What is beer?
Beer is the world's oldest and most popular alcoholic beverage!
Ben Franklin may have given us the best definition of what beer is…
"Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy."
But, for those who want...
According to Webster’s online dictionary, "Beer is a fermented alcoholic beverage brewed from malt and hops."
Origin of the word:
Middle English ber, from Old English beor, akin to Old High German bior
First Known Use:
Before the 12th century
What defines beer style?
The term style is used to describe a general classification of beer that helps to define a beer by ingredients, color aroma, yeast type, brewing methods, bitterness, originating region, and overall flavor. In order for a beer to be considered within that style, it must fit, at least loosely, into these general parameters.
An appreciation of the main beer styles will greatly increase your enjoyment of good beer.
However, the most important question you should be asking is, "Do I like this beer?"
In modern brewing terms, the word Ale typically refers to a beer that is brewed with "ale" yeast as opposed to lager yeast.
Ale yeast is yeast that works best at warmer temperatures (60-70 degrees F) and which tends to ferment at the top of the fermentation vessel. Lager yeast tends to work best at cooler temperatures (45-55 degrees F) and ferment mostly at the bottom of the fermentation vessel. That is why Ales are sometimes referred to "top fermenting beers" while lagers are sometimes called "bottom fermenting."
Ale yeast tend to produce more complex flavors than lager yeast, often helping to provide a fruity, sweet and full bodied flavor when compared to lagers.
The term "ale" has been used differently throughout the ages. When hops were first introduced to beer in the 15th century, "ale" referred to beers that didn't contain hops. Today, some states use the term "ale" in a legal sense to mean a strong version of beer.
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American Ambers (known simply as Red Ales in some regions) were popularized in the hop-loving Northern California and the Pacific Northwest areas before spreading nationwide. Home brewers largely invented this particular beer style by creating American Pale Ales (APA) that are typically richer and sometimes darker than their APA cousins.
American Ambers have a rich, strong malt backbone but are generously hopped with citrusy American hops that provide a great deal of bitterness to offset the malt. American Ambers are sometimes hard to differentiate from APA's by color alone, as they can look very similar, but their flavor, rich in malt character typically gives them away.
American Amber Ales pair well with sharp cheeses, red meat poultry and fish. You'll also find American Ambers to be a wonderful companion to stews and chili.
Consider an American Amber for tail-gate events and for a special treat, make some beer and cheese dip with an American Amber Ale!
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Barley wine or Barleywine is a beer style of strong ale originating in England. The term "barley wine" had been used to refer to regular grape wine withe cooked barley in it.
A barley wine typically reaches an alcolhol strength of 8 to 12% by volume and is brewed from specific gravitites as high as 1.120. It is called a barley wine because it can be as strong as wine, but since it is made from grain rather than fruit, it is, in fact, a beer.
Most barley wines range in colour from amber to deep reddish-browns, though until the introduction of Whitbread Gold Label in the 1950s, British barley wines were always dark in colour. All are rich and full-flavoured.
The Anchor Brewing Company introduced the style to the United States in 1976 with its Old Foghorn Barleywine Style Ale.
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Belgian/Belgian Style Ale?
Belgian Ales are the historic everyday drinking beers of Belgium. This category includes what Belgian brewers might call the "low fermentation" beers, or lower alcohol beers that are closer to the alcohol content that we are used to in most beers. (The "high fermentation" or higher alcohol beers are found in the Belgian Strong Ale category.)
Colors, flavors and styles within this category vary greatly from beer to beer, but these are the everyday drinking beers that originated in Belgian farmhouses.
Given the extremely wide range of Belgian beer styles that are still brewed today, it can be very complex and controversial to attempt to categorize these beers by style. In fact, many Belgian beers defy categorization to the extent that they are lumped into the Specialty category of the Belgian and French Ale style that includes beers of varying alcohol levels.
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Blonde Ales are among the lightest and cleanest of the all malt (all barley with no corn or rice adjuncts in the grain) beers. They are a refreshing but somewhat flavorful beer closely related to Cream Ales and the Kolsch style beers from Germany.
