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Honey Wheat Ale

honey-wheat-ale-07After trying out a Honey Rye, I’d had a request to brew a Honey Wheat Ale.  I’ve created some decently successful Wheat Ales, so I decided to refer to a few of my older Wheat Ale recipes for inspiration.  For the honey, I went with a honey malt instead of actual honey.  I’ve never been that impressed with the flavor I’ve gotten from real honey, and I wanted the flavor of honey.  In my experience, the honey malt provides a better honey flavor than actual honey does.  Real honey tends to ferment away and dry things out.

The all-grain recipe is mostly wheat malt and pilsner malt.  Honey malt and Munich are used for a little character.  The hops are the same as you might find in a Pilsner, but also what I’ve liked in Blond Ales I’ve made.  The attempt is a spicy blond ale / wheat ale hybrid.  In my mind this all makes sense…

All-Grain Recipe: Honey Wheat Ale

Ingredients:

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  • 4 lb. – Pilsner Malt
  • 4 lb. – Wheat Malt
  • 12 oz. – Honey Malt
  • 12 oz. – Munich Malt
  • .5 lb. – Rice Hulls

Hop Additions / Boil Additions:

  • 1 oz. – Hallertau (4.5%) – added during boil, boiled 60 min
  • .5 oz. – Saaz (5%) – added during boil, boiled 20 min
  • .5 oz. – Hallertau (4.5%) – added during boil, boiled 20 min
  • 1 Whirlfloc Tablet & Wort Chiller – added during boil, boiled 10 min
  • .5 oz. – Hallertau (4.5%) – added end of boil
  • .5 oz. – Saaz (5%) – added end of boil

Yeast:

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  • Safale US-05

Additional Details / Notes

  • Style based on American Wheat Ale – 6D
  • OG 1.047 / TG 1.012
  • 4.6% ABV | Color: 8.1 °SRM | ~26.8 IBU’s
  • Brewed 03/10/2013, Secondary ?, Kegged 04/14/13
  • Mash Temp: ~152°, Thickness: 1.3 qt/g, Efficiency 67%, Attenuation 82%

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Brewing the Honey Wheat Ale

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The Mash. Poured the rice hulls in to the mash tun before the grains in an effort to keep from getting a stuck sparge.  I’ve had that problem with wheat before, and it’s a pain.  Not a lot of grains for this one, didn’t require much water to mash.  Did a loose mash, 1.4 qt/lb.    3.5 gallons of water at 162° to get it to 151°.   Recirculated 3 gallons of wort back over the grain bed after an hour to set the grain bed.

honey-wheat-ale-03The Boil. Nothing very exciting here.

Cooling. Outdoor cooling using hose water.  ~30 min.

Fermenting. Added 30 seconds of oxygen.  Fermented at about 68° in basement closet. About 63° ambient temp.

Racking to Secondary & Bottling. Skipped the secondary on this batch (not sure why). Kegged entire batch.

Drinking the Honey Wheat

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This one turned out okay, but I missed the mark a little in my recipe creation.  I’m on a run of batches that are coming out just a little bit too sweet.  I need to add a higher ratio of the base malt to let the Munich and Honey Malt be a lot more subtle.  Not to say this was a bad batch, but it was nothing I will rush to make again.  It’s also not a style that I’m particularly fond of drinking.

This batch didn’t age particcularly well.  As with a few other batches lately, it started to take on a certain level of green apple flavor.  Best I can research, that is an indication that my yeast health wasn’t where it should have been when I started.  I’m hoping to get better with yeast starters going forward.

The nice thing about a Wheat Ale is that you’re brewing something that rookie homebrew drinkers have a decent shot at liking.  This batch was a decent crowd pleaser, and a good recipe for new drinkers.

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Brewing a Blonde Wheat Ale

My 3rd attempt to make a great beer with unmalted, locally grown, MT Wheat. The beer’s name simply comes from the last name of the guy who hooked me up with the wheat. Clever names never stick as easy as the ones that are the easiest to remember. My first two attempts to use the wheat were both Wit style beers. Not my favorite style, but both beers were plenty easy to drink. This time around, I wanted to take a different direction and aim more for an American Wheat style beer. I more or less combined elements from my Ledbetter Blonde and second Wit receipes.

