American Wheat beers are different than hefeweizens, but they’re equally tasty and, depending on who you ask, more refreshing. They make for a great summer beer and are fun and easy to make. Let’s check out some American Wheat recipes and learn how to brew one!
Brew an American Wheat beer by using at least 30% raw wheat or wheat malt in the grist. Hop additions can be American but can also include German varietals. Hop flavor and aroma are medium-low. American Wheat beers can use ale or lager yeast, but ale yeast is more common. This will make a crisp, refreshing beer with light citrus and bread notes.
Create an excellent American Wheat by following the tips, tricks, and recipes below. We’ll cover everything you need to know about brewing an American Wheat.
Topics We Cover
What is an American Wheat?
- Color – Clear to hazy straw color, 2-10 SRM
- Common flavor – Grainy, light and refreshing, often uses fruit additions
- Aroma – Bread, citrus
- Mouthfeel – Slightly carbonated, thin
- IBUs (Bitterness) – 10-35
- ABV – 3.5-5.6%
History of the American Wheat
American beer history is usually accredited to other parts of the world. Some of the most important and influential styles in America come from the likes of England or Germany.
This goes for American Wheat beers, too. The style has roots in the German Hefeweizen, but these two beer styles have their distinct differences in recipes, flavors, and aromas. The main similarity is the grain bill.
Many beer styles use wheat instead of other grains, including a handful of historic European styles. The use of wheat offers a more mild and more versatile flavor than the toastiness of other malts. The lack of grain husks also inhibits undesired bitterness – perfect for an American Wheat beer.
American Wheat beers are descendants of the Bavarian hefeweizen but are not the same. They do however use one of the same main ingredients: wheat. American Wheat beers use at least 30% wheat in the malt bill but usually no more than 50%. These beers do not use the Bavarian Weizen strain and do not contain clove or spicy notes.
Popular commercial American Wheats
Here are a few examples of popular American Wheat beers on the market for you to try.
- Bell’s Oberon – A semi-summer seasonal from Bell’s Brewery. Heavy citrus notes and a full body. Spicy hop character and refreshing taste. Brewed with wheat malt and Bell’s house ale yeast.
- Widmer Brothers Hefeweizen – Hazy golden-orange appearance. Dense white head with strong wheat flavor. Fruity notes lead the way in the aroma followed by biscuits and wheat.
- Samuel Adams Summer Ale – Citrus American Wheat beer with a blend of orange, lemon, and lime peels. Mild spicy notes from hops and yeast. Crisp and refreshing. Brewed with Sam Adams’ two-row blend and malted wheat.
- Goose Island 312 Urban Wheat – Spicy flavor from cascade hops. Full and pillowy mouthfeel with citrus aroma. Hazy gold appearance, brewed with American two-row and wheat.
Popular American Wheat recipes (all-grain or extract)
A real low bitterness, mild, smooth beer for easy drinking. This beer is a good choice for adding our fruit purees or flavorings. An ideal summer thirst quencher.
How to brew an American Wheat
Now that we understand the style and have named a few staples from around the country, I’ll explain the details of how to brew an American Wheat. We’ll talk about the ingredients as well as how to use them when you’re ready to make the beer.
The entire process will take no longer than 2 weeks. Of course, this varies depending on the ingredients used and if you kegged or bottled the beer.
Recipe and ingredients
Like any homebrew, you need to sort out your ingredients before you start brewing an American Wheat. This style has some flexibility, but one thing remains true: you’ll need at least 30% wheat in the grain bill. I’ve listed a few tips and guidelines on recipe selection for this style, but feel free to add your twist.
American Wheat beers are versatile and can use a lot of different water profiles
A good water profile can make or break a beer. Start with RO water for a clean slate for American Wheat beers and adjust it to become relatively soft. A drier American Wheat benefits from higher sulfate levels and a lower pH.
This style needs to emphasize wheat malt and even the yeast strain used. A good water profile enhances the emphasis on these ingredients. Although these styles are different, American Wheat beers can utilize a similar water profile to a Hefeweizen.
American Wheats must include, obviously, wheat. On top of that, American grains are usually the cohost of the grist.
American Wheats must be made with at least 30% wheat in the grain bill. This can be unmalted or malted. They’re also commonly brewed with American Two-Row or pale malt. The remaining grist can include Rye or small portions of specialty malts for added bready flavor.
The bulk is made up of wheat and American two-row. These beers can use just those or add specialty grains to the list of ingredients for a wider range of flavors.
Specialty grains or other additions
Light caramel malts make solid additions to an American Wheat. Cara-wheat might be the most obvious choice as a specialty grain. Dextrin malt is another great choice for an American Wheat beer brewed with fruit or an especially ester-y yeast strain.
