Wheat beers have a long history and wheat was quite possibly the original grain used to make the first grain-based alcohol beverage, but in reading the history of that matter, there seems to be quite some argument about what came first, so we won't get into that. In either case, while these days barley certainly is king when it comes to the base grain used to make beer, the addition of wheat can make for a very refreshing and palatable drink that can come in many forms. Hefeweizen is probably the most obvious, but there are also Dunkelweizen, Weizenbock, American Wheat, Belgian Witbier, Berlinerweisse, Gose, Grätzer, and other styles where a little wheat is appropriate. In fact wheat can be added to almost any style to gain some extra body and head retention.
The June recipe was an American Wheat with Citra hops. This is a really easy beer to brew, and an easy beer to drink that can be enjoyed by almost all beer drinkers. The trick with many wheat beer styles is time. Many beers benefit from a few weeks of aging/conditioning before they are drank. However, the low alcohol and hazy nature of wheat beers lend themselves to drinking young. This is opinion of course, when any fermented beverage is “best” is entirely up to the drinker. But, drinking a wheat based beer fresh is a different experience than letting that same beer age. The nuanced flavor of the wheat shines through, with a soft “wheat flavor” reminiscent of wheat crackers and fresh baked whole wheat bread. Unfortunately this character tends to fade pretty quickly.
There are some tips when brewing your own wheat beer:
Use rice hulls. If your grain bill includes more than 20% huskless grain, such as wheat, rye, or flaked grain, then you need to add the husk back in. Rice hulls are a great way to do this. If you do brew-in-a-bag mashing, then I wouldn't worry about rice hulls until you get into the 80% range.
Use a blow-off tube. Wheat beers can ferment pretty aggressively, and if you have a 5 gallon batch in a 6.5 gallon fermenter, you will likely lose beer out the top. Using a blow-off tube can make this loss less violent.
Watch those fermentation temps. This is a good idea with any beer, but especially when using the weihenstephaner hefe weissbier strain of yeast, you can get a drastically different tasting beer with the temperature you ferment at. Warmer (69º+) can give you big banana flavors, while cooler temps (low 60ºs) can emphasize the clove phenolic flavors of the yeast.
We always hear people say, “I don't like wheat beers.”, but after talking with them, they have really only tried German Hefeweizen style beers, that probably are not very fresh. Wheat can do so much more. So, experiment with this versatile grain and maybe try something you haven't had from the liquor store. If you have been a wheat naysayer, you might just change your mind.