Ingredients:  MT Witbier Version 3

All-Grain Recipe

  • 3.5 lb Raw Wheat
  • 2.3 lb American 6-row
  • 2 lb German Pils
  • 1 lb Munich malt
  • 1 lb Wheat Flakes
  • .5 Carapils
  • 1 tablet Whirfloc – added to during boil, boiled 10 min

Hop Additions

  • 1 oz Hallertau (3.2%) – added during boil, boiled 60 min

  • .5 oz Hallertau (3.2%) – added during boil, boiled 20 min

  • 1.5 oz Saaz (3.8%) – added during boil, boiled 20 min
  • .5 oz Hallertau (3.2%) – added during boil, boiled 0 min
  • .5 oz Saaz (3.8%) – added during boil, boiled 0 min

Yeast

Additional Details / Notes

  • SG 1.048 / FG 1.009
  • 5.1% ABV
  • Brewed 09/17/11, Secondary 10/06/2011, Kegged 10/23/2011
  • Fermentation temps:  ~63° in Primary, ~75° Secondary

Brewing the Wishman Wheat V3

One of my least favorite processes, the unmalted wheat must be cracked, then converted in a cereal mash.  Not sure how necessary the cereal mash is, but I’ve been playing the better safe than sorry card so far.  I start off the brew day by running the 3.5lbs of Wheat through my corona mill.

I did a 2.5 gal cereal mash for this batch with 2 gal RO / .5 tap water.  With the Wheat and 6-row, I added 5.8 lbs of grain to the 130° water, aiming for the first rest of 122°.  After 15 minutes at that temp, I raised to 155°, staying there for another 15 min.  Up next is raising the heat to a boil for 15 min., stirring constantly.  Easily the biggest pain of the cereal mash is the constant stirring.

Upon cooling, it’s time to add the grains to the mash tun with the other 4 lbs of grain. I needed to add a fair amount of cool water and ice to get the temp down from the cereal mash.  Eventually I was settled in around 155°, which I left for an hour.

I didn’t remember to buy rice hulls for this batch… which I quickly regretted.  I was barely able to drain any wort from the mash tun before I was stuck.  Not a little stuck, but a lot stuck.  I was forced to dump the whole mash in to another container and hack at the cement hard mass at the bottom of the cooler.  After adding the grains back in, I was unstuck enough to complete my sparge decently well.

The boil went well.  I made my Hallertau and Saaz additions, as well as a Whirlfloc tablet and Wort Chiller addition with 10 minutes left in the boil.

Upon cooling to about 80°, I transferred the wort and pumped in about 40 seconds of Oxygen.  I capped at 73° and added about a half gallon of water to the fermenter to get to 5 gallons.

Drinking the Third Wishman Wheat Ale

It’s been said that the third time is the charm… and it was!  This turned out to be a great beer!  Easily my best Wheat beer yet.  The German Pils has a heavier flavor and body than the 2-row I’ve generally used, and the wheat does a great job of adding nice body and fullness.  I’ve been a huge fan of the Hallertau / Saaz combination since my first Blonde, so I was happy to have them taste great once again.

My complaint about the last two Wheat Ales I’d made was the flowery Chamomile dominating the flavor, even in moderate amounts.  Well… it turns out I’m clueless, because this batch had the same flavor.  Turns out this wheat just has a flowery character to it.  Not bad, just something that gives a little different flavor than you might expect.  I must apologize to the Chamomile for all the previous blame.

While I’m done using the Wishman Wheat, I’ll certainly make this recipe again.  It’s a really unique Wheat Ale that is mellow enough to serve to the beginners, and flavorful enough to keep even beer snobs entertained.

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MT Witbier Version 2 : Batch 29 : All-Grain

As I’d mentioned a while back when brewing my MT Wit #1, I was fortunate to receive a big bucket of unmalted wheat from a friend whose family owns a farm here in MT.  The first round was riddled with mistakes, but ultimately turned out a decently quaffable product.  For round 2, I had a few changes I wanted to make that I felt would improve upon the original.  First off, I wanted to up the amount of wheat.  I felt that the wheat was a little lost in the first batch, and I wanted to raise the OG a bit.  Second, I had missed the orange flavor altogether in my first batch, which I would blame on using regular navel oranges and not a ‘bitter’ orange.  I’d also ended up with WAY too much chamomile flavor in the first batch, which needed to be addressed.

