The Beer Nut and his friends taste-test 18 wheat beers, six each of three styles.
Summer is a great time to cool off with a beer, and wheat beers are some of the most refreshing beverages available.
I wanted to do a blind tasting of wheat beers to try to find the best available out there, but I ran into a little problem. Which style of wheat beer should I test?
There are three major, and very different, styles of wheat beers -- Belgian witbiers, German hefeweizens and American pale wheat ales.
Belgian ales use a high level of wheat, and sometimes oats, as well as spices such as coriander and orange peel. Hefeweizens use a lot of wheat, but rely on traditional yeast to provide banana, clove and sometimes bubble gum-like flavors.
American wheats are kind of a catchall -- they can be dark or light, hoppy or malty. They are pretty much beers brewed with wheat.
So, I decided on a blind tasting of six each of the three styles. In addition to myself, the tasters were MetroWest Daily News Metro Editor Rob Haneisen, MetroWest Daily News reporter Charlie Breitrose, and Phil Maddocks, editor of the Framingham Tab and Natick Bulletin & Tab.
We scored the beers on a scale of 1 to 5 (with 5 being the highest) in four categories: appearance, aroma, mouthfeel and taste. Scores from all the testers were added to arrive at the final score for each beer. Here are our results:
1. 64 points, Clown Shoes' Clementine, 6 percent ABV, Massachusetts
This beer is the new kid on the block. The brewery is less than a year old, and it produced a killer Belgian wit. It scored the highest on every taster's scorecard. I said "It's a little grassy, and very aromatic," while Phil said, it had a "nice full, complex flavor."
2. 52.5 points, Hoegaarden Original White Ale, 4.9 percent ABV, Belgium
Hoegaarden is the most widely produced of the beers we tasted and is often looked down upon because of how big the brewery is. It really shouldn't be, based on how good the beer is. Charlie said, it was "pleasant tasting." Rob thought there was "nothing offensive" about the beer.
3. 52 points, St. Bernardus Witbier, 5.5 percent ABV, Belgium
St. Bernardus is one of the best breweries in the world, and this is another standout beer. Charlie said, "It has a nice fruity taste," and I thought it was "smooth and extremely easy to drink."
4. 50 points, Allagash White, 5.2 percent ABV, Maine
Allagash is known for producing some of the best American-made Belgian ales, and the White is its most popular beer. Rob, who wasn't a fan of the style, said there was "just nothing remarkable" about the beer. I was the biggest fan of the beer and said the aroma "had a hint of lemon and hops."
5. 50 points, Brewery Ommegang's Witte, 5.1 percent ABV, New York
Another well-respected American brewery that specializes in Belgian ales. Phil found it "very mild," while Charlie said it's "not too exciting."
6. 50 points, Avery's White Rascal, 5.5 percent ABV, Colorado
Avery brews a wide variety of beers, including Belgians and big, hoppy American IPAs. Rob said it was "kind of citrusy," and Charlie said it was "decent, but very little hop and maltiness."
1. 68 points, Schneider Weisse's Hefe, 4.9 percent ABV, Germany
Schneider Weisse only brews wheat beers. I was impressed by the massive head of foam and only wrote in my notes, "I want more of it." Phil said it had a "pleasant taste."
2. 64 points, Paulaner Hefe-Weissbier, 5.5 percent ABV, Germany
Paulaner pretty much produces all traditional German styles of beer, and they all come out pretty spot on. Charlie said it had "a good taste of banana and a light apple taste." Rob said "it feels alive in your mouth."
3. 63.5 points, Hacker-Pschorr Hefe Weisse, 5.5 percent ABV, Germany
This is a very solid brewery; they don't brew anything that's not good. Rob and both I pointed out the strong flavor of banana and bubble gum and the dark amber colors.
4. 56.5 points, Harpoon UFO Hefeweizen, 5.1 percent ABV, Massachusetts
I wanted to throw an American beer in the bunch, and Harpoon held its own. Charlie said it was "a bit too sweet, but nice feel and aroma." Phil said it was "mild" and had a "slightly hoppy taste."
5. 55.5 points, Ayinger Brau Weiss, 5.1 percent ABV, Germany
Ayinger brews one of the best Oktoberfest beers in the world, but prove they can do a pretty good hefeweizen. Phil said it was "satisfying," while Rob said it was "well put together."
6. 53.5 points, Weihenstephaner Hefeweissbier, 5.4 percent ABV, Germany
My personal favorite German brewery. "A massive head," was my first thought, while Rob said it tasted "too similar" to the other hefeweizens.
American wheat ales
1. 64.5 points, Peak Organic Summer Session Ale, 5 percent ABV, Maine
A surprise winner -- it's the least-known brewery involved in the tasting. Charlie was surprised by the hop bitterness, but said, "Overall, I liked it a lot." Rob said it was "unusually hoppy, but delish."
2. 64 points, Troegs' Dream Weaver Wheat, 4.8 percent ABV, Pennsylvania
Troegs does not make a bad beer and nearly pulled out a win here. Phil said it had a "well-integrated taste with slightly fruity aromas." "Well-balanced, tastes great," is how Charlie described it.
3. 57 points, Victory Sunrise Weiss, 5 percent ABV, Pennsylvania
All the tasters agreed this tasted more like a hefeweizen. I said it was "very reminiscent of a hef(eweizen)," while Rob said it was "very peppery."
4. 51 points, Southern Tier's Hop Sun, 4.9 percent ABV, New York
Southern Tier is well-known for its high alcohol beers, but its regular-strength beers are pretty good, too. I wasn't a fan of the beer and said it's "not terrible, but I wouldn't seek it out." On the other hand, Phil gave it the highest score and said it had a "well-balanced hop feel."
5. 50 points, Smuttynose Summer Weizen, 5 percent ABV, New Hampshire
Smuttynose is one of the best breweries in New England. Charlie called it a "pretty beer," while Phil said it did not have "too robust of a taste or aroma."
6. 45 points, Magic Hat Circus Boy, 4.4 percent ABV, Vermont
This was the biggest disparity. Charlie and I disliked this beer immensely, while Rob and Phil gave it high scores. I said it was "soapy, not very good and bland." Rob countered with "tastes very traditional. Creamy mouthfeel."
Norman Miller is a MetroWest Daily News staff writer. For question, comments, suggestions or recommendations, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call 508-626-3823. Check out The Beer Nut blog at http://blogs.wickedlocal.com/beernut/.