Barley may be the ultimate beer-brewing cereal grain, but wheat is commonly included when making summer beers to provide a crisp acidity and a lighter mouth feel. And while traditional, low-hop, summer beer styles (such as Hefeweizen and Witbier) include wheat, innovative West Coast brewers enjoy creating variations on that classic theme. With the days getting longer and warmer, we checked in with a few local craft brewers to check out this season’s cool and refreshing wheaties.
Almanac is rolling out what it’s calling a “Summer of Sour” – an ambitious program of releasing one sour beer a month, many barrel-aged. One of the sours, although stainless-steel aged, is their Golden Gate Gose. Inspired by the classic sour wheat beer from Leipzig, Germany, and traditionally brewed with salt and coriander, Almanac’s tart, California-fied version is imbued with San Francisco Bay sea salt, lemon verbena, and coriander custom-grown by Dirty Girl Produce in Santa Cruz.
Kim Sturdavant, Brewmaster at SKB, described his summer wheat beer this way: “Every year, around the summer solstice, we harvest herbs from Garden for the Environment – an educational, community garden located about four blocks away, on 7th at Lawton. I infuse them in a Belgian wheat beer called Citrodora Elegans, which is a combination of the Latin words for pineapple sage (a wonderfully tropical variety of sage) and lemon verbena. It's truly refreshing and perfect for summer, assuming the fog doesn't roll in too thick.”
Magnolia's limited-release, hoppy pale ale is tapped to coincide with the Haight Street Fair, slated for Sunday, June 8. Jubilee Ale is a Cascade-hopped, session-beer similar to the brewery’s more familiar Prescription Pale Ale. It’s only available at the Haight Street location, but isn’t it great to now have more than one Magnolia to visit?
Anchor’s Summer Beer has been called the first American wheat of modern times. Released each year in late spring, Anchor uses more wheat than barley in the mix and a traditional ale yeast to ferment the brew. The beer pours out with a head that borders on the creamy and the flavor is slightly malty with a tart citrus crispness.
Thirsty Bear breaks the mold with White Cloud, their Double White IPA. According to Brenden Dobel, the brewmaster/brewery manager at Thirsty Bear, “The style is a hybrid of Belgian Wit and IPA. We brew White Cloud with organic Pilsner and wheat malts and then single hop it with organic Nelson Sauvin. White Cloud is a reference to the Maori name for New Zealand, 'The Land of the Long White Cloud'.”
A summer standard in northern California, 21A’s Watermelon Wheat is a crisp light wheat brew that has a slice of fruit flavor from a secondary fermentation with fresh watermelon. By the way, this Wednesday, May 21, from 4:00 to 10:00 p.m., 21A is having a Watermelon Beer Fest where this season’s batch will be poured from freshly carved watermelons. There’s also a watermelon beer can chicken cookout, live music, and the sacred, ceremonial summer watermelon toss.