With long days at the beach and outdoor entertaining ushering in summer, now is the time to stock up on refreshing styles of beer, like light lagers, pale ales and easy-drinking IPAs. But perhaps the most iconic style for the season is wheat beer. This light-bodied, yet oh-so-satisfying glass of gold is sure to quench your thirst while simultaneously offering complexity and depth of flavor.
Belgian wheat beers (a k a witbier, witte, wit, white) and German weizens (a k a weissbier, weiss) are some of the most balanced and refreshing beers. They’re especially welcome during the summer months, when their assertive carbonation, crisp citrus notes and delicate spice aromas provide a counterbalance to warm weather.
Wheat beers have become increasingly popular in the U.S., and many domestic brewers release summer seasonals made in that style. Normally pale to golden in color, with a substantial head, citrus-dominant wheat flavors and brisk carbonation, American versions often take traditional European styles and add their own twists: a unique spice, an unusual hop, a special brewing technique.
Because many wheat beers are bottle conditioned, it’s common to find some sediment at the bottom of the bottle. For a proper pour, empty half of the beer into a glass and then swirl the remaining liquid in the bottle before emptying the remains.
This way, any of the delicious yeast sediment that might have settled to the bottom of the bottle can be fully enjoyed. As for the lemon wedge that frequently accompanies these brews, it’s completely a personal choice: Some people find it livens up the intense wheat profile, while other purists believe it overwhelms the beer’s natural flavors. Either way, enjoy your favorites while summer lasts—they’re perfect partners for light fare, like salads, grilled chicken or fish.
Bruery Terreux Frederick H. Berlin-style Tart Wheat Beer (Berliner Weissbier; Bruery Terreux, CA); $8/750 ml, 92 points. Like so many of Terreux’s beers, this traditional beer, a Berliner weissbier, is kicked up to another level thanks to fermentation in the bewery’s oak foeders, which are loaded with “house cultures.” The resulting brew is everything you’d expect from a Berliner weisse—tart, funky and refreshing—but with even more funky complexity and oaky nuance. The bouquet is all sour funk, with forward aromas of tart lemon, green apple and white grape that mingle with earthy tones of leather, vinegar-soaked oak and a wild, barnyard character. Those notes mostly carry through to the bright palate, grounded by a just-there core of cracker malt and wheat to keep the tart, wild characteristics from completely overwhelming the sip. There’s a subtle texture to the otherwise smooth mouthfeel, with a lingering astringency that complements the tartness on the close. abv: 4.4%
Belgian wheat beers and German weizens are some of the most balanced and refreshing beers.
Dogfish Head Namaste White (Witbier; Dogfish Head Craft Brewery, DE); $12/ 12 oz 6 pack, 91 points. This year-round selection is brewed with dried organic-orange slices, fresh-cut lemongrass and a bit of coriander. When combined with bright effervescence and low alcohol, the result is a vibrant and refreshing beer, perfect for warm-weather entertaining. It pours a hazy yellow color, with a fluffy white head that’s true to the style. Intense orange- and lemon-zest aromas lead the charge, with additional notes of white pepper, clover, coriander and fresh wheat fleshing out the experience. It’s surprisingly smooth in feel before the carbonation kicks in and amplifies the citrus tones through the finish. Clean and well balanced, try it with dishes with a touch of heat, like buffalo wings, spicy crab cakes or spicy sushi. abv: 4.8%
Avery Brewing Co. Liliko’i Kepolo (Witbier; Avery Brewing Co., CO); $12/12 oz 6 pack, 90 points. This Belgian-style wheat ale, sold in cans, is a smooth and fruity selection. It’s brewed with passion fruit, which is certainly a forward characteristic in the beer. It complements the style’s traditional notes of sweet wheat, banana and tropical fruit tones, all dusted by yeasty spice notes for added depth and interest. It’s medium bodied, with ample carbonation and a subtle tart kick on the finish that keeps the palate bright and refreshing. Overall, it’s one of the most flavorful wits you can find. abv: 5.4%
Smuttynose Blackberry Short Weisse (Berliner Weissbier; Smuttynose Brewing Company, NH); $12/12 oz 6 pack. After the success of the brewery’s Smoked Cherry, Smoked Peach and Blueberry Short Weisse selections, Blackberry is the latest Short Weisse offering to hit the shelves, and it’s perfect to kick-off the warm weather season. Available in cans, it’s brewed through a two-part fermentation process that includes both souring and German-style hefeweizen yeasts, providing the tart and spicy characteristics from each. It’s then aged on blackberries, which lends a forward natural-blackberry note to the nose and mouth, complemented by tones of tangy wheat, Saltine cracker and lemony acidity. It’s lightbodied, tart and immensely refreshing. abv: 5.2%
Samuel Adams Hopscape (American Pale Wheat Ale; The Boston Beer Company, MA); $10/12 oz 6 pack, 88 points. This wheat ale is brewed with four types of West Coast hops—Centennial, Chinook, Citra and Zeus—so it’s a hopier wheat beer than most. But, if hops are your thing, this might be for you, as it boasts assertive notes of juicy grapefruit and tangerine peel atop the base style’s more traditional characteristics of golden wheat bread, earthy spice and tropical fruit. Despite the hop presence on the nose, the palate offers more subdued hop flavors, with only mild bitterness that graces the core cracker wheat, yeast and citrus fruit flavors. It’s medium bodied, with crisp carbonation and a pleasantly dry, tart finish. abv: 5.5%
Schöfferhofer Hefeweizen Grapefruit Bier (Radler; Radeberger Gruppe, Germany) $9/16 oz 4 pack, 87 points. This radler is made from a 50-50 mix of a hefeweizen and carbonated grapefruit juice. It’s a unique spin on the traditional radler (which uses lemon soda), and it’s an undeniably refreshing and easy-to-drink selection, thanks to the low alcohol, brisk carbonation and friendly, fruity aromas and flavors. It’s almost like drinking a Fresca, with bright and sweet citrus tones atop the faintest hints of pale malt and fresh wheat that glimmer on the finish. It’s not the geekiest beer you can buy, but it’s a tasty shandy perfect for days on the beach (especially the 16-ounce cans, though it’s also available in 6-pack bottles). abv: 2.5%