Wheat beers have had a bad name since passage of the German Beer Purity Law in 1516.  Their cause in this country was not helped by wheat’s ubiquitous pairing with fruit from the mid-90s forward.  Fellow Aleheads, I give you Pete’s Strawberry Blonde, Sam Adams Cherry Wheat, Ithaca Apricot Wheat, Shock Top Raspberry Wheat (oh, the horror!), the list goes on.

But it’s summer, and the craft taps at my kids’ favorite restaurant are replaced with wheat beers.  What’s an Alehead to do?! So, after a great deal of “research,” here’s every Alehead’s guide to wheat beers that don’t suck.

First, let me say that the king of wheat beers is Three Floyds Gumballhead. However, we don’t get that where I live now, and I refuse to give top billing to a beer that’s available in like 3 states.  So here’s a list of beers you might actually see somewhere, in order:

1. Lagunitas Little Sumpin Sumpin.  I drank this beer for years before I knew it was a wheat beer.  (Yes–I’m stupid.  I blame the alcohol.)  It’s effervescent and pretty hoppy.  It does leave a touch of aftertaste; not sure whether that’s a result of the wheat bill or not.  It’s a very close call between this and my #2 selection, but this one wins because it’s basically an IPA in wheat beer’s clothing.

2. Bell’s Oberon is the unofficial beer of summer across the Midwest.  It is 10 times the beer that Goose Island 312 is.  It’s nice and orange, hoppy and easy-drinking.  Unlike the Sumpin Sumpin, I wouldn’t choose Oberon over a non-wheat beer.  But for the style, it’s outstanding.

3. Southern Tier Hop Sun.  Very light, citrusy, a little bitter–super refreshing.  Again, it’s no substitute for a great IPA, but I’m not upset when this is the best beer at a cookout (i.e. once I’ve drunk everything I brought).

These are really the only ones I like.  I know people who like the Harpoon and Boulevard unfiltered wheat beers, and also 21st Amendment’s Hell or High Watermelon.  Personally, I’d rather have a gin and tonic.  But in my experience, the list pretty much ends there.  Please add your non-crappy wheat beer suggestions in the comments.



  1. I am almost embarrassed to be posting on such a crappy topic, but I did just happen to break into my wife’s beer of choice – Avery’s White Rascal – as she’s out for the evening, I’m on tyke watch and I failed to properly plan ahead for the end of my 6er of Ballast Point Big Eye. White Rascal may be the best of a short list of wheat beers I can think of. Still wish I’d just picked up more of the Big Eye though…

    1. Of course, I also thnk the Boulevard wheat is a pretty good version of the style as well. At least, the “non-hoppy, clean American-style wheat” style.

      And on the “uber hoppy” wheat side of things, I had a spectacular hoppy wheat in the style of Gumballhead while in St. Louis. It’s from 2nd Shift Brewing, and it’s called Wheat Freak.

  2. I really enjoyed last summer’s Sierra Nevada “Best of Beer Camp” Weizenbock. Big banana aroma and hearty mouthfeel, not overly sweet due to an ample addition of bittering hops. Just a nice beer.

    Not sure if we’ll see it again this summer, but it’s a style if like to see other brewers take a stab at on a widespread commercial basis.

  3. Are weizenbocks by definition dark? That’s an underappreciated style for sure, and there are some great ones out there. My old friends at Great Lakes Brewing make one called Glockenspiel; there was the Sierra beer camp one; Brooklyn has one and even Lagunitas’s is decent. Maybe this fall I will follow through on converting the old laundry room in my basement to a lager cave, and homebrew one of these suckers… good call Slouch.

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