Welcome to the tenth in our series of source of styles, with our Patreons having chosen the little known style of wheat wine. There are so many styles of beers available that are seldom drunk or thought about, with wheat wine being one of them. No doubt you have heard of its more popular cousin, the barley wine, but they are more closely related than you think.
Unlike barleywines, which have a long and storied history, the style of wheat wine is much younger than most drinkers realise. While there is no one definitive account of when it was first “discovered”, the accepted idea is that two homebrewers in California brewed the first batch back in the mid 80’s – the 1980’s. Phil Moeller and a friend were planning on brewing a batch of barleywine, but there was an error in their calculations – this was before the advent of BeerSmith, a piece of software that takes a lot of the trial and error out of the calculations when it comes to homebrewing. Rather than ditching the batch, they continued to brew and ferment the beer, before realising that they had made something new and most importantly, drinkable.
Phil Moeller later went on to become the head brewer at Rubicon Brewing, based in Sacremento, California in 1987. In 1988, to celebrate the one year anniversary of the brewery, Moeller rebrewed the wheat wine recipe, on a much larger scale, and sold it customers who apparently loved this new style of beer. The beer, which went on to be called Rubicon Winter Wheat Wine, went on to win awards at various beer competitions in the USA, and then generated its on style of category, further cementing its place as a viable style of beer.
While barley wines have grown to be the appertif of craft beer, often being paired with desserts such as cheesecake, wheat wines offer up a lighter alternative, while keeping the high alcohol content. The large amount of wheat used, which can range anywhere from between 40% to 60% of the grain beer, dials in the large caramel and toffee flavours often associated with barley wines.
Wheat wines have not made much of an impact in Japan, with barley wines proving to be more popular. This could be due to the lack of demand for them or the lack of knowledge about the style.
Wheat Wines Appearance, Aroma, and Taste
Wheat wines are often lighter in both colour and flavour compared to barley wines, but the BJCP guidelines state the following:
- Appearance: Usually golden to light amber in colour, with a soft white head on top at times. Due to wheat being used, there may be some haze to the beer.
- Aroma: Low hop aroma, it’s all about the malts in a wheat wine. Strong bready character to the beer with some hints of honey and caramel to the beer. There may be some alcohol and low fruity notes to it. Though wheat is used, any banana or clove aromas usually associated with a weizen are not appropriate.
- Flavour: Expect there to be plenty of wheat in the body. Bready or toasty flavours in the body, with some hints of honey. Low hop bitterness in the beer, with low fruitiness. If aged, then the beer may have some oak notes to it.
- Characteristic Ingredients: Typically brewed with a combination of American two-row and American wheat. Style commonly uses 50% or more wheat malt.
Recommended Japanese Wheat Wines
Japanese wheat wines are usually seasonal beers, due to the high alcohol content being suited to the colder months where people tend to demand more warming beers. There are also very few available when on sale but the following are perhaps the best examples of the style
1) Baird West Coast Wheat Wine
- The Bottom Line: It smelt like a brandy aged barrel beer with a large nose of caramel and liquorice imparted with alcohol.
- The Full Review: Baird West Coast Wheat Wine by Baird Beer
2) Daisen G Wheat Wine
- The Bottom Line: Daisen G Beer Wheat Wine is an incredibly well balanced wheat wine that will get you drunk without realising. Enjoy but you’ve been warned.
- The Full Review: Daisen G Beer Wheat Wine By Kumezakura Shuzo
3) Sankt Gallen El Angel
- The Bottom Line: I’d like to age this 2019 edition of Sankt Gallen El Angel to see how it holds up, but it’s good for drinking now.
- The Full Review: Sankt Gallen El Angel by Sankt Gallen
Recommended Wheat Wines from Overseas
- The Bruery White Chocolate (USA)