Humboldt’s Hefeweizen

It has been a loooooong time since I’ve brewed a German hefeweizen / weissbier. In fact, my records show that I’ve only done it once, over five years ago. That attempt was all-extract, and turned out reasonably well.

I’ve been thinking about this style because I wanted something that turns around quickly, has a ton of character, and is low alcohol enough to be enjoyed as a session beer on warm days. Plus, I’ve really been into German styles lately–what’s not to like?

The recipe more or less follows Gordon Strong’s weissbier recipe from the March/April 2020 issue of Brew Your Own magazine (recipe here, behind paywall). I liked its simplicity, and that it could be done fairly well with an infusion step mash. I added in a touch of melanoidin malt, to use up a lingering handful, and used up some extra wheat malt, too. The recipe called for a ferulic acid rest (to maximize clove character), and I was willing to give that a try in the interest of science.

The name–Humboldt’s Hefeweizen–honors German scientist Alexander von Humboldt. I recently finished a biography about him (Andrea Wulf’s Invention of Nature–highly recommended!), and I was fascinated by his intellectual and cultural influence, as well as his incredible dedication to documenting knowledge. This dude has a ton of animals and plants bearing his name, bestowed by the scientific community. There’s a Humboldt Penguin, and a Humboldt Squid, and a Humboldt’s Sapphire Hummingbird. Why not a Humboldt’s Hefeweizen? I don’t know that he necessarily drank much of the stuff when he was alive, but he probably didn’t eat many penguins, either.

Humboldt’s Hefeweizen

  • 4.75 lb. Superior Pilsen Malt (Great Western)
  • 4 lb. white wheat malt (Briess)
  • 1.25 lb. white wheat malt (Great Western)
  • 1.6 oz. melanoidin malt (Weyermann)
  • 0.25 oz. Magnum hop pellets (13.2% alpha), 60 minute boil
  • 1 pkg. Hefeweizen Ale yeast (WLP300, White Labs)

Target Parameters

  • 1.047 o.g., 1.010 f.g., 4.9% abv, 11 IBU, 4 SRM
  • Infusion mash; 15 minute acid rest at 116°; 30 minute saccharification rest at 149°; 30 minute saccharification rest at 158°, batch sparge
  • Claremont tap water with mineral additions, to hit target water profile of 80 ppm Ca, 9 ppm Mg, 23 ppm Na, 58 ppm SO4, 50 ppm Cl, 220 ppm HCO3; RA=118 pm

Procedure

  • The night before brewing, I spooled up a 1.25L starter for the yeast.
  • On brew day, I mashed in with 2 gallons of water at 129°, to hit 119° for the acid rest. This is a touch higher than I wanted, but still within the acceptable parameters for an acid rest.
  • After 15 minutes, I added 1.6 gallons of water at 202°, to hit a 149° mash temperature. I added 4.5 mL of lactic acid at this time, and let it rest for 30 minutes.
  • Next, I added 1.6 gallons of water at 185°, to raise the mash temperature to 152°. I had been hoping for a little warmer (158°), but will settle for this. After 30 minutes, I collected the first runnings.
  • I added 3.6 gallons of water at 185°, let it rest for 10 minutes, and collected the second runnings.
  • In total, I collected 7.2 gallons of runnings with a gravity of 1.040, for 75% mash efficiency.
  • I brought the runnings to a boil, adding the hops per the schedule. After 60 minutes, I turned off the flame and began chilling.
  • I transferred the wort into the fermenter, and chilled it further in my fermentation chamber. Once I hit 62°, I pitched the yeast.
  • I brewed this beer on 26 April 2020, and kept the 62° temperature for the first four days of fermentation. I ramped up to 67° on 30 April.
  • On 3 May 2020, I brought the beer out to ambient temperature, which was around 72°, to finish out fermentation.
  • I kegged the beer on 5 May 2020, adding 3.61 oz. of corn sugar. This should hit a target carbonation volume of ~3.4 volumes. After a week, I hooked it up to the gas in my keezer, carbonating the last little bit in there.
  • Starting gravity was 1.045, and final gravity was 1.013, for 4.3% abv.
yellow beer with fluffy white head, in weizen glass with SVP2014 on front with picture of fossil Archaeopteryx, held by hand in green yard