Ingredients:  MT Witbier Version 2

All-Grain Recipe

  • 5 lb Raw Wheat
  • 3 lb American 6-row
  • 10 oz Oatmeal
  • 3 lb American 2-row
  • 1 lb Munich malt
  • 1 oz Bitter Orange Peel (dried)
  • 1 oz Sweet Orange Peel (dried)
  • .3 oz Crushed Coriander
  • .3 oz Chamomile

Hop Additions

  • .5 Northern Brewer (7.5%) – added during boil, boiled 60 min
  • 1 oz Tettanger (5.1%) – added during boil, boiled 30 min
  • 1 oz Tettanger (5.1%) – added during boil, boiled 5 min

Yeast

  • Safbrew T-58 – A specialty yeast selected for its estery somewhat peppery and spicy flavor development

Additional Details / Notes

  • SG 1.062 / FG 1.014
  • 6.24% ABV
  • Brewed 06/18/11, Secondary 07/07/2011, Kegged 07/13/2011
  • Fermentation temps:  ~60° in Primary, ~75° Secondary

Brewing the MT Wit/Wheat

As with the original MT Wit, I did a cereal mash.  As I upped the wheat and 6-row, this was a much different undertaking than the first time.  5 lbs of wheat is a bit to run through a corona mill, and took some time.  Then my cereal mash was obviously a lot bigger with the extra 3 lbs of grain.  I’d neglected to purchase Oats for this batch, so I opted for Quaker Oatmeal out of my cupboard.  Maybe not perfect, but it worked on the fly.

I did the cereal mash with about 2.5 gallons of water (1 jug / 1.5 tap).  I held the temp at 122° for 15 min, then 150° for 15 min, then raised to +185° to biol and kept that going for 15min.  As the pot was boiling, I got the remaining grains to 122° in the mash tun and held that for 15 min, then added the contents of the boil pot together with them.  The first time around I had 3 lbs less, so I didn’t think about how much hotter this was going to make things… it took a bit of ice to get the temps down to 156°

The recipe I used has a 90 minute hop addition, so I added the hops pretty shortly after the boil got to rolling.  I added the wort chiller and Whirfloc at 10min, and the orange, coriander, and chamomile at 5min.

Cooling was interesting… I had the pot on the edge of my patio so the WC water would flow in to the lawn.  Timing is everything, and my sprinklers came on.  Probably added a bit of sprinkler water to the pot, but not a ton.  Eventually cooled, I filtered in to my fermentation bucket and ran the oxygen for about 40 seconds.  Sprinkled the yeast on top and let it soak in for a few minutes before stirring, capping, and placing in my 60° beer fridge.

Drinking the MT Wit 2

This one turned out interesting…  First off, the yeast has full control of this beer.  The character of this beer is highly defined by the yeast, which has a lot more of a German Wheat character than an American Wheat, which I think would generally have much less yeast character, and rely more on the ingredients used.  It’s not ‘bad’, it’s just something it helps to prepare people for.  My drinkers tend to be more aware of American Wheat beers than German ones.

The orange does contribute to the character of this beer, which was certainly my intention when added 2 oz of dried orange peels.  Is it what I wanted?  No.  I really wanted a bright orange flavor, like you’d find in a shock top.  I got some orange character, but it’s more of a sour, bitter orange, than sugary sweet.  I have yet to determine how to create those flavors.

Grains, after sparge.

This beer aged poorly.  A week after bottling, this beer was pretty great.  As it aged, the yeast mellowed a little bit, and gave way AGAIN to the chamomile.  As with my first batch, the wheat didn’t end up cloudy, but crystal clear.  That’s fine, but I would have liked better cloudiness and body on this beer.

This beer was okay, but had an awkward balance of flavors.  I think I’ll push the oats next time around, use an clean yeast (Wyeast 1056), and find better orange balance.  Or… I may try a Dunkelweizen next.  We’ll see!

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Brewing the MT Witbier V.1

A friend of mine recently gave me a giant bucket of wheat that had been grown on his farm. He’d asked if I could find a way to make beer out of it. Seemed like a worthy challenge, right?  How hard could it be?  Turns out, it was a lot more complicated that I had ignorantly assumed.