Dextrin malts add to the sweetness of a beer which can work well with an American Wheat as it lacks some of the fruity qualities that the German Hefewezein boasts. On top of that, dextrin malt benefits head retention – a quality associated with wheat beers.
Because American Wheats tend to have a more pronounced hop flavor than other wheat beer styles, you should consider using malts that enable some bitterness in the beer. Darker caramel malts will add some sweetness and bready notes but will also offer slight bitterness.
Hops play a role in the flavor and aroma of every beer, no matter the style.
American Wheat beers make great use of hops. They typically use American varieties like Cascade, but any hop can be used. For American Wheat beers, use hops with floral, herbal, spicy and fruity notes.
Hops are used for bittering, flavor and aroma. It’s vital that you choose hops that go well together. Conflicting hop flavor can ruin a beer, so be careful which ones you use together. Although, bittering hops don’t impart much flavor – feel free to use non-American varieties on that front.
Bittering hops are used to add bitterness to beer. They’re added at the beginning of the boil allowing ample time for isomerization to occur. At the same time, the aromas of these hops are boiled away and the wort is left with a strong bitterness.
Bittering hops don’t add much flavor or aroma to beer so it’s best to choose ones that have a high alpha acid content, maximizing bittering efficiency during brewing. You can use these hops solely based on their alpha-acid content.
Here are some good bittering hops to use for an American Wheat.
|Name||Purpose||Alpha Acid %|
|Chinook||Bittering + Aroma||12-14%|
|Columbus||Bittering + Aroma||14-18%|
Aroma and Flavor
Aroma and flavor hops are used for exactly that – aroma and flavor attributes.
Aroma and flavor hops are added late in the boil, usually past the halfway mark. The longer they’re in the boil, the less flavor and aroma they give the beer. American Wheat beers benefit from Willamette and Centennial hops for added herbal spiciness.
Not all flavor and aroma hops go together, and the wrong combinations can create undesired flavors. As I mentioned earlier, try to use hops that complement each other.
In styles where hops take a backseat, it’s common to use one strain of hop, so the flavor is manageable. Note that all hops give off at least some bitterness despite when they’re added to the boil.
|Name||Flavor/Aroma||Alpha Acid %|
|Willamette||Spicy, floral, fruity||4-6%|
|Simcoe||Pine, citrus, fruity||12-14%|
|Centennial||Pine, citrus, floral||9.5-11.5%|
|Citra||Floral, fruity, citrus||11-13%|
Yeast plays various roles in brewing. As such, different beer styles require different yeast strains.
Good yeast strains for an American Wheat have medium-low flocculation to create a hazy appearance and fuller mouthfeel characteristic of the style. They ferment cleaner than German Hefeweizen strains with little to no banana or clove flavors and aromas.
American Wheats can use either ale or lager yeast for fermentation, depending on the desired outcome of the beer.
Here are a few good dry yeast strains for brewing an American Wheat.
|M20 Bavarian Wheat||70-75%||Low||59-86°F|
Here are a few good liquid yeast strains for brewing an American Wheat.
|WLP320 American Hefeweizen||70-75%||Low||65-69°F|
|Wyeast 1010 American Wheat||74-78%||Low||58-74°F|
Brewing process for American Wheat beer
After you picked out your ingredients and sanitized your equipment, you’re ready to start brewing the beer.
Firstly, decide on the type of mash you will use: single-step or infusion. Consider the perfect mashing temperature, water quantities, hopping schedule, and if you need an additional fermenter.
Once you’ve planned out the brewing process, the rest is a breeze. The brew day will be standard and, even if this is your first time brewing beer, it will be straightforward. After the mash-in, it’s time to sparge.
Once you collect enough wort, it’s on to the boil where you’ll add hops and any other additions your recipe calls for. After that, it’s time to cool the wort, pitch the yeast and wait.
The mashing process for American Wheats is relatively simple. It varies depending on if you’re using raw wheat or wheat malt, with the latter being more common.
For wheat malt, use an infusion mash. Try to reach a consistent 152°F during the mash for a more balanced flavor. Some unfermentable sugars will invoke a residual sweetness in the beer.
Because wheat is huskless, it tends to get stuck in the equipment. If you’ve experienced a stuck mash before, consider adding rice hulls to the mash – an equal volume to the amount of wheat used is a good target. Rice hulls won’t add any flavor or aroma.
Boil times for an American Wheat can be anywhere from 60-90 minutes. If you have the time, use a 90-minute boil to ensure the hot break doesn’t stick to the hop additions. These undesired flavors are prominent in an American Wheat.
Hop additions are made during the boil. The longer hops are in the boil, the more bitterness they give the beer. Common hop addition times include 60 minutes, 30, 20, and 10 minutes remaining.
Whirlpool or flameout
Hops added late in the boil retain their aromatic qualities for longer, adding greater depth to beers.