Blonde Ales are generally brewed as all malt beers and as such, they are often viewed as one of the most basic entry level beers into the craft beer category. ("All-malt" means that the fermentables used to brew the beer are barley or wheat, while some mass produced beers utilize corn or rice as fermentables.)
Blonde Ales are sometimes brewed with the addition of honey or other spices and flavorings. Blonde Ales can also be brewed as lagers, but that is not typical.
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Are you ready for a strong, dark, malty lager? Then a Bock beer is just what you're looking for. Late Winter and Fall are the traditional seasons for bocks, but there are quite a selection of them now available year round.
Bock beers are German in origin, having first been brewed in the northern German city of Einbeck sometime during the 14th century. The name Bock actually comes from a corruption of the name Einbeck that the beer style was labeled with when it migrated to Munich during the 17th century. Today, Munich is home to many great Bock beers. The German word for Billy-goat is also "bock," so Bock beers have adopted the Billy-goat as their official symbol.
Bock beers have historically been the last beer of the traditional winter brewing season. Before refrigeration, it was important for lager brewing to be completed before outside temperatures got too warm for fermentation to take place, so March has historically been the last month that brewing would occur. This meant that May (Mai in German) would often see the first release of the bock beers with other bock beers being cellared for the Fall season.
Bock beers can vary in color from pale (Helles) to amber to dark. The alcohol content of bock beers should be rather high, starting at 6% alchohol by volume and ranging much higher for the Doppelbocks and Eisbocks. In fact, "bock" is a term that is sometime used to connote a beer strong in alcohol, whether it is actually a bock style beer or not. It is still common for other beer styles brewed to high alcohol percentages to be referred to as having been "brewed to bock strength," which can make the term bock mis-leading.
Another mis-leading "wive's tail" is the old story that bock beers are brewed with the leftovers of older beer batches or brews, which is not true today.
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Typically brown in color, Brown Ales often have an initial malty sweetness followed by a moderate caramel flavor.
Brown Ales are terrific with many red meats and nutty cheeses.
Drink Brown Ales from a Pint glass for the most enjoyment of the beer.
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Christmas/Winter Speciality Beers?
A stronger, darker, spiced beer that often has a rich body and warming finish suggesting a good accompaniment for the cold winter season.
Throughout history, beer of a somewhat higher alcohol content and richness has been enjoyed during the winter holidays, when old friends get together to enjoy the season. Many breweries produce unique seasonal offerings that may be darker, stronger, spiced, or otherwise more characterful than their normal beers. Spiced versions are an American or Belgian tradition, since English or German breweries traditionally do not use spices in their beer.
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A fermented beverage made from apple juice. Cider varies in alcohol content from 2% ABV to 8.5% AVB or more in traditional English ciders.
Although cider can be made from any variety of apple, certain cultivars are known as cider apples. Cider is popular in the United Kingdom, especially in Southwest England. The United Kingdom has the highest per capita consumption of cider, as well as the largest cider-producing companies in the world including H. P. Bulmer, the largest. As of 2006[update], the UK produces 600 million litres of cider each year (130 million imperial gallons).
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Cream Ales are one of the classic American "lawnmower" beers. They're relatively clean and refreshing without being too high in alcohol. But like some of their Light Lager cousins, they are usually brewed with adjuncts like corn as fermentables.
Cream Ales are brewed with ale yeast, but they were originally brewed by American brewers to compete with mass produced American lagers. They are also often brewed with six row barley which is not typically as high in quality as two row barley.
Cream Ales do make the occassional appearance in the craft beer world, particularly in brewpubs, but their use of adjunct ingredients like corn or rice keep them out of the strict definition of a craft beer.
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Doppelbocks are malty beers rich in melanoidins that contribute to the complex malt flavors found in them. They are also higher in alcohol than many other lagers, averaging between 7 and 10% alcohol by volume.
The word doppelbock literally means "double bock" and while today's doppelbocks are essentially twice the strength of regular bocks, the doppelbock style originated completely separate from the bock style.
Prior to moving to Munich, the Pauline monks of Italy were already brewing the beer that Germans later referred to as a "doppelbock." In all likelihood, the original version of the beer that the Germans called "doppelbock" was somewhat different from the style of beer we know today and over time, it evolved to become the beer we know.
