The American Wheat Beer and How to Brew It

American Wheat Beer

Overview

The American wheat beer is a relatively new style of beer and is not to be mistaken for its German hefeweizen counterpart. While the German hefeweizen is known for its clove and banana character, the American wheat is a clean, grainy, bready beer with no banana flavor/aroma and no clove phenols whatsoever. The style guidelines are below.

  • Original Gravity: 1.040 – 1.055
  • Final Gravity: 1.008 – 1.013
  • Alcohol by Volume: 4.0% – 5.5%
  • Bitterness: 15 – 30 IBU
  • Color (SRM): 3 – 6

American Wheat Ingredients

Malt

The American wheat beer has a very simple grain bill, consisting of just wheat malt and an American pale malt. You can split it right down the middle at 50/50, or add slightly more wheat at a 60/40 ratio. Some brewers like to add a slightly spicy character, so they will split the wheat malt addition with rye, but that is entirely up to you. Personally, I prefer just using wheat and pale malts.

Hops

For the American wheat, there is a low to moderate bitterness. I would use around a 0.3 – 0.5 ratio of IBU/OG (for example, an IBU of 20 and an OG of 1.040 would be 20/40 or 0.5). A strong hop flavor is not typical since you want to showcase the bready, grainy wheat flavor, so I would only add a 60-minute addition. Even though it is an American style, you can’t go wrong with a German noble hop such as Mittelfruh, Spalt, or Tettnang.

Yeast

For the American wheat, the yeast should be clean and neutral, while also non-flocculant. There will be some esters, but they should not be prominent. I also ferment my American wheat beers around 62 degrees to further suppress the esters. The following strains are excellent choices.

  • American Hefeweizen Yeast – WLP320 (White Labs)
  • American Wheat – 1010 (Wyeast)

Water

Last but not least, the water. For all beers I brew, I use a reverse osmosis filtration system and build up my water profile from scratch. My water profile looked like this:

  • Calcium: 50 ppm
  • Sodium: 5 ppm
  • Sulfates: 75 ppm
  • Chloride: 60 ppm

Recipe

The following is a 5-gallon version of an American wheat beer. The numbers for this beer are listed below.

  • Original Gravity: 1.049
  • Final Gravity: 1.008 – 1.013
  • Alcohol by Volume: 4.8%
  • Bitterness: 16.1 IBU
  • Color (SRM): 3.3

Grain Bill

  • Wheat Malt – 5 lbs (55.6%)
  • Pale Malt – 4 lbs (44.4%)

Since there is so much wheat malt in this style, I would highly recommend adding rice hulls. The rice hulls will help provide stability to your grain bed and prevent a stuck mash. For a five-gallon batch, I would use around half a pound of rice hulls.

Hops

1.15 oz of Mittelfruh at 60 minutes (16.1 IBU)

Yeast

American Hefeweizen Yeast – WLP320

Mash

Some brewers have a protein rest at 122 degrees Fahrenheit for 15-30 minutes to break down the high amounts of protein chains found in the wheat malt, but it is not entirely necessary.

Add your salts if needed, and fill your mash tun to the required volume and temperature. We will add the protein rest, but if you do not want to use one, simply mash in at 163 degrees to get a mash temperature of 152 degrees and hold it for 60 minutes. For the protein rest, have your strike water at 2.8 gallons and 133 degrees. Hold the mash at 122 degrees for 15 minutes, and then slowly raise the mash temperature to 152. Hold the mash at 152 degrees for 60 minutes, and then proceed to mash out. Sparge with 5 gallons of water. Pre-boil gravity should be around 1.043.

Boil

Boil the wort for 90 minutes and add the hops in at 60 minutes. At 10 minutes, I added a yeast nutrient, which is particularly important with this style due to the lower fermentation temperature. Once the boil is complete, whirlpool the wort for 10 minutes and then let it wind down for 10 minutes.

Fermentation

Knock the wort out in your heat exchanger so that the pitching temperature is 60 degrees and then measure the gravity/pitch the yeast. Make sure to adequately oxygenate your wort, again, due to the lower fermentation temperature. Initial gravity should be around 1.049. I let this free rise to 62 degrees as fermentation starts. Hold the temperature at 62 degrees for 5-7 days until the primary fermentation starts to slow down, and then let the temperature free-rise up to 72 degrees to finish. Once your fermentation is fully complete, cold crash to 33 degrees for at least a day and then transfer to the brite tank to carbonate it to 2.6 vols. After 3 days in the brite tank, keg it, and enjoy!

If you decide to try this recipe, or another American wheat recipe, feel free to send us a comment and let us know how it went! And if you want to see more recipes like this, sign up for our newsletter below to be notified when a new post is released. Cheers!

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