We often take for granted that the grains at our local brew shop are malted.  Grains in a bucket from a friends far are NOT malted.  There are ways to malt your own grains, but it sounded like a heck of a lot of work.  Then I came across a Wit recipe in a book (Radical Brewing).  This Wit recipe uses a cereal mash to convert unmalted wheat — PERFECT!

Ingredients:  Wit Guy White Ale

All-Grain Recipe

  • 3 lb Raw Wheat
  • 2 lb American 6-row
  • 1 lb Flaked Oats
  • 3 lb American 2-row
  • 1 lb Munich malt
  • 4 oranges – Orange Zest
  • .5 oz Crushed Coriander
  • .3 oz Chamomile

Hop Additions

  • .5 Northern Brewer (7.5%) – added during boil, boiled 60 min
  • 1 oz Tettanger (5.1%) – added during boil, boiled 30 min
  • 1 oz Tettanger (5.1%) – added during boil, boiled 5 min

Yeast

Additional Details / Notes

  • SG ~1.051 / FG 1.013 — SG was not measured, just approximated with Beer Tools
  • 5.05% ABV
  • Brewed 04/02/11, Secondary 04/02/2011, Kegged 04/16/2011, Bottled 05/07/11
  • Fermentation temps:  ~60° in Primary, ~64° Secondary

 Brewing the MT Wit

I’d purchased a Corona Mill when I started All-Grain brewing.  Finally, all these months later, I found a use for it!  I purchased most of my grains at the brew store, and had them crushed there, as usual – keeping the 6-row separate.  On the morning of my brew day, I crushed 3 pounds of my raw wheat using the corona mill.  This went decently well, and it was time for the Cereal Mash.

The idea behind a Cereal Mash is that some brewing adjuncts don’t have the proper enzymes to convert starches to sugars.  These items need some help.  A cereal mash will help convert the starches to fermentable sugars in a way that the regular mash doesn’t succeed.  6-row malt is used because it has more enzymes than regular 2-row malt.  Using 2 gallons of water, I brought the 5lbs of grain to 122°, held it for 15 min, then raised the temp to 180° for 15min, finally the mixture was brought to a full boil for 15 minutes – stirring constantly through the entire process.

Once the cereal mash is complete, it’s time to add those grains to the dry grains in the mash tun.  Temperatures are tough at this point, but my book had suggested doing a rest in the mash tun at 122°, then adding the cereal mash from boiling temps would get you in the ballpark of your 150° temps.  As is always the case for me, this ended up too warm, and I cooled with 1/2 gallon of jug water.  My mash water was a ratio of 1g tap to 3g jug, and I also added 1/2 tsp. of 5.2 pH Stabilizer & 1/2 lb of rice hulls.

I mashed for an hour at about 155°.  After an hour I recirculated about a gallon of the first runnings, then sparged at 170°

While I was sparging, I started zesting my oranges.  I’d purchased dried orange peel, but the Radical Brewing author suggested using orange zest for better results.  I scraped the outsides of 3 oranges, and had a pretty good mound of wet zest ready to go.  Another ‘not fun’ part of this batch.

The actual boil was like a vacation after all the work with the cereal mash & orange zesting.  I raised to a boil and let that roll for about 30 min, then started my hop additions.  Northern Brewer at 60, then a couple of Tettnanger additions.  With 10 minutes to go I added some whirlfloc and the wort chiller.  Then at 5 minutes, I added in my orange zest, some crushed coriander, and the chamomile.  The boil kettle was crazy looking at this point, with green hops, orange zest, and dried flowers.  Smelled pretty good, though.

After the boil ended I cooled with my wort chiller.  At this same time, I racked my Amarillo Blonde to the secondary to open up a fermenting vessel, and some ready to go yeast.  I strained the Wit right in to the Blonde’s yeast cake, after wiping out the krausen with a sanitized rag.  I added about 45 seconds of oxygen, gave it all a good stir, and capped it up.  My fermentation was about 64° in a 60° fridge, and I raised the temp slightly at the end to about 68°.  Secondary temp was about 70°

Drinking the Wit Guy White Ale

Remember when I mentioned zesting the oranges?  Well the beer didn’t.  I’ve taken to calling this my Chamomile Wheat, as that’s by far the dominant flavor here.  The orange zest didn’t do ANYTHING to flavor the beer, and the chamomile completely took over.  Not to say it’s bad, but it’s really weird.  I found this beer to be best served with a shot of orange juice to balance things out.  Truth be told, with a little OJ, this was really dang tasty.