The original Doppelbock is Paulaner Salvator which is still brewed today, although it was likely much higher in residual sugars centuries ago than it has become. The initial popularity of Salvator in Munich spawned a number of competitors who also called their beers "Salvator," creating much confusion among the beer drinking public. Eventually, the Munich government ruled that the name "Salvator" was the property of the Paulaner brewery but even today, many Doppelbocks have names that end with "ator" in honor of the original Doppelock, Salvator.
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Extra Special/Strong Bitter (ESB)?
An average-strength to moderately-strong English ale. The balance may be fairly even between malt and hops to somewhat bitter. Drinkability is a critical component of the style; emphasis is still on the bittering hop addition as opposed to the aggressive middle and late hopping seen in American ales. A rather broad style that allows for considerable interpretation by the brewer.
Strong bitters can be seen as a higher-gravity version of best bitters (although not necessarily "more premium" since best bitters are traditionally the brewer's finest product). Since beer is sold by strength in the UK, these beers often have some alcohol flavor (perhaps to let the consumer know they are getting their due). In England today, "ESB" is a brand unique to Fullers; in America, the name has been co-opted to describe a malty, bitter, reddish, standard-strength (for the US) English-type ale. Hopping can be English or a combination of English and American.
More evident malt and hop flavors than in a special or best bitter. Stronger versions may overlap somewhat with old ales, although strong bitters will tend to be paler and more bitter. Some modern English variants are brewed exclusively with pale malt and are known as golden or summer bitters. Most bottled or kegged versions of UK-produced bitters are higher-alcohol versions of their cask (draught) products produced specifically for export. The IBU levels are often not adjusted, so the versions available in the US often do not directly correspond to their style subcategories in Britain. English pale ales are generally considered a premium, export-strength pale, bitter beer that roughly approximates a strong bitter, although reformulated for bottling (including containing higher carbonation).
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Flavored Malt Beverage (FMB)?
Flavored malt beverages are brewery products that differ from
traditional malt beverages such as beer, ale, lager, porter, stout, or
malt liquor in several respects. Flavored malt beverages exhibit little
or no traditional beer or malt beverage character. Their flavor is
derived primarily from added flavors rather than from malt and other
materials used in fermentation. At the same time, flavored malt
beverages are marketed in traditional beer-type bottles and cans and
distributed to the alcohol beverage market through beer and malt
beverage wholesalers, and their alcohol content is similar to other malt
beverages in the 4-6% alcohol by volume range.
Although flavored malt beverages are produced at breweries, their
method of production differs significantly from the production of other
malt beverages and beer. In producing flavored malt beverages, brewers
brew a fermented base of beer from malt and other brewing materials.
Brewers then treat this base using a variety of processes in order to
remove malt beverage character from the base. For example, they remove
the color, bitterness, and taste generally associated with beer, ale,
porter, stout, and other malt beverages. This leaves a base product to
which brewers add various flavors, which typically contain distilled
spirits, to achieve the desired taste profile and alcohol level.
While the alcohol content of flavored malt beverages is similar to
that of most traditional malt beverages, the alcohol in many of them is
derived primarily from the distilled spirits component of the added
flavors rather than from fermentation.
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Fruit Beers are beers that are flavored with fruits, fruit extracts or fruit syrups. The flavor of the beer varies with the fruit, but a Fruit Beer should have a relatively balanced between the base beer prior and the fruit addition.
Fruit Beers need not be sweet. Many are sour in character or even balanced between sweet and sour, while still maintaining a fruit flavor. Fruit Beers often conjure up an image of soda or fruit juice, but the best Fruit Beers can be complex and satisfying to even the most masculine of beer drinkers.
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Gluten free Beer ?
Gluten-free beer is beer made from ingredients that do not contain glycoproteins (gluten). People who have gluten intolerance (including celiac disease and dermatitis herpetiformis sufferers) have a reaction to certain proteins in the grains commonly used to make beer, barley and wheat. The hordein found in barley and the gliadin found in wheat are types of gluten that can trigger symptoms in sufferers of these diseases. Gluten-free beer is part of a gluten-free diet.
