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Brewer’s Best Dunkelweizen : Batch 8

Winter is a great time for brewing. It’s a great time to experiment with some darker beers. Even novice beer drinkers will often be a little more daring toward darker beer when the weather is colder. I’d been wanting to brew a Dunkelweizen since I started brewing, but hadn’t found time. Now is that time!

Dunkelweizens aren’t the most commonly found beer in America, but I’m a huge fan. I think they tend to be pretty similar to a Brown Ale in flavor, but they’re technically a dark Wheat Beer. Dunkel means dark in German (as opposed to weiss, which means white) and Weizen means wheat. A Dunkelweizen, generally has the same banana and clove notes of a wheat ale, but also has chocolatey, roasted flavors from the addition of dark malts.

Ingredients, Brewing, and Fermentation

Enough with the details, let’s get to the brewing! I made this batch with a Brewer’s Best Dunkelweizen kit. Ingredients included – 6.6 lb. Wheat LME, 1 lb. Maltodextrin, 8 oz. Chocolate Malt, 8 oz. Munich Malt, 5 oz. Vanguard Bittering Hops, 1 oz. Argentine Cascade Aroma Hops, and Munich Danstar Yeast.

This batch of brew was started on November, 29th.  I started by steeping the grains for about 23 minutes at 150-160 degrees. I continued by adding in the LME and Maltodextrin, then the hops. Let that boil for about 40 minutes, then added the flavoring hops for the last 20 minutes (per the instructions). I ended up with a wort with an OG reading of about 1.057.

I got the yeast started in a glass of water toward the end of my boil, cooled my wort in a sink ice bath, then poured the cooled wort into 3 gallons of cool water in my fermenting bucket. I added in the yeast, gave it a quick stir, put the cap on and set it aside to let it do it’s thing. The only problem… it didn’t. After 48 hours there was still no action. My second batch in a row that didn’t go! I’m wondering if I didn’t let the wort cool enough, or if activating the yeast in water may be working against me. I really don’t know if this was my fault or I somehow managed to find 2 dead packets of yeast in a row. Either way, I got a new packet of yeast from my homebrew shop.

Here’s where things get interesting. I’m not sure if it was intentional or not, but the replacement yeast packet I was given was a Windsor yeast packet from Danstar. I didn’t think much of it, took it home, and dropped it in my fermenter. This time everything started working as expected.  (check out my yeast notes at the end of this write-up)

I ended up letting the fermentation process go 12 days. I needed a couple extra days because of the dead yeast, and I like to let it go at least 7-10 days. I checked my FG as I racked to the secondary. Using my favorite beer calculator, my Final Gravity of 1.026 means my alcohol content is about 4.1%.

After 11 days in the secondary, I bottled my Dunkelweizen. I slacked this time around, using 6 Growlers, 6 big bottles, and 14 normal bottles. I know a lot of people are concerned with growler grenades, but I haven’t had a single one yet. Lucky, maybe.

Drinking the Dunkelweizen

As I always do, I cracked a Dunkel open after only a week. Not a matured beer but already this beer was GREAT. Currently (about 8 weeks later), the Dunkel is honestly my favorite beer I have brewed so far. The coffee and chocolate flavors are dominant, but the wheat base makes it finish great. It’s not a ‘chewy’ beer like a stout or porter might be. I think it’s got flavors similar to the Brewer’s Best Brown Ale, but it’s been almost a year since I brewed that one. This Dunkel is a great stepping stone for people who don’t necessarily go for darker beers. I’d highly suggest this one.

Random Facts and Answers

  • This recipe was my first to call for Maltodextrin. I did some looking, and it turns out that Maltodextrin powder, derived from corn, is usually used to add body to malt extract beers. It’s a non-fermentable sugar, so it does not add alcohol.

Grains

This recipe used Chocolate and Munich Malts. Chocolate is really common, but I had a hard time finding info on the Munich grains. Here’s what I found:

  • Chocolate Malt – Use in all beer styles for color adjustment. The rich roasted coffee, cocoa flavor is very complementary when used in higher percentages in Porters, Stouts, Brown Ales, and other dark beers. Sharply pungent roasted taste.
  • Munich – Sometimes called Aromatic. A Munich malt contributes some amber color and residual sweetness and yet is still very much a fermentable grain. Ideal for Oktoberfest beers, Dunkels & Helles beers. It will add a deeper color, fuller malty flavor, and aroma to your brew.