Aside from the chamomile flaw, the body of the beer was decent.  Hops didn’t come through, as hoped, and the base was quite neutral.  Oddly enough, the beer is crystal clear, and doesn’t have much of a wheat look – which would make sense using an Ale yeast and performing the cereal mash.  The body leaves a little to be desired, as it comes across a little thin.

I didn’t get a starting gravity on this batch, as I was late to be someplace and my hydrometer sample ended up fermenting on the counter while I was gone… oops.  I can’t say for sure how well the cereal mash worked, or what my alcohol content is.  At the time of the writing of this blog, I’ve actually brewed a second MT Wit where I changed up the orange contribution and upped the wheat to 5lbs.  But you can read about that later!

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Mr Beer Pilsner Witbier : One Time Only

It came down to two final Mr. Beer kits left.  I’d recently brewed the IPA, and it was so awful most of that needed to go down the drain, so I wasn’t looking forward to wasting my time.  I think my processes made the IPA less than awesome, so I wanted to find a way to scale up the size of the batch so that I could use my normal brewing equipment.  Then it hit me… combine the Pilsner and the Witbier!  Sure the two styles aren’t exactly made to be combined, but they’re both light beers.  How bad could it be?  I also made the decision to do a 30 minute boil and add some hops, using some leftover Chinook hops that I had around.

Ingredients:  One Time Only Ale

Recipe Products

  • 2 Cans of Mr. Beer “Witty Monk” Witbier
  • 2 Cans of Mr. Beer “Pilothouse” Pilsner

Hop Additions

  • .3 oz Chinook (11.4%) – added during boil, boiled 30 min
  • .3 oz Chinook (11.4%) – added during boil, boiled 15 min
  • .3 oz Chinook (11.4%) – added during boil, boiled 0 min

Yeast

  • Safale S-05 – Reused from Black IPA & Blonde Ale
  • Generic Mr. Beer Yeast packet (after slow start from the 05)

Additional Details / Notes

  • SG 1.042 / FG 1.010
  • 4.22% ABV
  • Brewed 03/26/11, Kegged & Bottled 04/16/2011
  • Fermentation temps:  ~60° in Primary, ~64° Secondary

The Extended Mr. Beer Boil

This key to this batch of beer was to use Mr. Beer elements in a way contrary to their usual instructions.  Generally you boil water, then dissolve the cans of hopped extract in to the hot water.  I wanted to add my own hops, so I decided to change up the processes quite a bit.  I started by bringing the 2.5 gallons of water to a boil (2 gal filtered, .5 gal tap water).  Once the water was boiling, I added one can of the Pilsner extract, and one of the Witbier.  I then returned the wort to a boil and started my hop additions.  I added .3 ounces of Chinook hops at 30min, 15min, and 0min.  At the 0 minute mark, I added the remaining 2 cans of LME, stirring until dissolved.

With all the hops and LME added, it was time to cool the 2.5 gallons of wort.  I used a simple ice bath in the kitchen sink.  While the wort was cooling, I filled my fermenting bucket with about 3 gallons of cool water.  Once I got the wort down to a decent temp, I strained it in to the bucket of cool water.  Using cool water allows me to transfer the wort at a little warmer temperature.

For fermentation, I had saved about 2 cups of yeast slurry from my Blonde Ale.  I poured this yeast in to my fermenting bucket and gave it a good stir.  At this point I capped the bucket and placed it in my temperature controlled fridge.  After about a day, I wasn’t happy with the speed of the fermentation, so I broke down and added one of the generic yeast packets from the original Mr. Beer kit.  A day later, my fermentation was rolling perfectly!

Drinking the Mr. Beer Pilsner Witbier

I ended up calling this beer “One Time Only”, as there’s no way I’d ever be able to match it, even if I wanted to.  In all honesty, after dumping most of the Mr. Beer IPA, I didn’t expect much better results from this batch, especially after combining two very different styles.  This beer was crystal clear out of the primary, so I opted to skip the secondary and just get this in the bottle.  That meant I was drinking it a little sooner than usual, but even with that said, this beer wasn’t bad at all!