The recent development of gluten-free ales and lagers has been seen as a positive move forward for those who suffer a variety of related gluten intolerant conditions;and there are a number of people working to produce gluten-free beer.Of gluten-free products, beer is seen as the most difficult to produce in a commercially acceptable version. As of early 2012, a fast-growing range of ales and lagers is becoming widely available.
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India Pale Ale?
India Pale Ales get their name and unique style from British brewers who were making beer for export to India. The hops were used to preserve the beer for the long sea voyage. Not surprisingly, India Pale Ales are usually very hoppy!
For centuries, beer had been a preferred beverage at sea for sailors who had little access to fresh water. Long sea voyages without refrigeration lead to spoiled beer, however, and the British admiralty set out to recitify the situation by challenging brewers to solve the dilemma. In response, London brewer George Hodgson formulated a highly hopped and bitter ale in the early 18th century that eventually came to be known as the India Pale Ale. The anti-septic and preservative value of hops kept the beer relatively fresh even after many months at sea.
Today, English India Pale Ales are not nearly as hop aggressive as their American counterparts, but as late as the early 20th century English India Pale Ales were much more aggressive in hops than they are today. Over time, commercial interests dictated that the hop and bitterness levels of English IPA's subside, while American IPA's have taken their place at the forefront of assertively hoppy beers.
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Kolsch beers are the historic beers of Cologne (Koln), Germany. The term Kolsch is an appellation protected by the Kolsch Konvention and is restricted to the 20 or so breweries in and around Cologne although some American brewers brew Kolsch-style beers in the US. The word Kolsch is actually a reference to the dialect of the German language that is spoken in and around Cologne.
In the US the only readily available true Kolsch beers are Gaffel Kolsch and Reisdorff Kolsch.
Kolsch beers are sometimes mistaken for light lagers because of their light, clean tastes and aromas. Kolsch beers are distinguished by their very subtle fruity flavors and slightly tangy finish. Kolsch beers are properly served in a small, straight-sided 200ml glass called a stange. German Noble Hops are typically used.
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Beers produced with bottom fermenting yeast strains at colder fermentation temperatures than ales. This cooler environment inhibits the natural production of esters and other byproducts, creating a crisper tasting product.
Fermentation is the process in which yeast consumes sugar to produce alcohol and carbon dioxide. Bottom fermenting or Lager yeast do most of their work at the bottom of the tank where fermentation takes place, hence the term Bottom Fermenting. Bottom fermenting Lager yeast and top fermenting Ale yeast are different strains of yeast.
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Complex, fruity, pleasantly sour/acidic, balanced, pale, wheat-based ale fermented by a variety of Belgian microbiota. A lambic with fruit, not just a fruit beer.
Spontaneously fermented sour ales from the area in and around Brussels (the Senne Valley) stem from a farmhouse brewing tradition several centuries old. Their numbers are constantly dwindling and some are untraditionally sweetening their products (post-fermentation) with sugar or sweet fruit to make them more palatable to a wider audience. Fruit was traditionally added to lambic or gueuze, either by the blender or publican, to increase the variety of beers available in local cafes.
Fruit-based lambics are often produced like gueuze by mixing one, two, and three-year old lambic. "Young" lambic contains fermentable sugars while old lambic has the characteristic "wild" taste of the Senne River valley. Fruit is commonly added halfway through aging and the yeast and bacteria will ferment all sugars from the fruit. Fruit may also be added to unblended lambic. The most traditional styles of fruit lambics include kriek (cherries), framboise (raspberries) and druivenlambik (muscat grapes).
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Light Lagers are beer styles that largely evolved from the Pilsner beer style and share some common characteristics with them, including a pale color and clean finish. Though many beers and sources refer to Light Lagers as Pilsners, they are not stylistically the same. Light Lagers evolved as a response to the Pilsner style but the beers in this category differ from the Pilsners, particularly in their greater emphasis on malt character versus the Pilsner orientation towards hop bitterness.
