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Make Your Best American Wheat Beer

The American wheat ale is one of the newest styles of wheats, and is closer in style to the American pale ale than a German weissbier. Josh Weikert explains the ingredients and processes that make this beer unique.

Josh Weikert Dec 25, 2016 - 7 min read

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One of the things I love about beer and brewing today is how new ingredients mesh with evolving beer styles (and even help them evolve). You could argue that this isn’t unique to the 21st century, and you’d almost certainly be right, but what I think could be unique is the near-universal access that all brewers—from the kitchen to the largest brewhouse—enjoy with regard to those ingredients. We’ve reached a point where every brewer can contribute to the evolution of beer and communicate his/her contributions instantly around the world.

A major beneficiary of this globalization and democratization of beer is a style that hasn’t achieved its due notoriety quite yet: American wheat ale. But I think its time is now. New hops from the land of the Kiwis—with their unique blend of bright citrus, herbal, and floral flavors that pair so wonderfully with grainy, spicy malted wheat—have given us the perfect tools to make better American wheat ales than ever before.


American wheat beer should never—never—be confused with German Weissbier or Hefeweizen. It does not feature clove or banana, and unlike those beers, it usually does feature some moderate hops flavors and bitterness. In fact, the only thing they seem to share in common is wheat: in both beers, wheat makes up about half of the grist. A better way to conceptualize this style is not to start from German wheat beers, but rather to start at American pale ale. From there, we simply lower the bittering and add to the grainy, doughy malt character. It’s a much shorter trip and gets closer to the general qualities of the style! This is a pale ale with limited fermentation character and noticeable hops. And it is, unquestionably, an American style—not simply an Americanization of a Continental style.


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