For those unfamiliar with wheat beer, the key difference is that it’s brewed with a higher percentage of wheat in proportion to malted barley, which is typically used to make beer. Beyond that, there are different styles within the category, and each brings different flavors to the party.
In addition to American wheat beer, there’s German hefeweizen and Belgian witbier. Both are, of course, made predominantly with wheat; witbier, however, is often brewed with spices as well, and hefeweizen frequently has a yeasty character to it, along with notes of banana.
The bottom line is that wheat beer really does have flavor characteristics that separate it from other types of beer. Furthermore, there are many domestic breweries, both craft and large, as well as foreign, that are making excellent wheat beer. Plus, many pair very well with food.
We spoke to some industry experts to get their picks, and came up with some of our own, to help guide you through the best wheat beers to try now.
Best Overall: Allagash White
Region: Maine | ABV: 5.2% | Tasting Notes: Yeast, Citrus, Spice
“For me, Allagash White is the perfect wheat beer,” says Deke Dunne, bar supervisor at Allegory at the Eaton Hotel. But this isn't a hot take, he adds. “Allagash White has gone from a small craft beer to a household name in under 25 years, and for good reason. It is light-bodied and citrusy, so it's perfect for the summer.” Furthermore, Dunne likes the beer's deep, complex spice profile that has him reaching for it all year.
Dunne also tapped his cicerone-certified peers for their wheat beer recommendations. “[I was] fully expecting a laundry list of obscure beers that I hadn't ever heard of, but to my surprise, Allagash White made every one of their lists. Its quality has held up over the decades, and it is evident.”
Best Budget: Samuel Adams Summer Ale
Region: Massachusetts | ABV: 5.3% | Tasting Notes: Citrus, Spice, Hops
This seasonal wheat ale from Samuel Adams is affordable but doesn’t skimp on flavor—making it a good option, especially when buying for a crowd. According to the brewery, it’s made with a citrus blend of orange, lime and lemon peels, along with grains of paradise spice.
This combination certainly gives the beer a bright citrus palate, but it’s not overpowering. Plus, at a reasonable ABV, you can enjoy a couple without feeling bogged down. Samuel Adams is one of the original players of the craft brewing movement, so definitely give this one a try.
Best Splurge: Jack's Abby Blood Orange Wheat Radler
Region: Massachusetts | ABV: 4% | Tasting Notes: Orange, Yeast, Fruit
“[This beer from] Massachusetts-based brewery, Jack's Abby Craft Lagers Blood Orange Wheat, redefines the classic, malty, German-style radler with a fruit-forward blood orange infusion,” says Jim McCune, Executive Director of Craft Beverage at EGC Group.
Both refreshing and low-alcohol, McCune says this beer is ideal for hot summer days and nights. And while it may not be as cheap as some other options, you’ll feel good about supporting a craft brewery and drinking some really excellent beer.
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Best Flavored: Blue Moon Belgian White
Region: Colorado | ABV: 5.4% | Tasting Notes: Citrus, Coriander, Oats
This Belgian-style beer is brewed with Valencia orange peels, giving it a subdued, delicate sweetness and a distinctive citrus aroma—making it the best wheat beer, at least according to Manuel Gonzalez, beverage manager at the AC Hotel Sawgrass Mills. “It goes great with grilled shrimp, Asian dishes and marinated chicken dishes,” he suggests.
Blue Moon is usually served with a slice of orange as a garnish to complement the citrus backbone. It’s a great summertime brew to reach for because of its crisp, refreshing flavor profile.
Best German: Weihenstephaner Hefe Weissbier
Region: Germany | ABV: 5.4% | Tasting Notes: Banana, Yeast, Fruit
This is a classic German wheat beer from a Bavarian brewery that has been around for centuries. The helles lager from Weihenstephaner is excellent too, but this wheat beer is fruity, light and fragrant.
It happens to pair really well with food, too—particularly Obazda, a brie cheese spread that is a specialty of the region, according to the brewery. There’s also a dark version of this beer available that offers a bit more concentrated sweetness and other flavors.
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Best Belgium: Lindemans Lambic Beers
Region: Belgium | ABV: 2.5% to 5% | Tasting Notes: Fruity, Citrus, Vanilla
“While it may be more of a subset of the wheat beer category nowadays, I’ve always been a fan of Lindemans Lambics,” says Cory Mendonca of Main St. Provisions in Las Vegas. He especially likes pairing them with intensely flavored or spicy foods.
