When summer hits San Diego, I want my craft beer to be two things: light-bodied and refreshing.
Besides a cold lager, no other beer is better for quenching your thirst after exercise, grilling out and hanging with friends on sunny days, or starting out a perfectly balmy evening in SoCal. (Sours are fantastic but upset some people’s tummies.)
Here in weather paradise, we are blessed with craft breweries producing some of the best wheat beers in the nation, including award-winning and top-rated classics and new favorites. So put down that Blue Moon and Shock Top and try some of San Diego’s most loved and respected wheats, made in the styles of Belgian witbiers, German hefeweizens and beyond.
Acoustic Ales, Witte Snake, 4.5 percent alcohol by volume: As a fan who had a Whitesnake poster on my wall as a young girl, the title alone won me over. Thankfully, it’s delicious too, with a clever addition of lemongrass and ginger, alongside the classic wit ingredients of coriander and orange peel.
Ballast Point Wahoo White, 4.5 percent: Formerly titled Wahoo Wheat, this classic was my first San Diego wheat beer. Made in the Belgian wit style, I love how they cleverly paired Wahoo on their website with white fish ceviche, cantaloupe, and my favorite, cupcakes!
Coronado Orange Avenue Wit, 5.2 percent: One of the most well-known veterans on the list comes the classic brew named after the brewpub location. With the extra addition of orange blossom honey, Orange Avenue has garnered awards around the globe including in Chile, Japan and at the world beer championship.
Helm’s Brewing O.G. Wheat, 5.7 percent: This unusual offering is based on the German gose, a naturally fermented wheat beer brewed with salt and coriander. The “sour mash"gives the beer a tartness while the salt balances the sweet malt. Both tart and refreshing, it’s definitely a must-try to expand your craft beer palate.
Karl Strauss Windansea Wheat, 5.1 percent: Another San Diego classic, this Bavarian hefeweizen style brew hits the taps every summer and quenches the thirst of many a surfer, cyclist and craft beer drinker, novice and expert alike. Also brilliantly pairing their beers with dishes, the Karl gang recommends shrimp and watermelon ceviche, strawberry ice cream beer float, lemon bars and raspberry cheesecake.
Lightning Thunderweizen, 5.5 percent: Purity. Quality. Integrity. The motto of Lightning and the place to learn about beer science, homebrew tips, and appreciate German beer. Try the Thunderweizen, which adheres to the German purity law for beer of 1516, using only the four traditional ingredients, water, yeast, grain, and hops. Be sure to follow these great tips: “Serve at 50 degrees F in a larger flute with a bulge on the top to better capture this beer’s true hefeweizen characters. A tall glass or large red wine glass suffices as well.”
Modern Times Fortunate Islands, 5 percent: What a fantastic hybrid! This brew, classified as an American pale wheat, combines the IPA with citra and amarillo hops with a wheat beer. In other words, you have a refreshing low alcohol mild wheatiness with a burst of tropical fruit (think mango and passionfruit) And it comes in a can? Score!
Saint Archer White, 5 percent: Capturing gold at 2014 GABF (Great American Beer Festival) above 64 other entries in the Belgian witbier style, this award-winner is a perfect end to the list, and the prime brew for lunch, post-sports, aperitifs, dinner and pretty much any SoCal adventure. Great website, too, chock full of videos, ambassador profiles and merchandise.
With 15 years in the restaurant and beverage industry and more than 700 reviews under her belt, Laurie Delk is a one-stop guide to all things craft beer, wine and spirits. You can follow Delk on Twitter @100beers30days or Instagram @sandiegobeer. Send ideas for featured drinks to firstname.lastname@example.org.