Weißbier or Weiße in Bavaria. Hefeweizen (German for "yeast wheat") is a variety in which the beer is not filtered before bottling, where the yeast continues to act.
Many breweries in the United States as well as in Canada now make their own varieties of wheat beer. Some North American wheat beers have a distinct style fermented with ordinary ale yeast, with a less fruity taste than the Bavarian styles. Wheat beers made in the American, German, and Belgian styles are often sold by US breweries as a spring or summer seasonal product.
Weizen is also brewed in Austria.
Wheat beer is also becoming quite popular in Australia. Brands such as Redback and others are making wheat beer more accessible to Australian beer drinkers.
In Brazil, beer brand Bohemia (which was founded by a German immigrant in the 1800s) has begun marketing a "cerveja de trigo" - or wheat beer - called Bohemia Weiss.
A wheat beer has also been put out in New Zealand by Lion Nathan Breweries called Mac's Great White.
Meister Max, a wheat beer, is brewed and sold in Egypt.
In Britain, wheat beer is not considered traditional, but several small brewers produce cask-conditioned varieties, such as, Fuller's Discovery, Oakleaf Eichenblatt Bitte, Hoskins White Dolphin, Fyfe Weiss Squad and Oakham White Dwarf. British wheat beer tends to be a compromise or hybrid of the continental style with an English bitter, rather than an exact emulation.
Serving wheat beer
Wheat beer is often served in special wheat beer glasses. German-style wheat beers are usually served in glasses that hold one-half litre (plus additional room for the head) and are tall and taper slightly towards the base.
Belgian wits are usually served in smaller, 25cl glasses. Hoegaarden, for example, has a distinctive chunky, hexagonal glass.
Pouring wheat beer into the glass requires a bit of practice, as one has to avoid producing too much head. The two techniques are illustrated here, performed by industrial robots programmed by students of two Bavarian universities: This robot demonstrates the technique of holding the opening of the bottle close to the rim of the glass, while this robot uses the faster immersion technique preferred by bartenders. Note the swiveling of the nearly empty bottle: This serves to pick up the yeast, an important part to unfiltered beer's complete taste. (It should be noted that the outside of the bottle should never come into contact with either the glass or the beer in the glass, as is may be contaminated with dirt, exhaust fumes etc.)
- WeizenWeb - wheat beer around the world
- GermanBeerGuide.co.uk - A British website's guide to Hefeweizen
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