Beer style guide: Get to know wheatwine

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Wheatwine is a uniquely American style of beer that came out of the microbrewery boom of the late 1980’s. Although not made that much anymore (or really ever that popular to begin with), it is an excellent beer style worthy of discussion.

History of Wheatwine

This beer has a cut and dry history, thank goodness. The beer was invented by the now defunct Rubicon brewery in 1988, which was based in Sacramento, California. The beer takes cues from English barleywine but is made with a fair amount of malted wheat in the grist in addition to malted barley. Think of it as a German weizenbock without the banana and clove flavors of German wheat beers meets English barleywine. Read more about barleywine and weizenbock. The beer is not as aggressively hopped as a barleywine as well so there’s more wheat smoothness and any hop can be used as it is not a dominant flavor or aroma component of the beer. American ale yeast is typically used but English yeast could be used as well.

Something that works really well for wheatwines is barrel aging. That’s why it confuses me that this beer style isn’t made that much anymore (brewing it is probably difficult since wheat malt is very sticky and using a lot of it which this recipe does can be cumbersome for brewing systems) because high alcohol beers like imperial stouts and barleywines continue to be popular yet the humble wheatwine barely gets a mention anymore.

Tasting Notes

If you are going to see wheatwines nowadays, chances are most of them are going to be put in barrels for an extended period as the caramel flavor of this beer works really well with the toasty vanilla notes of oak barrels. There’s a richness to this beer and since it’s heavy in wheat, it almost reminds me of drinking a large slice of cake. When you are drinking this beer, look for flavors/aromas of fresh bread, honey, raisin, fig and caramel.

Wheatwine Pairings

Crème brule photo by Max Griss on Unsplash

Wheatwines are BIG beers and best situated for the end of the meal. They are a natural complement to buttery, caramel desserts such as pound cake, flan and crème brûlée. They also work well as the dessert themselves, preferably in front of a roaring fire either camping in the great outdoors or inside under a blanket as the snow falls.

Beers to Try

Boulevard Barrel Aged Wheatwine

Boulevard is no stranger to wheatwine having made the very delicious harvest dance wheatwine back in 2011. Their BA wheatwine is a collaboration with Firestone Walker so you know it’ll be good.

Sierra Nevada BA Wheatwine with Lemon

This beer sounds amazing! A limited on tap option at Sierra Nevada’s breweries in California and North Carolina, this beer was inspired by whiskey sours. It’s a blend of sour ale and lemon mixed with a bourbon barrel aged wheatwine. I love when breweries make cocktail inspired beers.

The Bruery Wheatwines

The Bruery White Chocolate and The Bruery White Oak

One of the only breweries to make a fair amount of wheatwines is California based The Bruery, who use a wheatwine base for many of their beers or as a blend or in some of their barrel projects. White Oak is a blend of bourbon barrel aged wheatwine and Belgian strong golden while their White Chocolate is a bourbon barrel aged wheatwine with cocoa nibs and vanilla beans. Neither are available at the moment, but with any luck they will return.

This article originally appeared on The Alcohol Professor and was syndicated by MediaFeed.

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