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Eight Of The Most Popular American Wheat Beers on BeerAdvocate, Blind Tasted And Ranked

When it comes to the hierarchy of warm weather beers, American wheat beers are situated at or near the top of the heap. Lighter and closer to lagers or pilsners than their European counterparts, the American wheat beer is still often unfiltered and hazy, but tends more towards thirst-quenching and refreshing, less reliant on spices like cloves or coriander or the banana-like malt German hefeweizen fans are used to.

With summer weather already upon us, the time is right to stock up on these approachable, highly drinkable, hazy, refreshing summer beers. While you can go to your local beer or grocery store and ask a clerk for help, we prefer to use online experts whenever possible. That’s why we turned to BeerAdvocate and its massive index of beers to find the list of the site’s most popular.

Of course, we had to try them. We blindly tasted and ranked eight of the most popular beers of the style on the site (with the occasional retired beers removed for obvious reasons) and got to work nosing, sipping, and rating. Keep scrolling to see how everything turned out.

  • Bell’s Oberon (most popular)
  • 3 Floyds Gumballhead (second most popular)
  • Samuel Adams Summer Ale (third most popular)
  • Goose Island 312 Urban Wheat Ale (fourth most popular)
  • Boulevard Unfiltered Wheat (sixth most popular)
  • Leinenkugel’s Honey Weiss (ninth most popular)
  • Modern Times Fortunate Islands (12th most popular)
  • Breckenridge Agave Wheat (14th most popular)

Part 1: The Tasting

Taste 1

Wheat Beer #1
Christopher Osburn

Tasting Notes:

I was greeted by a nose of bright orange and lemon as well as bready malts, yeast, and slight banana. The flavor follows suit with tangerine, lemon curd, lime, banana bread, floral hops, and slight spices. The finish is dry and lightly bitter. Overall, this is a multi-dimensional, highly flavorful, summery beer.

Taste 2

Wheat Beer #2
Christopher Osburn

Tasting Notes:

The nose is filled with notes of earthy wet grass, freshly baked bread, floral hops, wheat, and slightly fruity aromas. The flavor continues this trend with sweet wheat, yeasty bread, lemon zest, ripe tangerine, and a slightly spicy finish that ties everything together nicely.

Taste 3

Wheat Beer #3
Christopher Osburn

Tasting Notes:

On the nose, I found biscuit malts, lemon zest, tangerine, grapefruit, and earthy, grassy hops. The palate is centered on more grapefruit, lemon curd, orange peel, cracker-like malts, yeast, and earthy, herbal, slightly bitter hops at the finish. All in all, a very well-rounded wheat beer perfect for summer drinking.

Taste 4

Wheat Beer #4
Christopher Osburn

Tasting Notes:

I really had to try hard to find anything on this beer’s nose. Slight caramel malts and maybe some honey. Otherwise, nothing discernible. Luckily, the palate has a little more going on with it. There’s some sweet wheat, slight spices, and overly sugary, sweet honey. It’s not horrible, but it’s a little too sweet for my liking. Not the kind of beer I’d order twice.

Taste 5

Wheat Beer #5
Christopher Osburn

Tasting Notes:

The nose is all citrus peels, bready malts, yeast, tropical fruits, and bright, floral hops. Drinking it brings forth notes of biscuity malts, honey sweetness, orange peels, passion fruit, mango, and slight, floral bitter hops at the finish. When it comes to the style, this is a great beer.

Taste 6

Wheat Beer #6
Christopher Osburn

Tasting Notes:

On the nose, I found slight wheat and some utterly indiscernible fruit flavors. Something tropical. Maybe mango? It’s very mild and bland though. Sipping it revealed a slightly sour, sweet beer with more mystery fruity flavors and a dry finish. Honestly, this beer was okay but weird.

Taste 7

Wheat Beer #7
Christopher Osburn

Tasting Notes:

The nose is light with some floral hops and citrus zest, but really not much else. Fairly bland overall. The palate has a lot of citrus with lemon, orange, and grapefruit, but mostly one-dimensional. Slight hops presence, but not enough to make up for the lack of balance. Overall, a very boring beer.

Taste 8

Wheat Beer #8
Christopher Osburn

Tasting Notes:

A complex aroma of yeast, lemon, orange peel, wet grass, and slight malts are prevalent on the nose. The palate is highlighted by bready malts, more citrus peels, earthy grass, wheat bread, and some lightly bitter, spicy hops. All in all, a well-balanced take on the classic wheat beer style.

Part 2: The Ranking

8) Samuel Adams Summer Ale (Taste 7)

Samuel Adams Summer Ale
Samuel Adams

ABV: 5.3%

Average Price: $11.99 for a six-pack

The Beer:

A summer staple, Samuel Adams Summer Ale is a citrus-centric American wheat ale. It gets its zest, tart, citrus flavor from the addition of malted wheat, orange, lime, and lemon peels as well as a slight hint of spice from the addition of grains of paradise.

Bottom Line:

I can’t remember the last time I had a Samuel Adams Summer Ale. It’s still easy to drink and crushable, it just lacks the flavor I require in an American wheat beer I’d actually buy.