Not only did this beer turn out okay, it was actually pretty great.  When it was all said and done, the beer came out to be a slightly sweet, orange flavored, Pilsner.  Not exactly something I would try to emulate, but people really took to it.  This was introduced to my test drinkers (aka friends & family) at the same time as my recent Blonde Ale, and for the first couple of months, the OTO was the preferred beer of the two.  Go figure.

I should also mention my hop additions.  While the Chinook didn’t exactly make it’s presence known, I think it did a nice job of tying everything together, and combining the flavors of the Pilsner and Wit.

The downside of this batch was that it didn’t age well.  It was decent at first, but got a little stale with age.  In contrast, the Blonde Ale improved over time, and eventually became the better beer.

 

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Brewer’s Best Dunkelweizen

This batch will be my last kit beer for a while.  After months of thinking about it, I’ve finally taken the next step in to All Grain brewing.  It seemed like such a big step to take, but now I’m wondering what the heck took me so long…

It’s only fitting that I end my kit run with a repeat of the most popular beer I’ve made to this point.   A Dunkelweizen!

Even though this year’s Dunkel was a repeat, it actually differs a bunch from the kit and process I used last year.  Most interestingly is the use of totally different hops this time around.  Last year the kit included Vangaard bittering hops and Argentine Cascade aroma hops, but this year was Willamette bittering hops and German Spalt Select for aroma.  Another major difference is the yeast.  My original yeast last year was dead, and I replaced it with a Windsor yeast.  This year the kit came with Danstar’s Munich yeast.

Even with all the differences, certain elements were common with this year’s recipe.  The LME was still Briess Bavarian Wheat, there is a pound of Maltodextrin, and the specialty grains are the same (crushed Chocolate & crushed Munich).

Extract Kit Recipe

Ingredients

  • 6.6 lb. Briess Bavarian Wheat LME
  • 1 lb. Maltodextrin
  • 8 oz. Crushed Chocolate
  • 8 oz. Crushed Munich Malt
  • Danstar Munich Yeast
  • 1 oz. Willamette Bittering Hops – 4.7% alpha acid
  • 1 oz. German Spalt Select Aroma Hops – 2.2% Alpha Acid
  • 5oz. Priming Sugar

Additional Details

  • SG 1.062
  • FG 1.022
  • 5.3% ABV
  • Brewed 10/24/10, Secondary 11/09/10, Kegged 11/29/10

Brewing the Dunkelweizen

After almost two years of making Brewer’s Best kits, I’ve got the process down pretty well.  That’s not to say I don’t get distracted and lose track of things occasionally… but it still makes beer when it’s all said and done!

The Dunkel starts out by steeping your specialty grains, in this case chocolate and munich.  For this batch I heated the steeping water to about 160°, then added my grain bag.  The heat ended up getting a little warmer than that, so I let the temp cool…then over cool, so I heated the water back up and extended my steeping time by a few minutes.  I get distracted…

After the grain bag is removed, it’s time for the boil.  As soon as you’ve got a gentle, rolling boil, it’s time to add the LME and Maltodextrin.  Stir until everything is dissolved and return to a boil.

Next up are the hop additions.  I added my bittering hops with 40 minutes left on the boil, then added my aroma/flavoring hops at the 20 minute mark.

After the 60 minute boil had completed, I moved the wort to my sink ice bath, letting the temps come down to around 90°.  As the wort is cooling, I fill my sanitized fermenting bucket with a couple of gallons of cold water.  Cold water will help cool the hot wort, so you can combine the liquids a little sooner.  I strain my wort with a sanitized wire mesh strainer to remove the hop pieces.  Once the wort is in the bucket, I fill it up to the 5 gallon mark with more cold water.  This is a good time to take a hydrometer reading.

Once your wort temperature is down to about the 70’s, you’re ready to add your yeast.  Rehydrating the yeast is said to be the best bet, but it’s also a great way to kill the yeast if you’re not careful.  I’m all about sprinkling the yeast directly on to the wort.  I let it hydrate on top of the wort for about 10 minutes before I give it a good stir to help aerate it.  Once you’ve capped the fermenter you should shake or rock the fermenter for a few minutes to further aerate the mixture.  (I didn’t do this for my Dunkel… it’s something I’ve just recently learned about).

Fermentation & Kegging

I let this batch sit in the primary for about 2 weeks, then I racked it over to my secondary, where I let it sit for about 3 weeks.  A person could speed this process up, but I just usually do it when I have the time.

