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  • Writer's pictureCalgary Brewery Tour Guy

Beer History - Wheat Beer by Calgary Brewery Tours and YYCTOURS

Updated: Nov 16, 2023

Alberta Wheat has become world renowned and is the primary ingredient in several styles of beer including Witbier, Weizenbock, Weisse, Lambics and Gose. Wheat can also be used in smaller amounts in most other beer styles. Luckily For Alberta Breweries, this resource is right in their own backyard.


Table of Contents


an image of a Alberta wheat plant by yyctours Calgary Beer tour

1. Introduction

Wheat beer, characterized by its light and refreshing taste, has been enjoyed by beer enthusiasts around the world for centuries. But have you ever wondered about the origins of this beloved beverage? The history of wheat beer is a fascinating journey that spans several centuries and continents, with its roots deeply embedded in European culture. In this blog, we will uncover the enchanting history of wheat beer, exploring its origins, development, and cultural significance. Whether you are a beer connoisseur or simply curious about the story behind your favorite drink, join us on this captivating exploration of wheat beer's past.


2. The origins of wheat beer

The origins of wheat beer can be traced back to ancient civilizations. The earliest evidence of wheat beer production dates back to ancient Sumerians in Mesopotamia, around 4000 BCE. They were known for their advanced agricultural practices and were the first to cultivate wheat. As a result, they also discovered the art of brewing wheat-based beverages.

In those early days, wheat beer was primarily consumed by the wealthy and religious elites. It was often brewed in temples and used for ceremonial purposes. The ancient Sumerians believed that the consumption of wheat beer had divine connections and considered it a sacred drink.


The popularity of wheat beer gradually spread throughout ancient civilizations, including the Egyptians and Greeks. The Egyptians, in particular, brewed a type of wheat beer called "zythum" using a different brewing process compared to the Sumerians. They would malt the wheat, ferment it, and then strain it to separate the beer from the sediment.

During the Middle Ages, brewing practices evolved, and wheat beer gained popularity in Europe. It became an essential part of German brewing traditions, especially in regions like Bavaria and Belgium. Wheat beer, also known as "weissbier" or "witbier," was associated with the Christian monastic breweries that flourished during this period.

However, the production and consumption of wheat beer faced challenges during the Renaissance and Enlightenment periods. The rise of beer purity laws, such as the Reinheitsgebot in Germany, restricted the ingredients that could be used in beer production. These laws focused on the exclusive use of barley, which led to a decline in wheat beer production.


Despite these challenges, wheat beer continued to persist, thanks to the efforts of passionate brewers who kept the tradition alive. In the late 20th century, there was a resurgence of interest in traditional brewing styles, leading to a renewed appreciation for wheat beer.

Today, wheat beer has established itself as a popular and distinct beer style worldwide. It is known for its light and refreshing qualities, often characterized by its cloudy appearance, fruity and spicy flavors, and a signature banana and clove aroma.

The enchanting journey of wheat beer is a testament to its cultural significance and enduring appeal. Whether enjoyed by ancient civilizations or modern beer enthusiasts, the history of wheat beer continues to fascinate and captivate those who appreciate its unique flavors and heritage.



a copper brewery vat for making wheat beer by yyctours brewery tour Calgary


3. Wheat Beer taste and brewing process

Wheat beer is renowned for its delightful taste and unique brewing process. The combination of wheat as a primary ingredient and specific brewing techniques gives wheat beer its distinct character. Let's dive deeper into the taste and brewing process of this enchanting beverage.


When it comes to taste, wheat beer offers a refreshing and flavorful experience. Its light body and effervescence make it a popular choice, especially during the summer months. Wheat beer often exhibits fruity and spicy flavors, with hints of citrus, banana, and clove. These flavor profiles are a result of the specific yeast strains used in fermentation, which produce distinct esters and phenols.


The brewing process of wheat beer involves some key steps that contribute to its unique taste and appearance. Here is an overview of the brewing process:

1. Mashing: The first step involves mashing crushed malted wheat and barley together with hot water. This mixture is held at a specific temperature, allowing the enzymes in the malted grains to convert starches into fermentable sugars.


2. Boiling: After mashing, the liquid (known as wort) is separated from the grains and brought to a boil. During this stage, hops are added to provide bitterness, balance the sweetness of the malt, and add aroma.

3. Cooling: Once the boiling is complete, the wort is rapidly cooled to a temperature suitable for fermentation. This step is crucial for the activation of yeast and the prevention of off-flavors.


4. Fermentation: Wheat beer typically undergoes top fermentation, which means that the yeast ferments at warmer temperatures. Specific strains of yeast, such as Saccharomyces cerevisiae or Weizen yeast, are used to ferment the wort. These yeast strains contribute to the distinctive fruity and spicy flavors associated with wheat beer.

5. Carbonation: After fermentation, the beer undergoes a secondary process called carbonation. This can be achieved through natural carbonation by allowing the beer to undergo a slight fermentation in the bottle, or through forced carbonation using carbon dioxide.