7) Leinenkugel’s Honey Weiss (Taste 4)

Leinenkugel’s Honey Weiss
Leinenkugel’s

ABV: 4.9%

Average Price: $8.99 for a six-pack

The Beer:

Leinenkugel’s seems like the kind of brewery that has a beer for any summer drinker. One of its most popular is its Honey Weiss. This award-winning beer is known for its slightly citrusy, refreshing flavor that’s highlighted by the addition of real Wisconsin honey (hence the name).

Bottom Line:

You know what you’re going to get when you crack open a beer from Leinenkugel’s. They’re easy-drinking, fairly muted beers. Besides the honey sweetness, this one is no different.

6) Breckenridge Agave Wheat (Taste 6)

Breckenridge Agave Wheat
Breckenridge

ABV: 4.4%

Average Price: $8.50 for a six-pack

The Beer:

The light, refreshing flavor profile of American wheat beers is well-suited for the addition of other flavors. In this beer’s case, the flavor is agave. Specifically, it’s an unfiltered wheat beer with sweet agave syrup added to it to give it a unique, summery flavor.

Bottom Line:

I had no idea what to expect with this beer. It wasn’t horrible by any means. But it also wasn’t that good an idea. It rated a big “meh” from me.

5) Boulevard Unfiltered Wheat (Taste 8)

Boulevard Unfiltered Wheat
Boulevard

ABV: 4.4%

Average Price: $9.99 for a six-pack

The Beer:

Kansas City’s Boulevard is a well-known name in the US beer marketplace. It makes a ton of noteworthy beers, but one of the best summery offerings is its Unfiltered Wheat. Brewed since 1990, it’s known for its fruity, malty, slightly bitter flavor.

Bottom Line:

If you’ve been crafting the same beer since 1990, there’s a decent chance you’ve perfected it. Boulevard Unfiltered Wheat is well-balanced and has a nice hit of hops that will appeal to non-wheat beer fans.

4) Goose Island 312 Urban Wheat Ale (Taste 2)

Goose Island 312 Urban Wheat Ale
Goose Island

ABV: 4.2%

Average Price: $8.50 for a six-pack

The Beer:

Goose Island is well-known for its iconic IPA and its highly coveted Bourbon County Stout. But the Chicago-based brewery also makes a popular wheat beer called 312 Urban Wheat Ale. Brewed with 2-row malt and wheat as well as Millenium, Cascade, and Hallertau hops, it’s known for its crisp, fruit-filled flavor.

Bottom Line:

I didn’t know what to expect with Goose Island 312 Urban Wheat Ale, but I was pleasantly surprised. It’s a very complex, well-balanced, flavorful wheat beer.

3) Modern Times Fortunate Islands (Taste 5)

Modern Times Fortunate Islands
Modern Times

ABV: 5%

Average Price: $12.99 for a four-pack of 16-ounce cans

The Beer:

Modern Times Fortunate Islands is a complicated beer. It’s listed as a pale ale, but it’s listed as an American wheat beer on BeerAdvocate because it’s brewed with Citra, Amarillo hops as well as two-row and Caravienne malts, and wheat malt. The result is a crisp, tropical fruit-filled wheat-centric pale ale that bridges the gap between multiple styles.

Bottom Line:

It’s no surprise that Modern Times Fortunate Islands landed so highly on this list. It’s a complex, flavorful beer that splits the difference between a pale ale and wheat beer. Two great beer styles for summer in one isn’t a bad thing.

2) Bell’s Oberon (Taste 1)

Bell’s Oberon
Bell’s

ABV: 5.8%

Average Price: $9.99 for a six-pack

The Beer:

This is one of the most eagerly awaited beers each spring as it’s only available from March until September. Brewed with simple ingredients like water, barley, wheat, hops, and a house ale yeast, it’s known for its slightly hazy appearance with a nice mix of citrus, tropical fruits, and floral hops.

Bottom Line:

Bell’s Oberon is a highly coveted beer and it shows. It’s a great, balanced, flavorful summer beer that I’ll go back to again and again.

1) 3 Floyds Gumballhead (Taste 3)

3 Floyds Gumballhead
3 Floyds

ABV: 5.6%

Average Price: $11.99 for a six-pack

The Beer:

3 Floyds is a popular name in the craft beer world. While some of the Indiana-based brewery’s beers are difficult to find, that’s not the case with the summer wheat beer Gumballhead. This 5.6% ABV, year-round offering is brewed with white wheat and is dry-hopped with Yakima Valley hops.

Bottom Line:

After blindly trying 3 Floyds Gumballhead, I’m not surprised that it’s one of the most popular wheat beers. It’s fruity, filled with citrus flavors, but has a nice malt backbone and earthy hops presence to tie everything together well.

Part 3: Final Thoughts

After blindly tasting these eight American wheat ales it’s quite clear that I prefer well-balanced beers without any additional flavors. If I’m going to spend my summer drinking a beer, it better have a vast flavor profile, nice balance, and be crushable on a hot, humid, sunny day.

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