Light Lagers are primarily of German origin and are rooted in the Munich Helles Lagers and Dortmunder Export beers. The American versions of Light Lagers, which were originally imitations of the Pilsners and German Light Lagers include the adjunct laden categories of Light American Lager, Standard American Lager and the Premium American Lager. The American versions were first brewed in the ninteenth century to be commercially viable for a wide range of consumers.
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Malt beverage is an American term for both alcoholic and non-alcoholic fermented beverages, in which the primary ingredient is barley which has been allowed to sprout (malt) slightly before it is processed. By far, the most predominant malt beverage is beer, of which there are two main styles: ale and lager. A non-alcoholic beverage brewed in this fashion is technically identical to "non-alcoholic beer." Such a beverage may be prepared by using a slightly altered brewing process which yields very little alcohol (technically less than 0.5% by volume.
The term "malt beverage" is often used by trade associations of groups of beer wholesalers to avoid any negative connotations associated with beer. Additionally, the term is applied to many other flavored beverages prepared from malted grains to which natural or artificial flavors have been added to make them taste similar to wines, fruits, colas, ciders, or other beverages.
In most jurisdictions, these products are regulated in a way identical to beer, which allows a retailer with a beer license to sell a seemingly wider product line. This also generally avoids the steeper taxes and stricter regulations associated with distilled spirits.
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The Munich Helles Lager was created by the Spaten Brewery in 1895 to compete directly with the hugely popular Pilsner beers coming from Bohemia. The same brewer who devised the original Oktoberfest recipe for Spaten, Gabriel Sedlmayr.
Sedlmayr and the Spaten Brewery (located in Munich) had been experimenting for some years with pale ale techniques that Sedlmyar had brought home from abroad when the Munich Helles recipe was perfected. In fact, it may well have been Sedlmayr's early work with pale lagers that influenced other European brewers to their own versions of them, most notably Josef Groll who created the original recipe for Pilsner Urquell, the first Pilsner beer.
Ultimately, it was an attempt to compete with the rising popularity of the Pilsner style beers that led Sedlmayr to the Munich Helles recipe that emphasizes malty sweetness much more so than the Pilsner's highly hopped bitterness.
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Non Alcoholic (NA)?
By definition, non-alcoholic beers are beers that contain less than 1/2 of 1% of alcohol by volume. That means that even a non-alcoholic beer contains some alcohol, but not nearly as much as a regular beer. By comparison, Miller Lite contains about 4% alcohol by volume. It is impossible to remove all of the alcohol from a beer. Alcohol is a natural by-product of the fermentation process and many grape and fruit juices contain minute amounts of alcohol by volume, a result of sugar in the juice converting to alcohol.
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Belonging to the Amber Lager family of beers, the Oktoberfest/Marzen beer style originated with Gabriel Sedlmayr and the 1872 Oktoberfest celebration in Munich. Sedlmayr brewed a relatively strong version of the existing Vienna Lager (also an Amber Lager) that quickly became a favorite Oktoberfest beer.
The original Oktoberfest beer was probably darker in color than today's beers of the same style but the color of an Oktoberfest beer can range from deep gold to dark amber. Modern, domestic German Oktoberfest beers tend to have a deep gold color while Oktoberfest beers brewed for export are typically a rich amber color.
This beer style showcases a rich malt flavor that is balanced by a crisp, clean hop presence. The Oktoberfest style is truly a showcase for malt flavors.
Oktoberfest beers are alternately known as Marzen beers because they were traditionally brewed in March (Marzen) and lagered over the summer for consumption at the fall Oktoberfest. The Oktoberfest celebration itself dates to 1812, but the 1872 introduction of Sedlmyar's beer marked the first time that an original beer recipe was brewed specifically for the event.
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Until the 1840s, most beers were top-fermented, dark and cloudy (dark ales). The taste and standards of quality often varied to the worse, and in 1838, consumers even dumped whole barrels to show their dissatisfaction.
Bohemian (Czech Republic) brewers set out to create a new beer style that would be commercially successful, beginning with a study of available styles and brewing techniques. Bavarian brewers had already begun experiments with the storage (lagering) of beer in cool caves using bottom-fermenting yeasts, which improved the beer's clarity, flavor, and shelf-life and this technique seemed to lend itself to the creation of an entirely new beer style.
