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How to Make Wheat Beer

Click to view our Summer Wheat Beer Recipe Kit:
First, what are wheat beers? Wheat beers are brewed with a blend of wheat and barley where the wheat portion is anywhere from 30-70% of the total. Wheat extract malts are typically 40% wheat and 60% barley. Wheat has more proteins than barley and contributes to great long-lasting heads, but also gives more haze. Wheat also is lighter in color and contributes less flavor than barley, so it makes for a great summer drink and a smooth transition to craft beers for the “Bud” and “Miller” crowd.

There are many styles of wheat beer that you can make:
German Hefeweizens (from the German words Hefe = yeast and weizen = wheat) are typically brewed with special yeasts whose phenols produce clove flavors, along with esters that produce bubble gum, banana, or vanilla flavors especially at warmer fermentation temperatures. Pale malt or pilsner malt is typically used with the wheat malt. They are also lightly hopped and unfiltered and average 4.5% to 5% ABV. There are also two German dark wheat styles: Dunkelweizen and Weizenbock. Dunkelweizens are similar to the regular hefeweizens except they use Munich, Vienna, and Cara-Munich malts in place of some of the pale malts and have darker colors. Weizenbocks are similar to Dunkelweizens but have higher alcohol levels in the 7-9% range.

Belgian Witbiers (white beers) are similar to the German Hefeweizen style.  They use a special yeast that ferments crisp with a little tartness to it. They also add coriander and orange peel in the last 5-15 minutes of the boil as well as some flavor or aroma hops not used in the German Hefeweizens. All-grain brewers will usually use white wheat to give an even lighter color.

American wheat beers use a neutral yeast that doesn’t give the banana or clove flavors.  There are also many variations that include honey and/or fruit added to the end of the boil and then fermented, or fruit can flavoring added at bottling time. Honey is nearly 100% fermentable and will dry the overall malt taste of your beer. You can instead steep a pound of honey malt(a specialty grain) prior to adding your wheat malt extracts to provide more honey flavor to your wheat beer.

How to Make Wheat Beer
Extract brewers: keep in mind that wheat beers aren’t any harder to make than any other style of beer. The process for all is the same: 
  • steep a bag of grains in 2 gallons of hot water(about 160 degree) for 20 minutes
  • remove and discard the grain bags
  • stir in your malt extracts
  • turn the heat back on and bring to a boil
  • add your bittering hops and boil for an hour
  • maybe add some flavor and/or aroma hops at the end of the boil (per your recipe)
  • cool your wort down, then pitch the yeast
Pick you poison! Here are some recipes for the different wheat beer styles described above. Do keep in mind that most liquid wheat yeasts are fairly aggressive and will generate a pretty thick krausen(foaming yeast on your wort in the fermenter) so watch that your air lock doesn’t fill up. You may want to use a blow-off tube to prevent clogging.

German Hefeweizen
Malt Base: 5 lbs Wheat Dry Malt Extract OR 6 lbs Wheat Liquid Malt Extract
Specialty Grains: ½ lb Flaked Wheat, 1/2 lb Flaked Oats
Hops: 1 oz Hallertau Hop Pellets(bittering)
Yeast: White Labs 300 Hefeweizen, Wyeast 3068 Weihenstephan

Steep grains in muslin bag in 2 gallons water heated to 160 degrees for 20 minutes, remove and discard grain bag. Stir in malt extracts, return to heat and bring to a boil. Add hops and boil 60 minutes. Put 3 gallons very cold water into fermenter then pour in hot wort. Cool below 80 degrees, then pitch yeast, attach cover and attach air lock. Ferment until final gravity remains constant 2-3 days apart, then bottle. Fermentation temperatures above 72 degrees will enhance banana flavors, below will enhance clove flavors.

German Dunkelweizen
Malt Base: 6 lbs Wheat Dry Malt Extract OR 7.2 lbs Wheat Liquid Malt Extract
Specialty Grains: 1/2 lb Flaked Oats, ¼ lb Carafa 1, ½ lb Cara-munich, 1 lb Dark Munich
Hops: 1 oz Hallertau or Tettnanger Hop Pellets(bittering)
Yeast: White Labs 300 Hefeweizen, Wyeast 3068 Weihenstephan

Steep grains in muslin bag in 2 gallons water heated to 160 degrees for 20 minutes, remove and discard grain bag. Stir in malt extracts, return to heat and bring to a boil. Add hops and boil 60 minutes. Put 3 gallons very cold water into fermenter then pour in hot wort. Cool below 80 degrees, then pitch yeast, attach cover and attach air lock. Ferment until final gravity remains constant 2-3 days apart, then bottle. Fermentation temperatures above 72 degrees will enhance banana flavors, below will enhance clove flavors.

