Why Are There No Wheat Lagers?

The Lager Lists

Why is wheat not used in lager?

Before the Reinheitsgebot, the Munich city council decided that it would try to control brewing quality, and drafted laws that specified beer to only be made with barley, hops and water, not mentioning yeast. Prior to this, and before refrigeration, German beer made outside of winter was warm fermented, typically taking place in open vats that were spontaneously fermented. The source of fermentation was not well understood at the time, which explains how yeast went ignored in the original purity laws. The warm fermented beer made during the summer was inconsistent and did not keep as well as the bottom fermented beer made during the winter months. Summer brewing was even outlawed, limiting the spread of these ales. However, according to the Reinheitsgebot, the one style that was allowed to be brewed in the summer was wheat beer, and the specifics of the Reinheitsgebot allowed for wheat only as an ingredient in top fermented ale, not in lager. Hence bottom-fermented weizenbier never gained cultural footing in Germany, and to this day we still largely see all barley German styles throughout the world, with wheat still used almost exclusively in top-fermented Weizenbier.

Before the Reinheitsgebot was enacted in 1516, the brewing industry in Bavaria was buying up wheat in order to make beer, leaving other grains, such as spelt, oat, and barley, to the bakeries. The bakers and the population in general felt that bread made with these grains was less enjoyable and thus less in demand, and William IV, Duke of Bavaria, heard enough complaints that he addressed the problem in crafting the Reinheitsgebot. Beer making was to be limited to barley only, with the one exception allowing wheat in warm fermented summer beer.

There is no such thing as Florida Weisse

The Lager Lists

The idea of Berliner Weisse with fruit has historical roots in the fruit or woodruff syrups offered with a glass. A “Schuss” (a shot) of sweet syrup became a popular addition to Berliner Weisse in Northern Germany, cutting the intense lactic acidity and leading to the spread of the style’s influence elsewhere.

Fruited Berliner Weisse in the New World

Professional brewers in the west began to experiment with fruited Berliner Weisse in the mid-2000s, adding real fruit, instead of syrup, into the fermenter, keg or firkin. Only recently have Florida breweries taken the idea of fruited-Berliner and run with it. Some in the south argue that Florida has a cultural and geographic claim to the sub-style, cleverly labeling these types of beer Florida Weisse. The truth is, a number of breweries elsewhere did fruited Berliners before any professionals in Florida gave it a try.

I scoured the Ratebeer database for any beer labeled or described as berliner weisse with fruit and tagged them as #fruited-weisse, so you can see for yourself what qualifies. Though surely I missed a few, the current list provides a glimpse into the sub-style, the where and when of who has made an attempt.

Oregon, Michigan, Missouri and Belgium all produced fruited Berliner Weisse in 2011 along with Florida. But why is Florida producing more than any other region? The answer is festivals. Fruited sour beers are concentrated in Florida because it has become popular among the beer geek circles. It is not something that the everyday craft beer drinker enjoys, fruited Berliner Weisse in Florida are almost all one-and-done festival releases, never to be poured at the taproom on a random Wednesday afternoon, or produced in a large enough batch to release to the local area in bottles. No, you have to go outside of Florida to find such a thing.

Of the 151 total, 75 (50%) have been entered in 2013.

Of the 75 new in 2013, 29 are from Florida, 7 are from Oregon, 5 are from California, 4 from New Hampshire, 4 from England, 2 each from Colorado, Massachusetts, Scotland, Virginia and New York.

Of the 17 added to Ratebeer between 2003 and 2010, only one was from Florida. The state with the most pre-2011 entries is Quebec, with 5.

Quebec, Australia, Delaware, Illinois, Wisconsin, New Hampshire, California (2) all had fruited weisse in the database before any brewery from Florida (first addition for FL was March 2010, Peg’s Ich Bin Ein Rainbow Jelly Donut).

What is the most popular fruit used?

Of the 150 tagged beers, shared fruit tags rank:

  • 31 Raspberry
  • 16 Strawberry
  • 14 Blueberry
  • 10 Blackberry
  • 9 Cherry
  • 8 Mango
  • 6 Passion fruit
  • 6 Peach
  • 4 Guava
  • 3 Kiwi
  • 3 Cranberry
  • 3 Lemon
  • 3 Lime
  • 3 Watermelon
  • 2 Lychee
  • 2 Pineapple
  • 2 Pomegranate
  • 2 Cucumber
  • 2 Currant
  • 2 Cactus
  • 2 Grapefruit
  • 1 Gooseberry
  • 1 Apricot
  • 1 Banana
  • 1 Plum
  • 1 Pears
  • 1 Oranges

What other kind of variants are out there?

There have long-been German fruit-syrup Berliner Weisse, some of them bottled, such as Berliner Kindl Weisse Mit Schuß Schwarze Johannisbeere, which used black currant syrup, and Berliner Kindl Radler, which is simply lemon juice/soda mixed with Berliner Weisse.

Deschutes Willamette Weisse used “urban foraged” scotch broom and red cedar leaves for spicing:

“In place of hops, scotch broom and red cedar leaves were added to impart the smallest hint of bitterness and a touch of fruit. Try it plain, or with our house made syrup.”

In Australia, Wig & Pen Brewery once served a Berliner Weisse through a randall filled with cherries.

Is it really “taking off” in Florida?

An analysis of our beer ratings says yes… but mostly due to festivals which center around these fruited sours.

  • 555 ratings of Florida fruited weisse total.
  • 256 ratings (46%) are from current Florida residents.
  • 199 by non-Florida raters.
  • 253 ratings of Florida fruited weisse which mention “tap” or “draft”.
  • only 41 ratings of Florida fruited weisse mention “bottle”

82 different breweries for 150 beers. Of these, breweries with the most examples are:

  • Cigar City, FL (14)
  • Funky Buddha, FL (12)
  • 7venth Sun, FL (10)
  • Dieu du Ciel, QC (7)
  • Peg’s Cantina, FL (5)
  • Southern Brewing, FL (4)
  • Green Room Brewing, FL (3)
  • Bellwoods, QC (3)
  • Night Shift, MA (3)
  • Proof, FL (3)


Date used is Ratebeer addition date, which may not accurately reflect when a batch was actually first made and sold.

I did a thorough search but I’m sure I missed some examples.

I’m loose with what I consider fruited weisse. If it’s a Berliner Weisse recipe and was aged, fermented or treated with a fruit, then I include it.