Wheat beers have had a bad name since passage of the German Beer Purity Law in 1516. Their cause in this country was not helped by wheat’s ubiquitous pairing with fruit from the mid-90s forward. Fellow Aleheads, I give you Pete’s Strawberry Blonde, Sam Adams Cherry Wheat, Ithaca Apricot Wheat, Shock Top Raspberry Wheat (oh, the horror!), the list goes on.
But it’s summer, and the craft taps at my kids’ favorite restaurant are replaced with wheat beers. What’s an Alehead to do?! So, after a great deal of “research,” here’s every Alehead’s guide to wheat beers that don’t suck.
First, let me say that the king of wheat beers is Three Floyds Gumballhead. However, we don’t get that where I live now, and I refuse to give top billing to a beer that’s available in like 3 states. So here’s a list of beers you might actually see somewhere, in order:
1. Lagunitas Little Sumpin Sumpin. I drank this beer for years before I knew it was a wheat beer. (Yes–I’m stupid. I blame the alcohol.) It’s effervescent and pretty hoppy. It does leave a touch of aftertaste; not sure whether that’s a result of the wheat bill or not. It’s a very close call between this and my #2 selection, but this one wins because it’s basically an IPA in wheat beer’s clothing.
2. Bell’s Oberon is the unofficial beer of summer across the Midwest. It is 10 times the beer that Goose Island 312 is. It’s nice and orange, hoppy and easy-drinking. Unlike the Sumpin Sumpin, I wouldn’t choose Oberon over a non-wheat beer. But for the style, it’s outstanding.
3. Southern Tier Hop Sun. Very light, citrusy, a little bitter–super refreshing. Again, it’s no substitute for a great IPA, but I’m not upset when this is the best beer at a cookout (i.e. once I’ve drunk everything I brought).