Generally, I find myself enjoying a wheat-based beer during the summer months: hot weather and wheat beer go hand-in-hand, after all. But as the days slip by, even a dunkel weiss or weizenbock can be consumed at an end-of-summer BBQ, next to a plate of grilled sausages or short ribs. And as the more seasonal-specific brews of early autumn call, don’t let weather dictate your drinking choices all of the time: drink what fits your mood or taste for the day. It’s mid-July here at the Beverage Testing Institute tasting panel and, along with our judges, we’re going through some fine examples of wheat beers that are great for warm weather consumption, or whenever you feel the need for a well-crafted brew with amazing potential for food pairing and great quenching properties.

In our Hefeweizen category, the brews that stood out included Ayinger Bräu-Weisse (97 points), Brau Fransikaner Hefe-Weisse (93 points), and Plank Bavarian Hefeweizen (92 points). Great benchmark brews for the style. If you are new to hefeweizens and are interested in trying prime examples, these will fit the bill perfectly. The cleansing properties of hefeweizens make them excellent for pairing with a myriad of foods. For a traditional spin, try with weiss wurst. If you’re looking for something new, a goat cheese tart or salad of micro greens, poached egg and bacon dressing will make an for an excellent experience.

Obviously, each brewery is going to interpret styles differently and the final product will carry house influences and characteristics. This is very evident in the Wheat Ale category. Some filtered and bright as day, some cloudy as a typical hefe, from one brewery to the next, wheat ales carry a lot of diversity. These properties make them interesting to flight up at a home tasting/food pairing with friends. I like to pair wheat ales with grilled fowl or fish in some cases, as long as the brew isn’t too aggressively hopped. Simple preparations usually work best, allowing the flavors of the beer to mingle with whatever you decide to pair. It’s really a matter of personal taste in most cases.

The stand-out brews that we tasted included Stevens Point Horizon Wheat (90 points), the Issaquah Brewhouse Bullfrog Wheat (89 points), and a unique brew from Marin Brewing Co., Star Brew Triple Wheat (88 points). This fine beverage carried the characteristics of a wheat wine and would be a great partner with some heartier fare such as funky farmhouse cheeses, roasted game meats or try with some duck sausages for a decadent experience.

Next up, the White Ales, my personal favorite in the world of wheat beers. Quenching, spicy and very versatile with so many foods. If you make a habit of rewarding yourself with a beer after some yard work, try a wit bier instead of your usual “lawn mower” beer. You’ll be happily satiated in no time. When pairing with food, the options are endless and delicious. Seafood is my favorite, especially sushi. Wits will stand up to the wasabi with panache. Ceviche is perfect for a light but dynamic pairing. Crab cakes, fried sardines/smelt and shellfish all do wonders for the palate with a wit beer. Not a seafood fan? Try washing down a goat cheese omelet or grilled cheese sandwich with your favorite brewery’s wit and you’re sure to be pleased. A few excellent examples include Unibroue Blanche de Chambly (91 points), the River Horse Double White Belgian Style Ale (91 points) or the Brewery Ommegang Witte (85 points).

When quaffing a dunkel weisse or weizen bock, I find myself wanting heartier fare. Fire up the grill and throw on some spicy sausages or, if indoors, roasting a duck is always a fun experience and a great match for the richness of these darker wheat beers. Ayinger Ur-Weisse (95 points) and Bischoff Falken Steiner Ur-Schwarze (87 points) are fine examples in the Dunkel Weisse category. As far as the weizen bock, try a Plank Dunkler Weizenbock (89 points). I especially like to pair this brew with grilled short ribs: a little five-spice powder and a dash of soy and honey and you’re on your way to a perfect combo.

Last up, the flavored wheat category. Great aperitifs or ice-breakers for your guests. Or end the meal by pairing with your favorite creamy cheeses and fruit plate. Try starting or ending your next get-together with a sample of Unibroue Éphémére Apple (93 points), Marin Blueberry Wheat Ale (89 points), Samuel Adams Cherry Wheat (88 points), or Track Town Honey Orange Wheat from Eugene City Brewery (86 points). The beauty of these beers is the subtlety of the fruit flavor: not in the least bit cloying or saccharine sweet, just delicate and delicious.

So indoors or out, warm or cold weather, lay back and enjoy a well-crafted wheat beer and have yourself a hazy day.