Brewing with Wheat

In contemporary American craft brewing, we can and do brew with pretty much anything we please, but that hasn’t always been the case. For centuries, barley, hops, water, and yeast were the sole ingredients used in brewing beer. This practice was once even codified into German legal practice in 1516 with the creation of the Reinheitsgebot, aka, the “Bavarian Beer Purity Law.” Brewing with fruit? Nein! Herbs and spices? Verboten!
But of course, even the Germans made exceptions to the rule, the biggest of which was brewing with wheat. After all, enjoying a cloudy Weissbier in a sunny biergarten wouldn’t be possible without one of one of the world’s most important cereal crops. So what’s the good word on wheat, and why has it become a go-to ingredient for brewers across the world? 
Wheat contains a higher level of protein compared to malted barley, the primary grain used in brewing. That protein contributes to a beer’s appearance, making it hazier, as well as a beer’s body, making it fuller. For many beer styles, such as typical American IPAs and lagers, clarity and drinkability are key, so wheat doesn’t have a home in their ingredient lists. Certain beer styles, however, have unique characteristics that wheat can provide for – and we make a number of those styles at GLBC. Let’s take a look at a few of them.
American Wheat Beer
For a prototypical American wheat beer, Crushworthy Lo-Cal Citrus Wheat is an excellent choice for understanding the effects of wheat in a beer. First, let’s start with a visual assessment. Crack open a can and pour the beer into a glass to see all of the things that are… well, hard to see! Yep, that’s a pretty solid haze: not completely opaque, but certainly not clear. In addition to the slightly cloudy appearance, the proteins of wheat are helping retain the lovely foam head floating from atop. Now, take a sip. Alongside a burst of fresh citrus rolls the refreshing character that wheat provides. While wheat can make some beers feel fuller, a beer as light and quenching as Crushworthy can’t be weighed down by anything (and its 105 calories per serving would concur!)
German for “yeast wheat”, Hefeweizen is a classic Bavarian style that’s both cloudy and bright. Banana and clove flavors abound in a traditional Hefeweizen, but our frothy and fruity seasonal Lemon Hefeweizen is ready for the beach thanks to the addition of real lemon. Grab another glass and do a side-by-side tasting with Crushworthy. You’ll observe that Lemon Hefeweizen is noticeably cloudier and fuller in body than Crushworthy. That’s because, whereas Crushworthy uses a smaller percentage of wheat than barley, Lemon Hefeweizen is a straight split – 50% wheat, 50% barley malt. More wheat, more protein, more body, and more haze! Still, with the crisp, lightly tart flavor of fresh lemon purée and peel, our spring seasonal remains refreshingly drinkable.
Hazy IPA
Bursting with lush, ripe tropical and stone fruit flavors and aromas thanks to the use of modern American hops, no other style has taken the country by storm quite like Hazy IPAs. Why the surge in popularity? Hazy IPAs keep bitterness firmly in check by using wheat and oats in the malt bill. Using these grains help balance out hop bitterness by increasing the beer’s body and mouthfeel. The “softer touch” of Hazy IPAs has made it an appealing option for those that want a hoppy brew without the sharp bittering qualities many IPAs are known for. For example, wheat helps give our Hazecraft IPA and Tidal Fury Imperial Hazy IPA their expected hazy appearance, but their wheat- and oat-derived body lets us enjoy their juicy fruit hop flavors without the intense bitterness.
Want to experience the wide, wonderful world of wheat? Hop on our Beer Finder to track down Crushworthy, Lemon Hefeweizen, Hazecraft, and Tidal Fury at a retailer near you.
Words by Michael Williams
Photos by Adam Ritterspach

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