Some beers benefit from a more potent hop flavor and aroma from hops added as soon as the boil is done. When the boil time is up, whirlpool or flameout hop additions add their full aroma to the beer. These hops will add little to no bitterness.
Fermenting American Wheat beer
American Wheat beers undergo a standard fermentation process. It can take longer if you use a lager yeast.
All beers benefit from a consistent fermentation temperature. Ale yeasts won’t take longer than 10 days to finish. Lager yeasts can take multiple weeks to complete fermentation.
American Wheats usually require only one fermentation period.
Fermentation temperatures are contingent on the type of yeast used.
Generally, American Wheats are brewed with ale yeasts, although they can also use lager yeasts. For American Wheats using ale yeast, keep fermentation temperatures between 75-85°F. For lager yeasts, ferment between 55-75°F.
It’s best practice to keep fermentation temperatures consistent throughout the entire process.
Bottling or Kegging American Wheat beer
Should you bottle or keg your beer?
American Wheat beers can be either bottled or keg. It comes down to personal preference. Some recipes call for a resting period after bottling before the beer is ready to drink. Choose whichever method works for you.
American Wheat recipes
Here are three all-grain homebrew recipes for American Wheat beers. They each brew five-gallon batches.
- American Wheat, Brew Your Own
- Bell’s Oberon Ale Clone, Bell’s Brewery
- American Wheat Ale, Serious Eats, Joe Postma
Basic American Wheat
- 5 lbs. 5 oz. Great Western wheat malt (2 °L)
- 2 lbs. 10 oz.Great Western American two-row malt (2 °L)
- 2 lb. 10 oz. Durst continental Pilsner malt (2 °L)
- Willamette pellet hops 1.08 oz.
- Centennial pellet hops 0.25 oz.
- White Labs WLP320 (American Hefeweizen), Wyeast 1010 (American Wheat) or Fermentis Safale US-05 yeast
- Mill grains
- Add water, targeting 1.5 quarts of water per 1 lb. of grain
- Hold temperature at 152°F
- While stirring, infuse the mash with near-boiling water
- Mash out at 168°F
- Sparge with 170°F water until you reach 6.5 gallons of wort/water
- Boil wort (90 minutes total)
- With 60 minutes remaining, add 0.83 oz. of Willamette hops
- With 0 minutes left, add the remaining 0.25 oz of Willamette hops and 0.25 oz. Centennial hops
- Chill wort to 65°F, and let the break material settle
- Move to fermenter
- Pitch yeast and aerate thoroughly
- For dry yeast, use 9 grams
- For liquid yeast, use two packages
- Ferment at 65°F
- Once fermentation is finished, rack to keg or bottles
Bell’s Oberon Ale Clone
- 6 lbs. 2-Row Malt
- 5 lbs. White Wheat Malt
- 0.50 lb. Munich Malt
- 0.50 lb. CaraPils Malt
- 1 oz. Perle Hops
- 1 oz. Hersbrucker Hops
- 2 oz. Saaz Hops
- Imperial A62 Bell’s House Yeast
- Heat 4.1 gallons of water to 164°F
- Add grains to mash tun with water, mash at 150°F for 1 hour
- Sparge with 4.4 gallons of 170°F water
- Boil wort (60 minutes total)
- Once boiling, add 1 oz. Perle hops
- With 30 minutes remaining, add 1 oz. Hersbrucker hops
- With 0 minutes remaining, add 2 oz. Saaz hops
- Chill wort to 68°F
- Transfer 5 gallons of wort to the fermenter
- Pitch yeast and aerate
- Ferment between 68-72°F for two weeks or until finished
- Package in bottles
- Add priming sugar before bottling
- Let the bottles carbonate at room temperature for 2 weeks
American Wheat Ale from Serious Eats
- 3 lbs. American two-row
- 4 lbs. Malted Wheat
- 0.6 lbs. Munich malt
- 1 oz. Magnum hops
- 1 oz. Sorachi Ace hops
- White Labs WLP051 or Wyeast 1272
- Heat 2.5 gallons of water to 165°F
- Mash in grains, let water get to 154°F
- Cover and let sit for 60 minutes, stir every 20 minutes
- Heat 3 gallons of water to 185°F
- Sparge and let water get to 170°F
- Add water to total of 6 gallons of wort
- Bring wort to a boil (60 minutes total)
- With 60 minutes remaining, add 1 oz. of Magnum hops
- With 15 minutes remaining, add 0.5 oz. Sorachi Ace hops
- With 5 minutes remaining, add 0.5 oz. Sorachi Ace hops
- Finish boiling
- Cool wort to below 70°F
- Transfer to fermenter
- Pitch yeast and aerate thoroughly
- Ferment at 66°F for 1-2 weeks or until finished
- Package in bottles
- Add priming sugar before bottling
- Let carbonate for 2 weeks
Did you know that we have a full library of homebrew beer recipes for every style?