Tasting

  • Appearance
    • Creamy white head, persistent; doesn’t always pour consistently tall, though (gotta work on the head factor). I seem to do better if I let the beer line rest for 10 minutes between pours, to let CO2 out of solution and encourage some foam. Very hazy light gold beer.
  • Aroma
    • Tart aroma, with light bubblegum and clove. (no banana) Lots of yeast character!
  • Flavor
    • Light and smooth, with very low, subtle hop flavor. Slightly tart, with a mild bite coming from high level of carbonation that offsets the malt. Moderate clove, slight banana, very slight bubblegum in the yeast character. Malt character is light and somewhat bready, with a residual sweetness.
  • Mouthfeel
    • Medium-light body, creamy on tongue, with high carbonation, very slightly dry finish.
  • Would I brew this again?
    • This is a really nice weissbier! I think the freshness, malt balance, and high carbonation come together pretty well. I like that I dodged the super-banana (sometimes to the level of stomach-churning) character of wheat beers fermented at higher temperatures, so there’s not much I would change on that end. The yeast character is pretty nice here, too. My one disappointment concerns the level of head; depending on my pour (and how long the beer has sat in the lines between pours, with a greater length of time encouraging more foam), I don’t get quite as tall of a head as consistently as I would like. I wonder if the low temperature initial mash rest had a detrimental effect in this regard (in terms of breaking down the relevant proteins just a bit too much). Or maybe it’s how I’m pouring? Or maybe I am expecting more head than is realistic in a typical setting? I might add in a touch of flaked wheat to address head character next time.
    • As a style, I’m definitely coming back to this one. It’s super flavorful, packing in a ton of character without a ton of alcohol. That’s perfect for enjoying on a summer afternoon!
  • Overall
    • 8.5/10
Posted in hefeweizen, tastings, weissbier, wheat beer | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

What’s Brewing? May 2020 Edition

Following the relatively quiet brewing months of March and much of April, I’ve been able to get back into the swing of things again. With extra time at home, I’ve also been making various syrups and other fermented goodies. It’s a lot of fun!

Fermenter with the Alta California Lager, ready for kegging

Beer Batch Updates

  • I brewed a German wheat ale on April 26 (Humboldt’s Hefeweizen), and it has been carbonated and is now on service! It’s a super straightforward recipe, with pilsner malt, wheat malt, and a touch of melanoidin (to finish out my stash of that malt). I’ve not brewed this style in some time (it looks like 2015 was my last batch), so it seemed like a good time to give it another try.
  • I kegged the 2020 edition of the Alta California Lager on 10 May 2020, and put it on tap yesterday. It has been lagering for just under three weeks, and has a ways to go yet before I’ll consider it optimal. Luckily, I can focus on the weizen for now, which is a bit better young anyhow.
  • On May 3, I brewed a kitchen sink pale ale, to use up a few stray ingredients. I’ll keg it in a day or two, using priming sugar for carbonation.
  • Last weekend, I made an altbier, repitching the yeast used in my kolsch-style ale earlier this year. The recipe is straight from the Brewing Classic Styles series book on altbier, just for a change of recipe pace. Fermentation took a few days to take off, but it’s now going gangbusters!
  • Yesterday I started a Dortmunder Export Lager, as a style new to me. I was going to repitch some German Lager yeast (WLP830), but the jar in my fridge hadn’t clarified terribly well. I took this as a sign to toss the yeast (which had already been through two batches), and just went with dry Saflager 34/70. I did some experimenting with water chemistry on this batch, which I plan to detail in a later post.

What’s On Tap?

  • Humboldt Hefeweizen — as described above, it’s a fairly traditional German wheat ale. I’m serving it at a pretty high carbonation (~3.5 volumes of CO2), and it has been quite enjoyable so far. This is one I want to drink quickly….it might be my favorite on tap at the moment!
  • Celtic Elk Irish Stout — this is a traditional-ish Irish stout, filling the dark beer morphospace in my tap selection. The batch is a slightly modified rebrew of one I did a few years back.
  • Alta California Lager — a Mexican-style lager, intended as a light and drinkable summer beer.

