Not too long ago I had a friend from Israel who would be coming to visit us, and prior to his visit we talked about beers and the variety I make so we could have a great victory beer (he came to run the North Downs Way 100 mile race). During the discussion I offered to make a special beer to make the victory beer even better, and he mentioned that his favourite beers are actually German -style wheat beers. I’m not a wheat beer drinker myself (just the occasional one sometimes, if offered) and have never made one – actually, I hadn’t ever considered making one – but I thought, why not give it a try?
I ordered some crushed wheat and German style yeast, did some browsing on the web for recommendations about making wheat beers (also known as weissbier) and noticed that they are usually very low on hops, almost neutral, focusing on the wheat taste. The one hop that I noticed is used quite often is Saaz hops, so I ordered some of that too.
Armed with the right (I think) ingredients and a hunch of what a wheat beer should be like, I went to work.
Water: 3.5L boiled Brita water with 0.5L room temperature Brita water – start at 70°c
Grains: 1kg wheat malt and 500g pale malt
Mashing: 30 minutes at 65°c (after the drop from 70°c)
Heating to 68°c and letting it go for another 30 minutes
Mash gravity=1020, roughly 3l liquid at the end
5g Bavarian Yeast by Mangrove Jack’s
Pitched into the fermenter at 24°c
3L mashed water and another 1.5L boiled Brita water
60 minutes: 10g Saaz hops (3.1%), 10g Target hops (12.17%)
30 minutes: 10g Saaz hops (3.1%)
0 minutes: 10g Saaz hops (3.1%) and into the ice bath
Steady boil with no major incidents, took 21 minutes to reach 27°c.
Wort was 3L with a gravity of 1092.
Added the yeast to the cooled wort and 3l more of Brita water at room temperature.
I impatiently bottled the beer too early, after 8 days, leaving them to prime with 70g of dextrose; the FG at that point was 1018. A week and a half later I tried one of the beers and ended up with a fountain from the bottle, so all the bottles were emptied back into the fermenter for another round of fermentation. I managed to recover 5L out of the original 6L, as some of it was lost to foam and splatter.
The second fermentation only took 3 days and the beer was much more stable, as the yeast was very active and got rid of the last of the sugars.
Drinking while making
Bottling (19 days after brewing)
5L total beer, added 45g dextrose for priming and bottled 10 bottles total.
Let me start again by saying that I’m not a wheat beer drinker, but I gave the beer to two friends who are wheat beer drinkers (one of them is the friend I made it for, he finished the race, worry not…) and they were both very happy with the quality of the beer. It seems to be of the lighter weissbier variety, rather than some the heavier wheat beers, similar to a Berlin style beer (so I was told).
Lightly hazy, but not cloudy, with a light honey colour (like Hogarden, but more golden). White foamy head that persisted throughout the drinking time of the beer.
It had a sweet smell with hints of banana, but lighter than most wheat beers that gives it a fresh feeling; it also has notes of citrus. The flavour comes out drier and more bitter than expected from the smell, with a light bready flvour from the yeast and some grapefruit aftertaste. Tends to be more bitter rather than sour.
To be honest I’m very happy with this beer. I wasn’t sure what to expect or how to approach it, but my instincts and intuition about beer making are getting better in creating beers that work. I will be trying to make wheat beers again (I liked it too!) and it has great potential to play with. I might even keep this specific recipe to make again from time to time.