Racking over to the secondary went fine, as did the kegging.  This is the 4th beer I’ve kegged instead of bottled.  It’s GREAT.  So easy to rack from the secondary to the (sanitized) keg instead of a bunch of bottles.

Drinking the Dunkelweizen

The 2009 Dunkel was possibly the best batch I’d made in two years of brewing.  I opted to brew the same kit in 2010 in hopes of repeating that success.   Did I?  Not really.

This year’s Dunkelweizen doesn’t really have many of the qualities that made the ’09 so great.  The brew is a little sweeter, and maybe a little maltier.  The flavor is okay, but not really the same as last year’s beer.  Not to say it’s bad, but it’s not ‘quite’ right.  I was able to do a side by side comparison with my last bottle of the ’09, and my suspicions were validated.  The current Dunkel just isn’t as good.  But why?

I think the hop additions this year made a big difference.  Without realizing it, I’ve been using Willamette hops in EVERYTHING lately, and I think I might be sick of them.  My Witbeir used Willamette for bittering, the Frankenbeer was dry hopped with Willamette, the Pumpkin Okto used it for bittering and aroma, and now this one.  I’ve got a full fridge of beers hopped with the same type of hop…  Not recommended.

Aside from my Willamtte overexposure, I think the yeast is also a factor here.  If you check out my writeup for last year’s batch, I compared the yeast I used with the one that came with the kit.  Though they sound similar, I think the one from last year may have produced a little dryer and cleaner beer.

My third theory is my fermentation temperatures.  What were they?  Great question…  I’ve rarely paid much attention beyond trying to hit about 68°, but looking over some of my recent batches, I think I’ve been fermenting a little too warm.  I’ve worried about my cold house slowing fermentation, but I think I’ve created warmer temp’s that have created lesser beers.  Warmer fermentation temps can create additional esters, and less ‘clean’ beers.  I’ll be updating this theory over my next few batches.

Apparently I’m long winded today, but I’ll wrap it up.  Was this year’s Dunkelweizen a failure?  Not at all.  Would I make this recipe again?  No.  If you’re thinking about trying out a Dunkelweizen, I’d suggest creating a recipe similar to what I made in ’09.  If you’ve got a local homebrew shop, you should be able to buy the ingredients separately.

This is my last kit beer for a while.  Stay tuned for my entry in to All Grain Brewing!

 

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Brewer’s Best Witbier Kit

I’m always a season behind, so why wouldn’t I brew a Witbier just in time for Winter?

In broad terms, a Witbier (from “White Beer”) is a Belgian Style ale that’s usually pale and cloudy in appearance due to it being unfiltered and the high level of wheat, and sometimes oats, used in the mash. Witbiers are usually spiced with coriander, orange, and bitter orange peel, sometimes with additional spices.

Extract Kit Information

Ingredients

  • 3.3 lb. – Bavarian Wheat Briess LME
  • 1 lb. – Wheat DME
  • 8 0z. – Flaked Wheat
  • 8 oz. – Flaked Oats
  • 1 lb. – Crushed 2 Row Pale Malt
  • 1oz. – Willamette Bittering Hops
  • 1 oz. – Sterling Flavoring Hops
  • 1oz. – Spice Pack  -Bitter Orange Peel & Coriander Seed
  • Safbrew WB-06 Yeast

Misc. Details

Brew date: June 27th, 2010    –   Original Gravity – 1.028 (should be 1.045)
Secondary: July 20th, 2010
Kegged: August 28th, 2010  –  Forgot to measure Final Gravity….

Steep-to-Convert & the Boil

This Brewer’s Best kit is the first I had used with what they call the “Steep-to-convert” process.  They call the process a simplified version of mashing.  You rely on the DME and LME for most of the sugars, but you steep-to-convert some malt and oats in order to give the beer the proper character, even for extract brewing.

I steeped the flaked wheat & oats and crushed 2 row pale malt in a grain bag for 45 minutes.  I didn’t watch the temperature very well and was a little cool for part of the process (140°-145°).  Better than being too hot, but I think I could have pulled more sugars if I’d been more careful.

