Make Your Best Lichtenhainer

This light and quenching smoked wheat beer remains a relatively obscure platypus in the style canon. Lichtenhainer is undeniably odd yet easy to brew and lots of fun to drink.

Josh Weikert Feb 18, 2024 - 3 min read

Make Your Best Lichtenhainer Primary Image

Photo: Matt Graves/

A tart session beer with wheat and smoke? If Lichtenhainer is in there, then the style guidelines must have it all covered.

Still, I’d bet money that most dedicated beer geeks have yet to try one. This is one strange, wonderful, and surprisingly simple-to-brew style. If you want to impress your fellow brewers, pour them a Lichtenhainer and be ready to answer questions about it for the rest of the night.

Style: Lichtenhainer is a low-alcohol wheat beer with moderate acidity. “But wait,” you’re thinking, “isn’t that a Berliner weisse?” Nope. Not that sour. “Okay, a gose, then!” Nope. No salt or coriander. Oh, did I mention that it’s smoked? This is basically the platypus of beers. ABV rarely ventures above 4 percent, traditionally, but modern versions can creep higher. Smoke and acidity should be in balance with each other and drive the flavor, with wheat in a supporting role.

Ingredients: There’s healthy debate over the proper grist in this style. What determined mine is the answer to this question: What kind of smoke? It should be more subtle than in most German-style rauchbier, and beechwood- or cherry-smoked malt can impart a lot of intensity even in modest percentages. However, I’ve never had oak-smoked wheat go overboard on me (and we need some wheat anyway). I go with equal portions of oak-smoked wheat malt, Vienna, and pilsner. If you find that you don’t get enough smoke the first time around, consider adding small additions of beechwood-smoked malt until you hit your target—but this ratio works well for me, while the pilsner and Vienna add just the right biscuit-and-grain I want in the background.

For hops, a good Noble addition at the start of the short (15-minute) boil will do it. With the yeast, a simultaneous pitch of German ale yeast and Lactobacillus will create some mild acidity.

Process: Mash as usual, boil for 15 minutes, then chill to pitching temperature. Ferment at about 68°F (20°C) for about 10 days, then go ahead and package—it’s meant to be consumed young. If the acidity isn’t quite where you like it, you can go a bit higher in carbonation (to add a bit of carbonic bite) and/or adjust with food-grade lactic acid at packaging. Or just let it ride and see what you get.