West Coast Wheat Beer

We’re getting low on the summer blonde ale, our easy-drinking summer beer, so before we get in a bad spot I figured it was time to brew up another light-and-tasty ale for the California summers. This recipe is based loosely on the American Wheat Beer recipe provided by Gordon Strong in Modern Homebrew Recipes. I modified it slightly to match my preferred yeast brand (White Labs) and to end up with a smaller quantity into the fermenter. Additionally, I wanted to use up some ingredients I had on-hand, so I used a different hops selection (the American blend of Falconer’s Flight, instead of primarily European hops). Additionally, I’m using a straight-up batch sparge technique rather than the step and decoction stated in the recipe.

Of course, this overall departure from “beer scripture” might freak out some…but it’s all in the tradition of “Relax, Don’t Worry, Have a Homebrew.” I had the good fortune to catch Strong’s talk at the 2015 AHA meeting, and he emphasized that his recipes are guidelines, not proscriptions for or against certain techniques. He noted that everyone has different equipment and different preferences, all of which can generate excellent beer. I like this philosophy!

West Coast Wheat Beer

  • 5 lbs. white wheat malt
  • 3.5 lbs. 2-row malt (Great Western Malting Co.)
  • 0.75 lbs. Munich malt
  • 0.75 lbs. rice hulls
  • 1 oz. Falconer’s Flight hops pellets (9.6% alpha, 4.4% beta; alpha acid adjusted for age), 20 minute boil
  • 1 oz. Falconer’s Flight hops pellets (9.6% alpha, 4.4% beta; alpha acid adjusted for age), 1 minute boil
  • 1 pkg. California Ale V (White Labs WLP051), prepared 24 hours in advance in 0.75 L starter
  • I mashed in with 13.4 quarts of water at 160.4°. This precisely hit my mash target of 150°. The mash was at 149° after 30 minutes and 146° after 60 minutes.
  • I added 1.25 gallons of water at 175°, which raised the temperature of the mash bed to 152°. I let it sit for 10 minutes, vorlaufed, and collected 3 gallons of wort.
  • Next, I added 3 gallons of water at 182°, which raised the temperature of the mash bed to 166°. Once again, I let it rest for 10 minutes, vorlaufed, and collected the remainder of the wort.
  • I had a total of 6 gallons of wort at 1.045 gravity, which works out to ~73% efficiency. The gravity was a little higher than I wanted, so I added a half gallon of water to bring the total boil volume up to 6.5 gallons.
  • I brought the wort to a boil, and let it boil for 40 minutes before I added the first charge of hops. One minute before flame-out, I added the last charge of hops.
  • After flame-out, I chilled the wort down to 80° using my wort chiller (couldn’t manage much cooler with the warm weather!) and transferred the wort into my fermenter. I pitched the yeast starter and sealed it all up. I placed the yeastified wort into my fermentation chamber, and set the temperature for 68°. I will lower it a touch once fermentation has started, down to 66°.
  • All total, I ended up with 5 gallons of wort in the fermenter, with a starting gravity of 1.048.