Classifying Wheat Beers

The art of classifying a wheat beer is a highly debated task. However, after countless pints of consumption, I have developed a model to characterize the sophisticated flavor, aroma, and body of wheat beers, which can be much more complex than their barley-based peers.

First, I show the hierarchy of wheat beer classification below.

Attribute Pyramid
The Pyramid of Wheat Beer Classification

Each wheat beer can be classified by these distinctions with some of the categories being defined below.

Origin:

  • American – Brewed with a more neutral yeast that brings out the malt taste more compared with the taste of hops. Lacks the aromas of fruit and bread, but carries a bitterness resembling typical American ales.
  • Belgium – Brewed with raw unmalted wheat and utilizes the flavoring of orange peel and coriander. Taste more fruity and tends to be slightly more sour than the other counter-parts.
  • German – Brewed with weizen yeast, and usually unfiltered. The taste has little bitterness and tends to be more mellow-tasting. The aroma rouses scents from oranges, cinnamon, and bananas.

Style*:

  • Dunkel / Dark-weizen – Use darker malts with a fuller malt flavor.
  • Flavored Wheat Ale – Contains more fruit and honey to develop a new hybrid style of beer.
  • Hefeweizen – Highly carbonated that use a stronger percentage of wheat. Usually contain yeast sediment with a small role of hops.
  • Kristall-weizen – Non-hazy ale with filtering to remove protein haze and yeast. Flavor is cleaner, more delicate, while less spicy and complex.
  • Weizen-bock – Winter wheat beers with a pale gold to brown coloring that contain higher levels of alcohol. Contain rocky head when poured and are rich with malts and crispness.
  • Wheat Ale – Brewed with a large proportion of wheat malt which adds a protein haze.
  • White/wit Beer – Use unmalted wheat with other flavors such as oranges and curacao. Appearance is hazy white with sedimentation.

*Source: Wheat Beer Styles

Attributes:

  • Brand
  • Name
  • ABV
  • Tag-line
  • Bitterness (IBU)

Next, the experience of consuming these delicious beverages deserve a run down of how we rate wheat beers. Is there another classification section that you think is worthy of a mention? If so, please comment and leave your thoughts.

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