Expanding your Beer Palate – Wheat Beers

Now that we have covered stouts, sour beers, IPAs and porters, it?s time to move to another type of beer you?re likely to find at your local watering hole: wheat beers.

Drink up!

Normally malted barley serves as the main ingredient of beer. Wheat beer, as you might guess, substitutes wheat for the barley in different proportions to create different flavors of beer. Then, just like its malted barley kin, it can take different forms like the hefeweizen you regularly see on tap and can recognize in people?s hands because of the orange slice in their beer (it sounds less fancy when you realize weizen is German for wheat and hefe means yeast) or dunkel weizen that translates to ?dark wheat.?

That?s all well and good, and now we know what we are drinking. So, what do we drink?

To the Great American Beer Festival winners!

The first I?ll mention is the bronze medal winner in the American-style wheat beer with yeast ? Widmer Brothers Brewing Company?s Hefeweizen. Looking at its locator service, this is a widely available beer, as there are five locations within six blocks of me. (Or that?s evidence that I live near a lot of bars, you decide.) The only one off the top of my head that is probably available in more places is Pyramid Brewing Company?s Hefeweizen (where do they get these great beer names?) that has 306 locations where I can find it within my immediate zip code.

The gold medal winner is no slouch as far as availability goes. Point Brewing Company?s Horizon Wheat has distributors throughout the Midwest, southeast and east coast. Not only does this beer have a gold medal from the Great American Beer Festival, it has also won the world beer championships twice so I have no doubt it is a good beer. I just wish I could get it in California.

The silver medal winner takes some effort to get to though. It?s located in downtown Columbia, MO about halfway between St. Louis and Kansas City, MO on I-70. Trust me though Flat Branch Pub and Brewery is worth the trip. According to the website, Esquire Magazine named it one of the best bars in America. They have plenty of bourbons and scotches available. If nothing on the menu tempts you (are you made of stone?) grab a growler of one of their many beers and head up the street to Shakespeare?s Pizza, the only restaurant in Columbia that could tear me away from Flat Branch.

As for the American-style wheat beer (the category implies a lack of yeast) there is a nice distribution throughout the country. Blue Mountain Brewery?s Sandy Bottom can be found on tap at their restaurant in Afton, Virginia or other locations across the state. Barley Brown?s Brew Pub in Baker City, Oregon, about two hours northwest of Boise, Idaho, offers, well, it?s tough to tell from their website, but they are open 4 pm to 10 pm if you are in the area. (Maybe during next year?s Sasquatch Festival, because you can drive to Baker City in only four hours.) For the bronze medal winning County Seat Wheat, you could plan a trip to Topeka, KS and the Blind Tiger Brewery. Then drive about three hours east, and you?re in Columbia for Flat Branch, and you?ve just had your first wheat beer road trip. The reward? Good beer of course.

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About Jason McClain Jason is an aspiring novelist, which means there is a lot of time to put off writing and watch baseball or go fly-fishing, hiking and traveling. By "a lot of time", Jason means "procrastination."

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