Beer Tasting: West Coast Wheat Beer

As my first all-grain wheat beer (and an American wheat beer at that), this batch has been a complete success. Check out the details below!

  • The Basics
    • Original gravity = 1.049, final gravity = 1.012, abv = 4.8%, estimated IBU = 23
  • Appearance
    • The head is white, creamy, and fine; almost meringue-like in consistency. It is incredibly persistent, too; even though it thins out some time after pouring, the head sticks around down to the very end of the glass. In fact, if anything the head is a little too dramatic – it takes a slow pour, a steady hand, and a bit of patience before the glass is full and ready to drink. I initially had chalked this up to potential over-carbonation, but now I’m pretty satisfied that it is a happy consequence of an all-grain beer with a heavy percentage of wheat. The beer itself is light gold and modestly hazy (it has clarified some over the 2-3 weeks since tapping the keg).
  • Aroma
    • Tart and lightly malty, with perhaps a hint of tropical fruit. Delicious!
  • Flavor
    • Slightly tart taste, balanced against a clean malt backbone. Smooth and light bitterness. Wonderfully balanced! 
  • Mouthfeel
    • Crisp and light bubbles; it could be carbonated a touch more, but is still within style.
  • Would I brew this again?
    • I would brew this beer again and again. It’s one of the best brews I’ve made to date, and is quite popular in our household. 
  • Overall rating
    • 10/10

West Coast Wheat Beer On Tap

Because I didn’t have any “summer beers” on tap, I opted to speed-carbonate my West Coast Wheat Beer. This entailed two days at 40 psi and 42°, which did indeed carbonate things quite nicely. If anything, it might have overcarbonated a touch (based on the foaminess when I tapped the keg and poured the initial glasses). My hope is that this will get reduced as the beer sits at the standard serving / carbonating pressure for my system.

In any case, the beer has a positively thick and massive head, almost meringue-like. I guess this is what happens when you do an all-grain wheat beer! I’m quite pleased. The beer itself is quite delicious too, and I’ll do a full tasting once it has had a chance to mature a bit more.

West Coast Wheat Beer Update

Today I kegged up the West Coast Wheat Beer, after 10 days in the primary fermenter. During the course of fermentation, I agitated the beer a few times to keep the yeast in suspension and ensure a full fermentation. At the time of kegging, the beer is at a gravity of 1.012 (down from 1.048), which works out to around 4.7% abv. The flavor is delicious, with a nice balance between tartness, citrus aromas, and a touch of fruitiness. This all bodes quite well! I’m “speed carbonating” at the moment (high pressure for two days, then down to serving pressure), with a hope to sample over the weekend.

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
Procedure
  • 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.