Eventually, Bohemia produced the first Pilsner beer soon to be followed by the German and Classic American Pilsners.
As a marketing technique, some brewers, particularly in North American, call their premium beers "pilsner" whether they are true Pilsner beers or not.
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Most of what we think of as a Porter beer in America is actually a Robust Porter, by definition. Examples of Robust Porters would be Bell's Porter, Rogue Mocha Porter, Anchor Porter and there are many other American versions. Robust Porters are generally a little stronger and more bitter than their English counterparts, as American brewers and drinkers tend to prefer hoppier beers.
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Saisons are sometimes called Farmhouse Ales as they originated on the farms of French speaking Wallonia in Belgium ("saison" being the French word for season). Saisons were brewed on the farms to refresh the workers there. Historically, they were very low in alcohol (around 3.5% abv) in order that the workers be able to finish the day's labor.
Saisons sprang up around Wallonia in many forms, so the original Saison "style" was extremely varied in flavor and ingredients. Farmers brewed Saisons with the ingredients that were readily available to them at the time. More recently, Saisons have become very strongly associated with the Saison brewed at the Brasserie Dupont in Tourpes, Belgium who's "Saison Dupunt" is often considered to be the modern defining beer of the style.
Saisons are brewed with barley malt, though wheat is sometimes used in addition. Spices, seasonings and adjuncts like honey and sugar can also be used in Saisons, though no one ingredient is common to all Saisons. Saisons can also be some of the "hoppiest" of the Belgian beers and are usually markedly bitter.
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Stouts evolved from the Porter style during the later part of the 19th century in England. Frequently referred to as "Stout Porter," the Stout style of beer promoted as a healthy drink and was often recommended by doctors for nursing mothers and athletes, who were told that Stouts would help to replenish their bodies. Today, claims about the health benefits of Stouts are much more limited, but they are still an extremely popular style of dark beer. And contrary to some perceptions, Stouts are usually quite pleasant tasting, easily drinkable and much less harsh on the palate than their color leads people to believe.
Stouts are brewed with roasted barley malt, which gives them their characteristic dark black color, as well as their roasted flavor. Stouts are top fermented ales, brewed with ale yeast. They often taste of chocolate or coffee, both of which are sometimes used to enhance the flavor.
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Wheat beer is a beer that is brewed with a large proportion of wheat. Wheat beers often also contain a significant proportion of malted barley. Wheat beers are usually top-fermented (as required by law in Germany. The flavor of wheat beers varies considerably, depending upon the specific style.
The main varieties are weissbier, witbier, and the sour varieties, such as lambic. German wheat beers are called weizen ("wheat") in the western and northern regions, and weissbier or weiss ("white beer" or "white") in Bavaris. Hefeweizen (the prefix "hefe" is German for yeast) is the name for unfiltered wheat beers, while kristallweizen ("kristall" being German for crystal) is the same beer filtered.
Breweries in other countries, particularly the US and Canada, will brew wheat beers based on these two main traditions using special wheat beer yeasts.
Sour beers such a Berliner Weisse and lambics are made with a significant proportion of wheat.
In Britain, wheat beer is not considered traditional, but several brewers produce cask-conditioned varieties. British wheat beer tends to be a hybrid of the continental style with an English bitter, rather than an exact
Wheat beers are commonly marketed as spring or summer seasonal products.
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Witbiers (White Ales)?
Witbiers (White Ales) are the traditional wheat ales of Belgium. Unlike their German counterparts, the Hefeweizens, Belgian brewers are not constrained by the German Purity Law and therefore, they are happy to put spices and seasonings in thier beers. Witbiers are often seasoned with orange peel and coriander, though some brewers vary in the quantity and types of seasoning used.
Witbiers were essentially a dead beer style in Belgium after having beer popular for some 400 years beginning around 1550 A.D. In the late 20th century, the style was revived by Pierre Celis while brewing at Hoegaarden and today the Witbier is a popular style in Belgium and in the United States.
Coors Brewing's Blue Moon is a popular example of the Witbier style, though many American micro-brewers make their own versions and some import versions are widely available in the United States.
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