The boil length for this Wit was a little shorter than some, clocking in at 55 minutes.  40 minute boil on the bittering hops, then the DME and Spice Pack were added.  5 minutes later, the flavoring hops were added.  These were allowed to boil 10 minutes, then the boil was complete.  The Spice Pack contained Bitter Orange Peel and Coriander Seed, 1/2 oz of each.  I’m not sure why the DME was added with the spice pack.  I’ll have to look in to that.

Yeast and Fermentation

Coriander and Bitter Oraange Peel

I pitched the yeast at 80° after cooling the wort in a sink ice bath, then combining it with cool water in the fermenting bucket.  After having bad luck about a year ago with yeast, I’ve had much better luck this year keeping it super simple.  I wait for the wort to cool, then I pour the yeast on top of the wort in the fermenting bucket.  I let the yeast sit on top for about 5 minutes, then I give it a pretty vigorous stir for a few minutes to air in some air.  Maybe not the ‘best’ way, but it’s been working well for me.

Due to a lack of time, I let this brew sit in the primary for almost a month.  Oh well… didn’t hurt anything.

Kegging the Witbier

I invested in a kegging setup!  Instead of trying to squeeze that in with this write up, I’ve decided to post it separately so I can spend more time talking about my new kegging toys.   Will link to that as soon as it’s posted!

Drinking & Evaluating the Witbier

As I’d mentioned, this was my first beer to go to the keg instead of a bottle.  There may be some flavor changes that come along with the process, but I’ll know more about that over time.

Anyways, I’m slow to writing this, and the Witbier is practically gone, but I can say it was GREAT.  I’m pretty sure I mucked up parts of the process on this one, especially the steep-to-convert, but it still made for great beer.  My Wit is crystal clear, light, and crisp.  It’s got the slightest tinge or orange and coriander to it, but it’s very slight.  I’m pretty sure this beer is supposed to be cloudy, but mine isn’t.  Still tastes great, and it’s easily one of the best beers I’ve made so far.

The Wit is a great crowd pleaser.  It’s mild, light, and crisp with that tinge of orange.  Even people who aren’t very adventurous with their beer drinking are okay with this one.

Random Info

Strained Hops and Spices from Wort

Hops

This kit called for Willamette Bittering hops and Sterling Flavoring Hops.  Here’s some info I grabbed from Wikipedia.

Willamette: Popular American development in 1976 of the English Fuggle. Named for the Willamette Valley, an important hop-growing area. It has a character similar to Fuggle, but is more fruity and has some floral notes. Used in British and American ales. Substitutes: Fuggles. 4 – 6%

Sterling: American floral hop released in 1998. A cross between Saaz and Mount Hood in character but easier to grow. 6 – 9%

Yeast

The kit came with a Safbrew WB-06 yeast.  Described as a specialty yeast for wheat beer fermentation.  Produces subtle ester (fruity) and phenol (clover) flavor notes typical of wheat beers.

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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

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I apologize, I didn’t take great notes during this batch — it was before I’d decided to start the homebrewing blog!

I used a Brewer’s Best Weizenbeer kit.  Followed the kit instructions.  In general, I was MUCH better prepared than I’d been for my first batch of beer.  I’d purchased new hoses to replace my old ones, I knew the process better, and everything was much more sanitary.

Process & Issues

Of course I still ran in to a few problems…

Boiling. The boil went on a little long because the pot lost contact with the heat element at one point. The wort cooled during that period, then we may have overheated it bringing it back up. I also wonder if we had the wort boiling a little hotter than we needed to be.  Other than that, the boil went pretty smooth.

Fermenting. I fermented for 7 days.  The instructions said 7, so it seemed like enough, and the fermenting bucket had quit bubbling. Not sure that 7 days was long enough, though.  I should have let it go longer.

Results and Thoughts

Final product is a little sweet, and has a tinge of banana flavor. Not bad, but not great either. The guy at the shop said that the kit I used tends to be a little sweet.  A little research found that boiling the wort too hot can make some of the sugars non-fermentable. I think that’s what happened.

** Update** After sitting for a couple of months, the beers is MUCH better.  The sweetness and slight banana flavor have mostly mellowed, especially the banana flavor.  Add in an orange wedge, and you’ve got a pretty decent beer!

I’m actually not a fan of Wheat beers, so I don’t really like it – but those who are have told me it’s great.  Take that for what you will!

Next Batch: Red Ale
Previous Batch: English Brown Ale

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