We all know most beers are made with wheat and barley. So why are some beers specifically classified as “wheat beers,” or weizenbier? The answer is simple: it’s all about proportions. Today, we’ll get into what a wheat beer is so that you know exactly what makes up your favorite refreshing German brew.
Wheat Beer Characteristics
Germans are serious about their beer. It’s German law that a weizenbier, or wheat beer, be made up of at least 50% wheat. Wheat beer has much higher proportions of wheat than other beer. This makes it extremely light and refreshing – great for spring and summer drinking. Thanks to the traditional German yeast strains, many wheat beers also taste wonderfully fruity, featuring vanilla, bubblegum, clove and classic banana notes.
Wheat beer usually rocks a whitish-yellow color as a result of the pale malted wheat used, which is why it’s often also called Weissbier, or “white beer”. In German tradition, weizenbier is unfiltered with yeast in the beer. Don’t be afraid of these floating yeast particles. It adds to wheat beers’ unique and delicious flavor. Wheat beer is also usually cloudy and retains a serious head, making it a true beauty to look at.
Brief History of Weizenbier
Wheat beers are considered to be one of the oldest styles of beer. Germanic tribes used the resources available to them in the brewing process, which was a lot of wheat grain and barley. We’re eternally grateful for these farmers because they’re experimentation led to the creation of weizenbier way back in the middle ages. Since the beer was of a much lighter color than other beers at the time, Germans began calling them “weissbier,” or white beer. The rest is history…
Common Types of Wheat Beer
You’ve probably come across many hefeweizens in your beer-drinking days. It’s the original wheat beer, and is by far the most popular style. Hefeweizens are unfiltered and have low hops, high carbonation and a trademark banana flavor. Check out our delicious Straight-Up Hefe-Weizen here.
Dunkelweizen is a darker version of a hefeweizen, as you probably got from the name if you speak German (dunkel means dark). Just like a hefeweizen, it’s creamy and features vanilla, banana, clove, bubblegum and nutmeg notes. What makes a dunkelweizen different, though, is that it’s also brewed with caramelized or roasted malts. This gives it its darker color and complex roasted and chocolate flavors. Makes us thirsty just writing about it.
Bockbiers are much heavier and maltier than hefes and dunkels. Typically, they have an ABV of 6% or more, making them rich. Unlike their lighter counterparts, bocks are made to sip on slowly. Stronger bockbiers are called doppelbocks, and the strongest of the three are called eisbocks, which feature at least an 8 to 9% ABV.
Similar to hefeweizens but stronger, weizenbocks are a combination of bockbier and hefeweizens. They tend to taste spicy as a result of their stronger alcohol content. They can also have bolder fruit flavors and more complex malt flavor than their wheat beer brethrens. Weizenbocks are just as deliciously tasty, creamy and refreshing as hefeweizens. They just have a bit of a kick.
Full time beer fan. Part time beer blogger.