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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 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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