6. Conditioning: Finally, the beer undergoes a period of conditioning, during which it matures and develops further flavors. This process can take anywhere from a few weeks to several months, depending on the style and desired character of the beer.

The brewing process of wheat beer requires attention to detail and a deep understanding of the ingredients and techniques involved. Skilled brewers carefully balance the proportions of wheat and malted barley, choose suitable yeast strains, and adhere to traditional methods to achieve the desired taste and characteristics.

From its ancient origins to its continued popularity today, wheat beer has captured the hearts and taste buds of beer enthusiasts worldwide. Its delightful taste and unique brewing process make it a favored choice for those seeking a refreshing and flavorful beer experience. Whether enjoyed on its own or paired with various cuisines, the journey of wheat beer continues to delight and inspire beer lovers around the globe.


4. The popularity and decline of wheat beer

Wheat beer has experienced various periods of popularity throughout its history, with its popularity fluctuating over time. Understanding the factors that influenced the rise and decline of wheat beer can provide insights into the evolution of beer consumption trends.


During the medieval period, wheat beer gained significant popularity in regions such as Bavaria, Belgium, and the Netherlands. Its light and refreshing nature made it a favored choice, particularly during the summer months. Wheat beer breweries flourished, and the beverage became an integral part of the local culture and traditions.


However, the popularity of wheat beer faced a decline during the 19th and early 20th centuries. This decline was primarily due to the industrialization of beer production and the increasing preference for lagers, which were considered more modern and commercially viable. Lagers, made primarily from barley, offered a smoother and crisper taste compared to the more complex flavors of wheat beer.

Moreover, changes in agricultural practices and the availability of ingredients also played a role in the decline of wheat beer. The demand for wheat to feed growing populations led to an increase in the cultivation of barley, making it a more accessible ingredient for breweries. Additionally, advancements in malting technology made it easier to produce malted barley, further reducing the reliance on wheat.


Despite the decline, wheat beer experienced a revival in the latter half of the 20th century. Craft breweries and beer enthusiasts began to appreciate the unique flavors and brewing traditions associated with wheat beer. This revival was fueled by a growing interest in traditional brewing methods and the exploration of diverse beer styles.

Today, wheat beer continues to enjoy a significant following around the world. Its popularity is driven by the appreciation for its distinct taste profile, which includes notes of banana, clove, and citrus. Wheat beer also pairs well with a wide range of cuisines, making it a versatile choice for food enthusiasts.

The craft beer movement and the increasing consumer demand for unique and flavorful beers have contributed to the sustained popularity of wheat beer. Craft breweries, both small-scale and large-scale, continue to produce innovative variations of wheat beer, incorporating different ingredients and brewing techniques to cater to evolving consumer preferences.

In conclusion, the popularity and decline of wheat beer have been influenced by multiple factors, including changing consumer preferences, agricultural practices, and advancements in brewing technology. While it faced a period of decline, wheat beer has experienced a revival in recent decades, thanks to the appreciation for its distinct taste and the resurgence of traditional brewing methods. As beer enthusiasts continue to explore and experiment with different styles, the enchanting journey of wheat beer remains an integral part of the ever-evolving beer landscape.


a glass of Blonde wheat beer from Two Pillars Brewery in Calgary by YYCTOURS  Calgary Brewery Tours


5. Resurgence and reinvention of wheat beer

After a period of decline, wheat beer has experienced a remarkable resurgence in recent decades. This resurgence can be attributed to the growing interest in traditional brewing methods and the exploration of diverse beer styles by craft breweries and beer enthusiasts alike.

Craft breweries, both small-scale and large-scale, have played a vital role in the revival of wheat beer. These breweries have embraced the unique flavors and brewing traditions associated with wheat beer, and they have incorporated different ingredients and brewing techniques to create innovative variations of this beloved beer style.


One of the factors contributing to the renewed popularity of wheat beer is the appreciation for its distinct taste profile. Wheat beer is known for its refreshing and complex flavors, including notes of banana, clove, and citrus. These flavors provide a delightful contrast to the more traditional beer styles such as lagers and ales, offering beer enthusiasts a unique and flavorful experience.

Furthermore, wheat beer has gained a loyal following due to its versatility when it comes to food pairing. The balanced and aromatic characteristics of wheat beer make it an excellent accompaniment to a wide range of cuisines. Whether it is paired with spicy dishes, seafood, or even desserts, wheat beer enhances the flavors and elevates the dining experience.

In addition to its taste and food pairing capabilities, the resurgence of wheat beer can also be attributed to the craft beer movement. The craft beer industry has witnessed a surge in consumer demand for unique and flavorful beers, and wheat beer fits perfectly into this trend. Craft breweries have embraced the challenge of reinventing wheat beer by experimenting with different ingredients such as fruits, herbs, and spices, resulting in exciting and innovative flavor profiles.


The resurgence of wheat beer signifies not only a revival of a traditional beer style but also a celebration of brewing heritage and diversity. The enchanting journey of wheat beer, with its rich history and cultural significance, continues to captivate beer enthusiasts and contribute to the ever-evolving beer landscape.

