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American Wheat Beer

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While American brewers sometimes brew beers in the style of German Weizen, they have also developed a distinctive style of American Wheat Beer that is related to, but distinct from, German wheat beer traditions. Unfiltered versions are sometimes referred to as American Hefeweizen.

American wheats feature similar bready wheat beer flavor to Weizens, but are typically brewed with a clean American ale yeast rather than the distinctive Weizen yeast used by German brewers. They also generally have more hop flavor and aroma than the German wheat beers, and sometimes exhibit a greater variety of base malts as well.

Contents

Types of American Wheat Beer

As with Weizen, American wheat beers can be served either clear and filtered or cloudy, with yeast in suspension, and depending on the base malt used it can be light or dark in color.

Brewing American Wheat Beer

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Competition Styles

The BJCP recognizes a single style encompassing light colored American wheat beers and American Rye Beer. As with Weizen, the GABF recognizes a number of different styles of American wheat.

BJCP Style Guidelines

American Wheat or Rye Beer

6D. American Wheat or Rye Beer Vital Statistics
BJCP Style Guideline Definition (2004)
IBUs: 15-30 SRM: 3-6 OG: 1.040-1.055 FG: 1.008-1.013 ABV: 4-5.5
Aroma: Low to moderate grainy wheat or rye character. Some malty sweetness is acceptable. Esters can be moderate to none, although should reflect American yeast strains. The clovey and banana aromas common to German hefeweizens are inappropriate. Hop aroma may be low to moderate, and can have either a citrusy American or a spicy or floral noble hop character. Slight sourness is optional. No diacetyl.
Appearance: Usually pale yellow to gold. Clarity may range from brilliant to hazy with yeast approximating the German hefeweizen style of beer. Big, long-lasting white head.
Flavor: Low to moderate grainy wheat or rye character. Some malty sweetness is acceptable. Esters can be moderate to none, although should reflect American yeast strains. The clovey and banana aromas common to German hefeweizens are inappropriate. Hop aroma may be low to moderate, and can have either a citrusy American or a spicy or floral noble hop character. Slight sourness is optional. No diacetyl.
Mouthfeel: Medium-light to medium body. Medium-high to high carbonation. May have a light alcohol warmth in stronger examples.
Overall Impression: Low to moderate grainy wheat or rye character. Some malty sweetness is acceptable. Esters can be moderate to none, although should reflect American yeast strains. The clovey and banana aromas common to German hefeweizens are inappropriate. Hop aroma may be low to moderate, and can have either a citrusy American or a spicy or floral noble hop character. Slight sourness is optional. No diacetyl.
History: Refreshing wheat or rye beers that can display more hop character and less yeast character than their German cousins.
Comments: Different variations exist, from an easy-drinking fairly sweet beer to a dry, aggressively hopped beer with a strong wheat or rye flavor. Dark versions approximating dunkelweizens are acceptable (and can have some darker, richer malt flavors in addition to the color). THE BREWER SHOULD SPECIFY IF RYE IS USED; IF NO DOMINANT GRAIN IS SPECIFIED, WHEAT WILL BE ASSUMED.
Ingredients: Clean American ale yeast, but also can be made as a lager. Large proportion of wheat malt (often 50% or more, but this isn't a legal requirement as in Germany). American or noble hops. American Rye Beers can follow the same general guidelines, substituting rye for some or all of the wheat. Other base styles (e.g., IPA, stout) with a noticeable rye character should be entered in the specialty character.
Commercial Examples: Bell's Oberon, Anchor Summer Beer, Pyramid Hefe-Weizen, Harpoon UFO Hefeweizen, Widmer Hefeweizen, Sierra Nevada Unfiltered Wheat Beer, Anderson Valley High Rollers Wheat Beer, Redhook Sunrye, O'Hanlon's Original Rye Beer

GABF Style Listings

Light American Wheat Ale or Lager without Yeast

2A. Light American Wheat Ale or Lager without Yeast
GABF Style Listing (2007)
This beer can be made using either ale or lager yeast. It can be brewed with 30 to 75 percent malted wheat, and hop rates may be low to medium. A fruity-estery aroma and flavor are typical but at low levels; however, phenolic, clove-like characteristics should not be perceived. Color is usually clear golden to light amber, and the body should be light to medium in character. Diacetyl should not be perceived. Because this style is packaged and served without yeast, no yeast characters should be evident in mouthfeel, flavor, or aroma.
Original Gravity (ºPlato): 1.036-1.050 (9-12.5 ºPlato)
Apparent Extract/Final Gravity (ºPlato): 1.004-1.018 (1-4.5 ºPlato)
Alcohol by Weight (Volume): 3-4% (3.8-5%)
Bitterness (IBU): 10-35
Color SRM (EBC): 2-10 (4-20 EBC)


