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.
- 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)
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
- Tart aroma, with light bubblegum and clove. (no banana) Lots of yeast character!
- 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.
- 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!