Beer: It’s What’s for Breakfast

General Mills and Fulton Beer’s recent announcement of a collaboration brew prompts the question: What is the difference between Hefeweizen and American wheat beer?

Dave Carpenter Aug 28, 2015 - 4 min read

Beer: It’s What’s for Breakfast Primary Image

The recent announcement by General Mills and Fulton Beer of a collaboration brew that bears the name of the Breakfast of Champions has generated a buzz likely to be exceeded only by consuming the beer itself.

HefeWheaties may not contain actual Wheaties, but the name alludes to wheat’s starring role in both the iconic breakfast cereal and the Bavarian Hefeweizen beer style. The new ale, scheduled for an August 26 release in the Twin Cities area, is marketed as an American Hefeweizen, a style that bears little resemblance to the German eponym.

Bavarian Hefeweizen (which translates as “yeast-wheat”) contains at least 50 percent wheat malt by German law, but most traditional formulations are built around much more than that. As the name suggests, a signature of the style is the inclusion of a good deal of yeast right in the glass, which is as much a part of the beer’s cloudy appearance as wheat proteins. The style is also called Weißbier or simply Weiße, a reference to the ale’s light hue (Weiß, pronounced like “vice,” is the German word for white).

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But the most distinguishing features of this German wheat style are the yeast-derived aromatics suggestive of bananas and cloves. This is the calling card of true southern German Hefeweizen. American wheat beers, though similarly named, usually lack this critical character. American wheat beer strains are often quite clean, sharing more in common with yeasts from Chico than those from Munich. Not to say that Bavarian Hefeweizens can’t be every bit as refreshing, but those banana and clove characteristics can be somewhat polarizing. Some tasters love them, others not so much. So if you’re accustomed to “American” Hefeweizens (or vice versa), it’s worth learning about the style before you place an order at the bar.

The release of HefeWheaties doesn’t mark the first time that a breakfast cereal and a craft brewery have engaged in a bit of symbiosis. Black Bottle Brewery, located just a few blocks south of the Craft Beer & Brewing offices in Fort Collins, Colorado, has gained notoriety in recent years for including Count Chocula, Golden Grahams, and Lucky Charms in its Cerealiously line of milk stouts. Mr. Beer even sells a homebrew kit if you want to make it at home.

And it’s unlikely to be the last time that beer makes an appearance at breakfast. While we at Craft Beer & Brewing eagerly await the arrival of a stout that features Little Chocolate Donuts (see video below), we encourage the would-be brewer to please omit the smoked malt.


Watch Little Chocolate Donuts from Saturday Night Live on

In this commercial parody, John Belushi attributes his athletic success as a cigarette-smoking decathlon champion to eating Little Chocolate Donuts for breakfast. With Marv Albert narrating. [Season 3, 1977]