“The kriek is refreshingly tasty alongside some spicy pad thai, and recently I found the cassis expression, which I imagine would complement any number of summertime grilled or barbecued meats really well.”
These spontaneously fermented beers are a refreshing example of fruit-flavored Belgian wheat beer. There are other flavors available as well.
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Best American: Lagunitas Stoopid Wit
Region: California | ABV: 6.3% | Tasting Notes: Floral, Tropical fruit, Honey
“Lagunitas Stoopid Wit is a refreshing witbier with an amazing amount of fruity complexity to it,” says Frederic Yarm of The Smoke Shop in Somerville, Massachusetts.
This beer is brewed in the Belgian style with orange peel and coriander—plus the American-style addition of hops. “Overall, it's a delightful bounty of orange-lemon, white-grape and apple-pear accents, with floral rose-lavender notes mixed in with the more standard wheat ale flavor.”
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Best Fruit-Infused: Jackalope Lovebird Strawberry Raspberry Wheat
Region: Tennessee | ABV: 4.4% | Tasting Notes: Berry, Tart, Spice
Jackalope Brewing Company, a woman-owned brewery in Nashville, specializes in beers that feature names and labels with a unique, highly stylized design that involves animals (mostly birds).
The Jackalope Lovebird Strawberry Raspberry Wheat Ale is brewed with strawberries and raspberries, giving it a slightly pink hue. “The wheat lends a smooth, velvety base, while the fruit adds tartness and a big berry aroma to this light and flavorful beer. A refreshing, and very Instagrammable summer brew,” says McCune.
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Best Nonalcoholic: Wellbeing Heavenly Body Golden Wheat
Region: Missouri | ABV: <0.5% | Tasting Notes: Citrus, Hops, Fruit
This nonalcoholic beer uses Cascade and German traditional hops to add a bright citrus character to the palate, ranking this highly alongside the best alcoholic wheat beers you can find.
It’s also a pretty light beer, with only 68 calories per can. If you're avoiding alcohol for whatever reason but still want to explore the wheat beer category, this is a great place to start. Many satisfied customers claim they can’t even tell the difference between this and a regular beer.
Related: The Best Nonalcoholic Beers
Best Craft: Flying Dog Brewery Chesapeake Wheat
Region: Maryland | ABV: 5% | Tasting Notes: Hops, Fruit, Citrus
“Flying Dog Brewery and the Oyster Recovery Partnership have worked together to keep the Chesapeake Bay healthy and thriving by adding millions of baby oysters back into the Bay to help filter impurities,” says McCune.
As for the beer itself, McCune describes Flying Dog Chesapeake Wheat as an enjoyably crisp wheat ale that boasts complex citrus flavors and aromas, “all while supporting oyster restoration efforts by adding 10 oysters to the ocean for every bottle sold.”
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Allagash White (view at Drizly) is the best wheat beer out there to try right now. Sure, it’s widely available, but it has also been skillfully made for a quarter-century—and there’s a reason for that staying power. It’s a complex beer with spice and citrus notes, but it's still an easy-drinking, sessionable beer that almost everyone will enjoy.
What to Look for in a Wheat Beer
When deciding what wheat beer to drink, take a look at the different categories. American breweries make wheat ale or beer, but also their own versions of Belgian witbier and German hefeweizen. Of course, you can find many different examples of wheat beer imported from those countries as well, so grab a few bottles of each and try them to see how they compare.
How is wheat beer made?
Wheat beer is made like regular beer, but uses a large amount of wheat compared to malted barley when brewing. Different yeast strains are used for different styles, and Belgian witbier and German weissbier usually incorporate spices and citrus into the brewing process.
How is wheat beer different from other styles?
Typically, these are not very hoppy beers, and they tend to have big tropical fruit, banana and citrus flavors on the palate. They are usually light in color and have a nice head when poured into a glass due to the level of carbonation.
What's the average alcohol content in wheat beer?
This varies depending on the brewery and type of wheat beer, but typically they have a low range of about 2.5% to 5% ABV.
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Jonah Flicker is an experienced writer who has been covering spirits and traveling the world visiting distilleries for many years. His work has appeared in many different national outlets covering trends, new releases, and the stories and innovators behind the spirits. His first love remains whiskey, but he is partial to tequila, rum, gin, cognac and all things distilled.
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