Three Indiana Wheat Beers that Set the Standard
Wheat beers have always been interesting to me. The Mishawaka Brewing Company made wheat beers and ales, and back in the 90s, they made the first wheat beers I drank outside of Samuel Adams Cherry Wheat. A trip to Belgium taught me about Witbiers, and I still remember my first Hoegaarden, and how different it tasted to me. And in Germany in 2007, I tried Hefeweisen in all its forms(I liked Schwarzweisen the best), and also fell in love with the Berliner Weisse. And recently on a trip to New Albanian Brewery, I enjoyed a Apple Brandy Barrel Aged Hefeweisen that was phenomenal. So needless to say, I know a little about wheat beer.
Indiana’s license plates used to have the phrase “Amber Waves of Grain” on them, and this wheat producing state produces a host of wheat beers and ales. With over 125 breweries, we have a lot of wheat beers to choose from. So I want to look at three of my favorite wheat beers made here in Indiana. And in picking my three, I came up with some quite diverse selections.
Upland Wheat is made in the style of a Belgian witbier, but I have found it to be much more. It’s easy drinking at 4.5% ABV, and available statewide. In 2005, I visited beer enthusiasts in Washington DC, and I took a six pack of Upland Wheat to show them our craft beer scene at the time. The beer is sweet with hints of orange and lemon, and has a mild yeast aftertaste. Upland was one of the oldest state breweries that are still brewing today, and the Wheat Ale was found years ago on tap at many places in central Indiana that offered no other craft beer. It is the first beer I think of when I hear the name Upland, and I still find it a simple yet amazing beer after all these years. If it had been available statewide after my first trip to Belgium in 1999, I would have become a fan of it even sooner.
My second choice is 3 Floyds Gumballhead which is a very hoppy wheat ale. It is 5.6 % ABV, with crisp flavor, and lots of Amarillo Hops, yet it boasts only 35 IBU’s. It has been a huge success for 3 Floyd’s, and a beer that has been replicated by many breweries both nationally and statewide. It is the one beer from Indiana that more people seem to ask for by name, save only Sun King Cream Ale. It is so popular, it’s hard to keep in stock, although perhaps this is on purpose. At any rate, Gumballhead is popular for so many reasons, and it is quite simply a very good American Wheat Ale.
My third choice is Barley Island’s Flat Top Wheat. It is 3.6 % ABV, and drinks crisp and cleanly with the fine aroma of wheat. There are subtle hints of pepper, as well as notes of hops and citrus. It is available in bottles, but I recommend trying it at the Barley Island Taproom in Noblesville where they serve it on tap with a lemon.
For all different reasons, these three beers are excellent, and showcase why craft beer is thriving in Indiana. All three breweries are among Indiana’s early craft brewing pioneers, and they all make a good, consistent product. Most beer drinkers have had a wheat beer, but if you are new to them, these three beers are an excellent place to start.