Generally defined as beer brewed with malted or unmalted wheat constituting 30 percent to 70 percent of the grist (grain) bill, wheat imparts a clean, unobtrusive grain flavor, unlike the many varieties of malted barley that contribute significantly to the unique flavors of beer.
In addition, higher protein levels in wheat than in barley contribute to a bigger, longer lasting head on the beer when poured into a glass—a distinguishing feature of most wheat beer styles, such as Hefeweizen. Wheat also contributes to a smooth, silky mouth-feel.
These non-intrusive flavors and protein levels make wheat a terrific base grain that provides brewers the opportunity to utilize additional ingredients to influence aromas and flavors and produce an established wheat beer style.
Of wheat beer’s notable brew ingredients, yeast is the defining one in many styles. Most wheat beers are brewed with a specific ale yeast strain, such as Hefeweizen Ale Yeast. Left unfiltered with the yeast in suspension, the fruity esters, aroma and flavor compounds (phenols) produced during fermentation are instrumental in the beer’s style character.
The Weizen glass is ideal for all wheat beers, especially for showing off the usually voluminous heads of Hefeweizens and other German Weizens/Weissbiers. The traditional U.S. 16oz. pint is acceptable, with the 20oz. imperial pint even better. Tumblers and beer mugs are great showcases for Belgian Witbiers and American Pale Wheat Ales.
A fluffy head on a wheat beer releases its fruity, spicy aromas and is a key feature to the enjoyment of the style. The presence of yeast in the glass or at the bottom of the bottle from unfiltered styles is perfectly normal. In fact, some people pour part of the bottle into the glass, swirl the bottle with the remaining beer to loosen the yeast and then finish the pour, yeast and all. This makes the beer even cloudier and may darken it a bit. But don’t worry, these yeast cells are full of vitamin B.
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