What’s Coming Up?

Freshly empty malt bag…now I’m all set to make more German beers!
  • I’m thinking a kolsch-style ale would be nice. Not sure yet on recipe.
  • An American-style lager (using a repitch of the yeast from my Mexican-style lager yeast) is also under consideration. I’m thinking something using rice to lighten it up.

Other Than Beer

  • I put a batch of sauerkraut out to ferment last weekend. Why not expand into other fermented foods, after all? Today I’ve also started a batch of fermented carrot sticks.
  • I’ve done a bunch of drink syrups…tonic syrup, of course, but also ginger syrup. For the latter, I need to cut back on the water (maybe 1 cup instead of 2?), because it ends up pretty thin, even though the flavor is great. I also did a juniper syrup, to have as an alternative for gin-based drinks. The initial taste is quite good!
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Schell’s Pils Clone 1.1

Last year, one of my favorite recipes was a clone of Schell’s Pils, a German-style pilsner from Minnesota using 2-row malt rather than pilsner malt. I decided to have another go at this recipe, but with a few minor modifications in the ingredients.

Schell’s Pils Clone 1.1

  • 11.5 lb. 2-row malt (Great Western)
  • 0.25 lb. Carapils malt (Briess)
  • 1 oz. Mt. Hood hop pellets (4.6% alpha), first wort hopping and 60 minute boil
  • 0.75 oz. Mt. Hood hop pellets (4.6% alpha), 60 minute boil
  • 0.75 oz. Mt. Hood hop pellets (4.6% alpha), 20 minute boil
  • 0.5 oz. Sterling hop pellets (7.4% alpha), 5 minute boil
  • 1 tsp. Fermax yeast nutrient, 10 minute boil
  • 1 Whirlfloc tablet, 5 minute boil
  • 1 repitch of German lager yeast (White Labs WLP830)

Target Parameters

  • 1.052 o.g., 1.011 f.g., 5.4% abv, 38 IBU, 4 SRM
  • 60 minute infusion mash, 152°, batch sparge
  • Water built up from RO, to hit target water profile of 59 ppm Ca, 8 ppm Mg, 89 ppm SO4, 63 ppm Cl; RA=-47ppm

Procedure

  • I built up my RO water with 1.86 g CaCl, 1.45 g gypsum, and 1.2 g Epsom salt in total with 8.5 gallons of RO water.
  • I mashed in with 4 gallons of water at 163.5°, to hit a mash temperature of around 152°. After 60 minutes, I added 1.1 gallons of water at ~185°, let sit for 10 minutes, vorlaufed, and collected the first runnings.
  • I next added ~3.6 gallons of water, let sit for 10 minutes, vorlaufed, and collected the second runnings.
  • In total, I collected 7.25 gallons of runnings with a graviy of 1.045, for 77% mash efficiency.
  • I brought the kettle to a boil, adding the hops, nutrient, and finings per the schedule.
  • After a 60 minute boil, I chilled the wort down to ~75°, and transferred to the fermenter.
  • I chilled the wort in my fermentation chamber down to 49°, oxygenated with 30 seconds of pure O2, and pitched a culture of yeast from a previous batch (my Crystal Pils, harvested about 6 weeks prior).
  • I fermented at 52°, for just under a month.
  • Starting gravity was 1.053, on 7 March 2020.
  • I didn’t change the temperature at all during the duration of fermentation, figuring that any lingering off-flavors would be cleaned up during this time.
  • I kegged the beer on 4 April 2020. Final gravity was 1.010, for 5.7% abv.