Dark American Wheat Ale or Lager without Yeast

2B. Dark American Wheat Ale or Lager without Yeast
GABF Style Listing (2007)
This beer can be made using either ale or lager yeast. It can be brewed with 30 to 75 percent malted wheat, and hop rates may be low to medium. A fruity-estery aroma and flavor are typical but at low levels; however, phenolic, clove-like characteristics should not be perceived. Color is dark amber to dark brown, and the body should be light to medium in character. Roasted malts are optionally evident in aroma and flavor with a low level of roast malt astringency acceptable when appropriately balanced with malt sweetness. Roast malts may be evident as a cocoa/chocolate or caramel character. Aromatic toffee-like, caramel, or biscuit-like characters may be part of the overall flavor/aroma profile. Diacetyl should not be perceived. Because this style is packaged and served without yeast, no yeast characters should be evident in mouthfeel, flavor, or aroma. Chill haze is also acceptable.
Original Gravity (ºPlato): 1.036-1.050 (9-12.5 ºPlato)
Apparent Extract/Final Gravity (ºPlato): 1.004-1.018 (1-4.5 ºPlato)
Alcohol by Weight (Volume): 3-4% (3.8-5%)
Bitterness (IBU): 10-25
Color SRM (EBC): 9-22 (18-44 EBC)


Light American Wheat Ale or Lager with Yeast

3A. Light American Wheat Ale or Lager with Yeast
GABF Style Listing (2007)
This beer can be made using either ale or lager yeast. It can be brewed with 30 to 75 percent malted wheat, and hop rates may be low to medium. Hop characters may be light to moderate in bitterness, flavor and aroma. Fruity-estery aroma and flavor are typical but at low levels; however, phenolic, clove-like characteristics should not be perceived. Color is usually straw to light amber, and the body should be light to medium in character. Diacetyl should not be perceived. Because this style is served with yeast the character should portray a full yeasty mouthfeel and appear hazy to very cloudy. Chill haze is also acceptable. Yeast flavor and aroma should be low to medium but not overpowering the balance and character of malt and hops.
Original Gravity (ºPlato): 1.036-1.056 (9-14 ºPlato)
Apparent Extract/Final Gravity (ºPlato): 1.006-1.018 (1.5-4.5 ºPlato)
Alcohol by Weight (Volume): 2.8-4.4% (3.5-5.5%)
Bitterness (IBU): 10-35
Color SRM (EBC): 4-10 (8-20 EBC)

Dark American Wheat Ale or Lager with Yeast

3B. Dark American Wheat Ale or Lager with Yeast
GABF Style Listing (2007)
This beer can be made using either ale or lager yeast. It can be brewed with 30 to 75 percent malted wheat, and hop rates may be low to medium. Fruity estery aroma and flavor are typical but at low levels; however, phenolic, clove-like characteristics should not be perceived. Color is dark amber to dark brown, and the body should be light to medium in character. Roasted malts are optionally evident in aroma and flavor with a low level of roast malt astringency acceptable when appropriately balanced with malt sweetness. Roast malts may be evident as a cocoa/chocolate or caramel character. Aromatic toffee-like, caramel, or biscuit-like characters may be part of the overall flavor/aroma profile. Diacetyl should not be perceived. Because this style is intended to be served with yeast the character should portray a full yeasty mouthfeel and appear hazy to very cloudy. Chill haze is also acceptable. Yeast flavor and aroma should be low to medium but not overpowering the balance and character of malt and hops.
Original Gravity (ºPlato): 1.036-1.050 (9-12.5 ºPlato)
Apparent Extract/Final Gravity (ºPlato): 1.004-1.018 (1-4.5 ºPlato)
Alcohol by Weight (Volume): 3-4% (3.8-5%)
Bitterness (IBU): 10-25
Color SRM (EBC): 9-22 (18-44 EBC)

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