German Weizenbock
Malt Base: 7 lbs Wheat Dry Malt Extract OR 8.4 lbs Wheat Liquid Malt Extract
Specialty Grains: ½ Lb Flaked Oats, ¼ lb Carafa 1, ½ lb Cara-munich, 1 lb Dark Munich
Hops: 1 oz Hallertau or Tettnanger Hop Pellets(bittering)
Yeast: White Labs 300 Hefeweizen, Wyeast 3068 Weihenstephan

Steep grains in muslin bag in 2 gallons water heated to 160 degrees for 20 minutes, remove and discard grain bag. Stir in malt extracts, return to heat and bring to a boil. Add hops and boil 60 minutes. Put 3 gallons very cold water into fermenter then pour in hot wort. Cool below 80 degrees, then pitch yeast, attach cover and attach air lock. Ferment until final gravity remains constant 2-3 days apart, then bottle. Fermentation temperatures above 72 degrees will enhance banana flavors, below will enhance clove flavors.

Belgian Witbier (White Beer)
Malt Base: 6 lbs Wheat Dry Malt Extract OR 7.2 lbs Wheat Liquid Malt Extract
Specialty Grains: ½ lb Flaked Oats, ½ lb Flaked Wheat
Hops: 1 oz Styrian Golding Hop Pellets(bittering), 1 oz Saaz Hop Pellets(flavor)
Other: 1 oz Coriander Seed, 1 oz Dried Orange Peel
Yeast: White Labs 400 Belgian Wit, Wyeast 3944 Belgian Wit

Coriander prep: Coriander seeds are round, you will need to break them to get the flavor. Use a rolling pin to gently break into halves, be careful as they jump as you roll them. If you cannot find coriander seed, use ¼ tsp ground coriander.

Steep grains in muslin bag in 2 gallons water heated to 160 degrees for 20 minutes, remove and discard grain bag. Stir in malt extracts, return to heat and bring to a boil. Add bittering hops and boil 45 minutes. Add flavor hops, orange peel and coriander and boil 15 minutes longer. Put 3 gallons very cold water into fermenter then pour in hot wort. Cool below 80 degrees, then pitch yeast, attach cover and attach air lock. Ferment until final gravity remains constant 2-3 days apart, then bottle. 

American Wheat Beer
Malt Base: 6 lbs Wheat Dry Malt Extract OR 7.2 lbs Wheat Liquid Malt Extract
Specialty Grains: ½ lb Cara-vienna, ½ lb Munich
Hops: 1 oz Hallertau Hop Pellets(bittering), 1 oz Saaz Hop Pellets(flavor)
Yeast: White Labs 320 American Hefeweizen, Wyeast 1010 American Wheat

Steep grains in muslin bag in 2 gallons water heated to 160 degrees for 20 minutes, remove and discard grain bag. Stir in malt extracts, return to heat and bring to a boil. Add bittering hops and boil 45 minutes. Add flavor hops and boil 15 minutes longer. Put 3 gallons very cold water into fermenter then pour in hot wort. Cool below 80 degrees, then pitch yeast, attach cover and attach air lock. Ferment until final gravity remains constant 2-3 days apart, then bottle. 

Honey/Fruit American Wheat Beer Variations
Honey Wheat #1
Same as American wheat above, but add 1 lb Honey Malt to specialty grains
Honey Wheat #2
Same as American wheat above, but stir in 1 lb honey to your boil pot after you’ve completed your boil.
Fruit Wheat #1
Same as American wheat above, but add 2-4 oz of LD Carlson fruit flavoring at bottling time.  Start with 2 oz, stir and taste, add more if necessary.
Fruit Wheat #2
Same as American wheat above, but add 2-6 lbs of crushed fruit(Michigan Bing cherries, raspberries, blueberries or apples) to your boil pot after you’ve completed your boil. Pour fruit and wort into your fermenter. NOTE: depending on how much fruit you add, you may need to use a larger fermenter!