Yeast

I ended up using a Windsor yeast instead of the suggested Munich yeast. I did a little looking, and here’s the basic difference:

  • Munich – Aroma is estery to both palate and nose with typical banana notes. Does not display malodours when properly handled. Munich yeast has found widespread use in the production of German Weizen and Hefeweizen. Fermentation temperatures above 72 degrees will enhance banana flavors, below will enhance clove flavors.
  • Windsor – The aroma is estery to both palate and nose, and is usually described as a full-bodied, fruity British ale. Does not display malodours when properly handled. Windsor yeast has found great acceptance in producing strong-tasting bitter beer, stout, weizen and hefe weizen.

Straining the wort before fermentation.

 

Next up – Holiday Ale
Previous batch –
Russian Imperial Stout

{ 7 comments }
  • Eli February 21, 2010, 3:33 pm

    I had the same problem with the dunkelweizen i started on 2/15/2010. It was my third batch that I had brewed. I tried a hefeweizen and a brown ale with no problems however, with this dunkeweizen the fermentation just didn’t start. I called the local home brew store and the recommended I crack open the bucket and see if there were any bubbles to indicate a stalled or slow starting fermentation. There were none. So, I went up and got a different yeast package. I don’t remember the name of it but the guy at the shop assured me that it was a good “wheat beer” yeast. So after 2 days of nothing, I pitched the yeast that I bought from the store and BAM!. Within 12 hours, my beer was fermenting great. It has been fermenting for about a week thus far. I will leave it for about 12 days and then bottle it up. I hope that nothing went wrong and the end result is as great as I have heard from others.

  • Jeremy February 25, 2010, 8:38 am

    Thanks for the comment, Eli. I wonder if a lack of fermentation is more likely to be bad yeast or bad handling of yeast. I don’t feel like I did anything different on my two batches that didn’t ferment, but it IS odd that I had two batches in a row that didn’t go.

  • Pete March 2, 2010, 8:36 pm

    Thanks for sharing this experience. I was looking at this same kit, wondering what I would be getting into. I was curious to how the maltodextrin affected your brew? Did you get a head similar to the picture on the box?

  • Jeremy March 17, 2010, 9:45 pm

    @Pete The picture on the box is just art. I really haven’t paid much attention to the head, but this is a GREAT beer. This Dunkel is easily the best beer I’ve made so far. Taste first! This is a great beer.

  • Raymond July 28, 2010, 8:58 pm

    I had the same problem when I started brewing. I thought the yeast just needed to be introduced to the wort then it would take care of the rest. I have had much better success by making a yeast starter a couple of days in advance. I use a 2 liter bottle and fill it up half way with a DME wart that I boil for 15 min on the stove. Then I pitch the yeast into that and one or two days later I pitch that into the 5 gallon batch I brew. At first I thought it was overkill but it seems to make better beer.

  • Jack February 19, 2011, 9:00 pm

    Hey guys just thought I would run this by you on the yeast problems.
    If you have a local brewery close by take a sanitized container to them and they will more than likely hook you up with a starter yeast from their batch.

    I recently brewed a Red Ale and pitched Nottingham dry yeast at 80 deg, I let the yeast set on top of the wort for 15 min then gave a good stir. Within 5 hrs I was fermenting.

    This beer is now in the bottle for 5 days now gave a sample taste while bottling and was pretty impressed.

  • Jeremy February 21, 2011, 6:49 pm

    It was strange that I ran in to yeast problems with two consecutive batches, because I haven’t actually had any issues since. At this point I’m doing similar to what you do, Jack. I cool to about 75°, then sprinkle the yeast on top, let it sit, then stir and shake.

    I’ve been a huge fan of Safale-05 lately. I’ve reused it through a third batch with no issues at all.

    Glad to hear your Red worked out well!

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