As we move forward, it is likely that wheat beer will continue to evolve and reinvent itself, driven by the passion and creativity of craft brewers and the ever-changing tastes and preferences of consumers. The future of wheat beer looks promising, with new variations and collaborations on the horizon, ensuring that this beloved beer style remains a cherished part of the beer world for years to come.


In conclusion, the resurgence and reinvention of wheat beer demonstrate the resilience of this beer style and its ability to adapt to changing times. From its decline during the 19th and early 20th centuries to its revival in recent decades, wheat beer has proven its enduring appeal. Its distinct taste, versatile food pairing capabilities, and the innovation of craft breweries have all played a role in its renewed popularity. The enchanting journey of wheat beer continues to inspire and delight beer enthusiasts, ensuring its place as an integral part of the ever-evolving beer landscape.


6. Unveiling the global appreciation for wheat beer

The popularity of wheat beer has transcended borders and gained global recognition. As craft breweries continue to innovate and experiment with different flavors and brewing techniques, wheat beer has captured the hearts and taste buds of beer enthusiasts around the world.


One of the key factors driving the global appreciation for wheat beer is its versatility. Unlike other beer styles that may cater to a specific regional taste, wheat beer offers a wide range of flavors and aromas that can appeal to a diverse audience. From the refreshing and citrusy notes to the complex and spicy undertones, wheat beer provides a unique drinking experience that can be enjoyed by both casual beer drinkers and connoisseurs.


Additionally, the rise of international beer festivals and events has contributed to the exposure and popularity of wheat beer. These gatherings serve as platforms for breweries to showcase their creations and allow beer enthusiasts to explore and discover new and exciting flavors. As more people are exposed to the diverse range of wheat beers available, the demand for this beer style continues to grow.


Furthermore, the globalization of the craft beer industry has played a significant role in promoting wheat beer on a global scale. Craft breweries from different countries are now collaborating and sharing brewing techniques, resulting in a cross-pollination of ideas and flavors. This exchange of knowledge and expertise has led to the creation of unique wheat beer variations that blend traditional brewing methods with innovative approaches.

The appreciation for wheat beer is also closely linked to the cultural and historical significance of this beer style. In many countries, wheat beer is deeply rooted in tradition and often associated with specific celebrations and occasions. For example, in Germany, wheat beer is a staple during Oktoberfest, while in Belgium, it is an integral part of their brewing heritage. This cultural significance adds an extra layer of intrigue and allure to wheat beer, making it more than just a beverage but a symbol of tradition and community.


Looking ahead, the future of wheat beer's global appreciation seems bright. As more people develop a taste for craft beer and seek out unique and flavorful experiences, wheat beer will continue to captivate and entice beer enthusiasts worldwide. The ongoing collaboration between breweries and the constant evolution of flavor profiles will ensure that there is always something new and exciting to discover within the realm of wheat beer.

In conclusion, the global appreciation for wheat beer is a testament to its versatility, cultural significance, and the creativity of craft breweries. As this beloved beer style continues to evolve and gain traction across different countries and cultures, its place in the global beer landscape is firmly secured. So, whether you find yourself sipping on a traditional Bavarian Hefeweizen or enjoying a modern fruit-infused wheat beer, raise your glass and join in the worldwide celebration of this enchanting and enduring beer style.


7. Conclusion: Cheers to the history of wheat beer

The journey of wheat beer has been a fascinating one, filled with innovation, cultural significance, and a global appreciation. From its humble beginnings to its current status as a beloved beer style, wheat beer has captured the hearts and taste buds of beer enthusiasts worldwide.


The global appreciation for wheat beer can be attributed to several factors. Its versatility in flavors and aromas allows it to cater to a diverse audience, appealing to both casual beer drinkers and connoisseurs. The rise of international beer festivals and events has also contributed to its popularity, providing platforms for breweries to showcase their creations and allowing beer enthusiasts to explore new flavors.


The globalization of the craft beer industry has played a significant role in promoting wheat beer on a global scale. Collaborations between breweries from different countries have resulted in unique variations that blend traditional brewing methods with innovative approaches. This cross-pollination of ideas and flavors has added excitement and intrigue to the world of wheat beer.

Furthermore, the cultural and historical significance of wheat beer has added a layer of tradition and community to its appeal. It is deeply rooted in the celebrations and brewing heritage of many countries, making it more than just a beverage but a symbol of tradition and togetherness.

Looking ahead, the future of wheat beer's global appreciation looks bright. As more people develop a taste for craft beer and seek out unique and flavorful experiences, wheat beer will continue to captivate beer enthusiasts worldwide. The ongoing collaboration between breweries and the constant evolution of flavor profiles ensure that there is always something new and exciting to discover within the realm of wheat beer.


If you could find yourself sipping on a traditional Bavarian Hefeweizen or enjoying a modern fruit-infused wheat beer, join a Calgary Brewery Tour and raise your glass and join in the worldwide celebration of this enchanting and enduring beer style.


Cheers to the enchanting journey of wheat beer!










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