Tasting

golden beer with white head in conical pilsner glass
  • Appearance
    • Thick white head, pretty persistent. It pours well, and sticks around, too. The beer itself is light yellow and pretty clear (but not quite brilliant).
  • Aroma
    • Lightly spicy hop character, slight grainy-sweet malt character.
  • Flavor
    • Definitely hop dominant, with an assertive hop presence that is on the tongue well after finishing the sip. Malt character is smooth and slightly doughy, but definitely in the background…almost too much so.
  • Mouthfeel
    • Off-dry, moderately high carbonation, with a lingering bitter finish.
  • Would I brew this again?
    • For my tastes, I liked the first batch much better. This version is still a pretty good German pils, but definitely a touch more bitter than I care for in this style. It just overwhelms the malt too much. I think I’ll go back to my hopping schedule from the previous version. The hop/malt balance was just better in that one. I’ll still keep the dry-hop out, though. I also wonder if changing from Rahr to Great Western for the malt made a difference?
  • Overall: 6.5/10
Posted in German pils, lager, pilsner, tastings | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

What’s Brewing? April 2020 Edition

As mentioned last time, my brewing activity has slowed as we continue our general shut-down here in SoCal. Even so, I’ve managed to squeeze in a few sessions and enjoy some of my previously tapped kegs.

Beer Batch Updates

  • I kegged my imperial stout for the homebrew club project on April 11, and sent it off for transfer to the club barrel (all done without in-person contact, of course!). The final gravity was 1.030, down from 1.105, for 10.2% abv, and I ended up with just a shade below 5 gallons. The flavor is quite rich, and the Belgian character of the yeast comes through nicely. I’ll be interested to see what it tastes like when barrel aged with everyone else’s contributions!
  • I kegged my Schell’s Pils Clone on 4 April 2020 (using a purged keg and closed transfer), and it has a final gravity of 1.010 (for 5.7% abv). I saved the yeast culture for a future brew. I just moved the beer into the keezer (after a shade under two weeks lagering), because I had finished my kolsch and had an open tap. The beer really needs a little more time to condition, and should be quite a bit better in a week or two. It had a slightly harsh yeast edge to it during the first day or two on tap, and has improved dramatically since then. I’ve noticed this issue with WLP830 (White Labs’ German lager yeast) before, because it flocculates fairly slowly. The head and head retention on this beer are amazing! I can’t wait to see where it ends up when fully conditioned.
  • Two weeks ago (April 4), I brewed this year’s batch of Alta California Lager. The 2020 edition is vastly simplified, using flaked corn instead of a cereal mash with grits. I also am using the Mexican lager yeast strain from Imperial (instead of the White Labs version), because that’s what was available at my local homebrew shop. After two weeks at 51°, I let it free-rise to 60° to finish up. I will likely keg it in another week or so (but am not in a particular rush).
  • On Saturday, I spooled up my Celtic Elk Irish Stout, as a quick turn-around beer. I figure it will be ready to keg in around 10 days. As an experiment, I’m going to carbonate it in the keg with corn sugar, as a way to reduce the amount of CO2 gas I’m using.
Schell’s Pils Clone, with that beautiful foam cap!

What’s On Tap?

  • Wildfire IPA. Since posting the tasting, this beer has continued to clarify, and the hops are really singing now. I love this recipe!
  • Czech-Style Dark Lager. This is another great beer. I am enjoying it more and more as it continues to condition; I suppose it’s growing on me!
  • Schell’s Pils Clone. As mentioned above, it’s got a little ways to go in terms of maturing. I’ll post a review once the beer is in prime shape.

What’s Coming Up?

  • Within the next weekend or two, I’m going to do an altbier, with some of the yeast saved from my kolsch a few weeks back.
  • I’m going to try something in the Dortmunder Export world, because it’s one of the few (?only) pale lagers that is okay with heavily mineralized water. I may try to reduce the carbonate load a bit with slaked lime, but that’s a topic for another post.

New Equipment

  • I want to learn more about our tap water, and how it varies through the year. The annual test reports are handy, but they don’t tell me much about my water at-the-moment. I recently invested in the LaMotte water test kit, and have run the tests a few times already. Look for an upcoming blog post on the topic!

