Also known as Belgian wits (like the mass-produced Blue Moon), wheat beers get their lighter flavors from wheat malts that don’t have the same dark flavors or coloring as the malts typically used in a pale ale or a porter or stout. This usually leads to a brighter flavor in the beer and, when mixed with a Belgian yeast, creates the flavors you are familiar with in a Belgian Wit. Some brewers will add lemon or citrus flavors to these as well to brighten them up.
Wheat beers are commonly unfiltered and also typically on the lighter alcohol content around 4.5%. Because of their lighter flavors wheat beers are not as common from craft breweries. Instead, many local breweries experiment with the style. Modern Times and Council Brewing both brew a hoppy wheat. They add a bunch of hops to a wheat beer to give it a citrus kick and some added flavor. These hoppy wheat varieties are still light in alcohol and just as refreshing.
Local Favorites: Karl Strauss Wheat, Ballast Point Wheat, Modern Times Hoppy Wheat, Council Hoppy Wheat.
The amber style of beer, sometimes known simply as a red ale, is best recognized by the reddish color of the beer when poured into a glass. While IPAs and pale ales are great for learning about the flavors of hops, ambers are great for learning about the flavors of malts. Malt flavors tend to be the primary draw and sometimes give a fruity flavor and other times a sweeter caramel flavor or a light roasted flavor.
Most ambers tend to be on the lighter side, around 4.5%, and it is pretty rare to see imperial red ales in San Diego. The term imperial as used here implies that the beer is around twice as strong as usual. These stronger red ales tend to add more hops to balance out the more intense flavors from the malts.
Local Favorites: Karl Strauss Red Trolley, Ballast Point Amber, Stone Levitation,
Local Imperial Reds: Green Flash Hop Head Red, Alesmith My Bloody Valentine and Evil Dead Red, Ballast Point Tongue Buckler,
In the next part of this series I will explore the porter and stout beers.