Despite all my man-of-the-people posturing, I have to admit that the view’s pretty sweet from up here at the top of the lower-middle tier of freelance beer writing. I have a real shower curtain these days—not just the flimsy liner you get at CVS for six bucks, but also the thicker vinyl one that goes on the outside; I bought a new used bike less than a year ago, fenders and headlight and the whole seven yards, straight cash; I treat my cat to the fancy pet-store food, the special scientific shit that costs north of a dollar a can. You get the picture. I’m doing A-OK.
And I expect this Veterenarian-Approved Minced Chicken With Gravy train will keep running right on schedule, given my smudgy track record and pulse-having work ethic, not to mention online publishing’s sustainable-if-you-squint business model. Near as I can figure, the only thing that could really ground the rocket ship would be an adult-onset gluten allergy. This is sincerely my greatest fear, ahead of snakes and Trump and reptiles with short fingers and real estate developers with forked tongues and everything else. If my precious guts were to suddenly lose their world-class ability to easily digest—or at least, like, cope with—the rivers of beer I send their way every day, I would be broken.
I realize gluten is present in most beer-making grains, including barley, but since it’s most commonly associated with wheat, I’d like to take this opportunity to pay my respects to all the wonderful wheat-heavy beers out there. Here are ten of my favorites.
This 5.5-percent alcohol-by-volume crossover brew from Kansas City would likely be branded a white IPA if it were introduced today. Dry-hopping with Cascade and Nelson Sauvin provides a bright citrus edge to the sweet, bready malt character. Pairs well with slow-pitch softball.
White Birch makes popular raspberry and blueberry Berliners in Hooksett, New Hampshire, but I prefer the unadulterated version. It’s crisp and refreshing and just sour enough, and it makes an ideal base for homemade radler experimentation.
This partially oak-aged 9-percent ABV Belgian strong ale from Portland, Maine, proves that there’s nothing inherently gentle about wheat beer. Dark, boozy, and foreboding, Odyssey has complex aromas and flavors of vanilla, chocolate, fruity yeast esters, cinnamon, and licorice.
I squandered valuable years of my beer life avoiding this one because of its stupid name; I implore you not to make the same mistake. Another white IPA, at least in spirit, this 7.5-percent ABV wheat brew displays grapefruit, mango, pine, and light herbal notes. Little Sumpin’ Sumpin’ is the ideal beer to help you fight off a hangover in a mid-range Manhattan hotel room as you flick idly through the channels while trying to summon the strength to look for your phone.
I’m reluctant to name an absolute “best” of any beer style until I’ve drank all the way through the competition, but I’ll be very pleasantly surprised if I ever discover another hefeweizen as good as this 5.4-percent ABV Bavarian classic. German-style beer halls are among mankind’s greatest institutions, but I’ve undermined many an afternoon by ordering a full liter of beer as soon as I luck upon such a place. There aren’t a ton of brews that go down fast enough to justify ordering them 33 ounces at a time, but Weihenstephaner is certainly one of them. Should the situation ever arise, I am quite confident that I could drink two bathtubs full of this banana-clove-bubblegum masterpiece.
It’ll be interesting to see just how far gose’s recent revival will go. The German-style wheat beer brewed with coriander and salt was nearly extinct until a few years ago, when American brewers such as Westbrook, Off Color, and Anderson Valley took up the cause with surprising success; Sierra Nevada makes one now. Anderson Valley’s new Briney Melon version adds just a bit of watermelon to the mix. The light touch is what happens when you brew with real fruit rather than extracts and imitation flavors—actual melon is quite a bit milder than Jolly Rancher would have you believe. The result is tart, refreshing, and the best kind of peculiar.
Kent Falls is an excellent oddball of a farmhouse brewery in Connecticut, just the sort of place that can be trusted to introduce you to grätzer, an old Polish style of smoked wheat beer. Anachronism is given a German twist with the addition of a Tettnang dry-hopping, which provides a bright floral note that perfectly complements the lightly charred wheat flavor.
Another listicle, another ode to Sierra Nevada. I don’t know what to tell you, other than this is the best American hefeweizen I’ve come across. There’s a subtle pine edge to the expected clove and banana flavors, unless I’m imagining it just because that’s what I expect out of Sierra Nevada. Now you’ll imagine it too! Enjoy. This is great beer.
Another gose! Who designs these lists, anyway? I dunno, just some chump who fell hard for this cherry-accented seasonal last summer and can’t wait to drink several judiciously spaced gallons of it as 2016 turns sweatier. The cherries are refreshingly tart and add bright, fruity complexity to gose’s otherwise austere profile.
Namaste is a 4.8-percent ABV Belgian-style witbier brewed with orange, coriander, and lemongrass. There’s an assertive pepper edge, too, along with some clove and a hint of nectarine, making for a surprisingly robust drinking experience that highlights the best of Dogfish’s renowned weirdness.