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Andy’s Homemade Tonic Syrup

When I’m not drinking beer, my absolute favorite mixed drink (especially in hot weather) is a gin and tonic. I love a good gin, and it also turns out that I’m picky on tonic water. The store brand tonic is cheap but pretty dreadful, being about 90% corn syrup and overly bitter without any complexity. The Fever Tree brand (and others like it) is good, but it’s also pretty expensive. In both cases, I end up with empty bottles that have to be recycled (if they can be recycled), and I’m spending money I shouldn’t have to spend! So, how do I balance my desires to A) save money; and B) get good tonic water?

A few years back, we invested in a Soda Stream–I normally don’t care for single-purpose, ultra-speciality kitchen gadgets, but this has been totally worth the initial cost and the occasional CO2 refill swap (we end up doing this about once a year–I keep two spare bottles on hand at any time)). Thanks to Soda Stream, we don’t have to buy sparkling water from the grocery store (with its accompanying plastic garbage and the inevitable waste of the water that doesn’t get used before it goes flat), and we can mix just about anything we like with syrup. Overall, this gadget cuts down on our waste, and lets us save a good chunk of money by crafting some of our favorite fizzy drinks at home!

Simmering the ingredients

It’s turns out that it’s fairly easy to make a really nice craft tonic water. The key is to start with a tasty syrup…and just add (sparkling) water! I got a copy of The New Cocktail Hour for Christmas a few years back, and used its tonic syrup recipe as a starting point. After a few iterations, I figured out a version that suited my tastes. The main changes were less sugar and a touch more cinchona bark. I had to do a little hunting for specialty ingredients (I ended up ordering the cinchona bark and gentian root online), but once I had those on-hand it’s a pretty inexpensive and easy recipe. A pound of cinchona bark cost ~$25, and it was about the same for the gentian root. These will last me forever! We can just walk out our door and pick the citrus and the lemon grass (thanks, SoCal!), so there’s little cost there. Averaging out after the initial material purchase, it probably costs well under $5 per batch, and I get around a dozen servings of tonic water (<50 cents per serving). Contrast this with ~$1.50 per bottle for the fancy stuff, and it’s a pretty big savings.

Note the an overdose of quinine can lead to ill effects…so, make this recipe at your own risk. I do not recommend consuming the tiny bits of bark that might make it into the syrup, nor do I recommend using powdered bark.

Andy’s Homemade Tonic Syrup

  • Peel from a whole lemon, zested or peeled w/vegetable peeler
  • Peel from a whole lime, zested or peeled w/vegetable peeler
  • Peel from a whole orange, zested or peeled w/vegetable peeler
  • 2 tsp. cinchona bark (coarse cut, not powdered)
  • 1 tsp. gentian root
  • 1/2 tsp. whole allspice berries
  • 2.5 tsp. citric acid powder (or 2/3 cup lemon juice)
  • 2/3 cup lemongrass stalk (fresh, not dried), chopped
  • 1/8 tsp. sea salt
  • 2 cups water (or 1-1/3 cup water if using lemon juice)
  • 1/2 cup demerera sugar (can also use white sugar)

Procedure

  • Combine all ingredients except sugar in a sauce pan, and bring to a low boil.
  • Turn down the heat, and simmer for 15 minutes.
  • Strain the mixture through a mesh strainer or equivalent device, and then transfer into a Mason jar. Add the sugar, stir to dissolve, and store in the fridge.
  • When ready to serve, mix with sparkling water to taste. I usually use just under a shot glass (1.5 oz), with ~6 oz. sparkling water.
  • As long as you keep the syrup refrigerated, it will last around a month (in my experience), and potentially even longer. (as a fair warning, the conservative thing would be to consume it all in a week, but that’s up to you!) You can freeze the syrup, too; it’s never as good as it is fresh, but it’s still way better than the store-bought alternatives!
  • Recipe note: It turns out OK if you leave out one of the types of citrus (e.g., if you don’t have limes in the house), but it’s really better with more different citrus notes. I find the peels rather than zest are more manageable, especially for the lemons and oranges. Also, straight-up citric acid powder creates a crisper-tasting result than using lemon juice, but either way is okay.
Gin and tonic–the syrup creates a gorgeous color!
Posted in not beer | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment