Style Profile: Wheat Wine

Posted on September 8th, 2009


Wheat wine is a relevantly young style of beer, having emerged from  bolder American craft brewers over the last decade or so. For awhile there has been a trend among these brewers to experiment with older, less alcoholic styles by creating high alcohol versions; these bold versions are often dubbed “imperial,” a reference to the extremely potent Russian imperial stout. Some of these experiments work better than others. Over time wheat ale proved to be a style which did extremely well at higher alcohol percentages, and the one-off batches made by various brewers across the country took shape as a more cohesive style.

Photo Credit: Mark Pansing

Photo Credit: Mark Pansing

As a result of its young age and development it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that wheat whine is not a very precise category. Generally speaking, wheat wines feature a smooth, velvety mouth feel and a sweet, but light taste. Its strong alcohol percentage, (which can range anywhere from 7-14%) also gives the beer a warming affect.

Unlike other high alcohol or imperial beers, such as the barley wine, from which it borrows the ‘wine’ part of its name, wheat wine remains a nicely balanced beer thanks to the subtle flowery and citrusy flavors the wheat gives it. This makes it perfect for consumption any time of year. Color and appearance tend to fairly widely, ranging anywhere from a clear amber to a cloudy gold.

Ever had a wheat wine? Although it’s still fairly rare there are plenty of great brewers with examples of the style. New Hamshire’s Smuttynose Brewing makes a great one, and be sure to check out Gamma Ray from Terrapin Brewing in Georgia and  New Holland’s Pilgrim’s Dole from Michigan for wonderful wheat wine. Next time you do let us know what you think about it or any other wheat wine by tweeting your beer and adding the ‘#mybeer’ hashtag.

  • MelMon8

    Two Brothers Brewery in Warrenville, IL makes a wheat wine called Bare Tree…. I just attended a vertical tasting of the '06, '07, '08 and '09… good stuff!

  • scottcramlet

    Rubicon Brewing Company made the first commercial Wheatwine in America in 1988. We have taken a Gold and a Silver for this beer at the Great American Beer Festival as well as a Gold at the World Beer Cup.

    Scott Cramlet
    Rubicon Brewing Company

  • I wouldn’t expect a wine made from wheat, but would ordinarily expect it to be beer. Could be interesting to try though.

  • Wheat wine is very much, beer. It’s just a clever name to reference the style’s strength, which frequently rivals that of wine. Well worth a try.