Thursday, February 26, 2015

"To Style" Hefeweizen Recipe and Tasting

When I decided that I wanted to brew a "to-style" beer for this year's DC Homebrewers Cherry Blossom Competition I was tossing around a few different ideas: British Bitter, American Pale Ale (the category I entered last year), Berliner Weisse, or a Witbier.  I was going through my inventory of hops, spices, and washed yeast and going back and forth when I decided to ask my girlfriend Alyssa for a recommendation.  Her answer: make a Hefeweizen.

There are a few beers that I accredit my love for the craft to. Allagash White and Duvel were two of the first Craft/Import beers which truly opened my eyes to the range of beer flavors and styles when I had both on my 21st birthday.  St. Bernardus Abt. 12 made me say "Oh my God this is the best beer" a few years before the similar Trappist Westvleteren 12 overtook that place on my list. Then there is Weihenstaphaner Hefeweissbier.

While craft beer (and to some extent even the imported beer) industry is constantly changing, with some hot new thing getting all of the hype, this Hefeweizen, from the oldest continuously functioning brewery in the world, never goes out of style and currently holds the highest rating of any Hefeweizen style beer and the 138th overall position on Beer Advocate.  While at any time a new IPA or Russian stout could be better than the last greatest thing, this beer is simply perfection that all other Hefeweizens should attempt to follow.

Frankly, I don't remember when I had the beer for the first time.  My very first homebrew was a hefeweizen and used the Wyeast 3068 Weihenstaphen Weizen yeast strain.  That beer turned out remarkably well and I searched down the source of the famed yeast.  While I don't remember when or where it was, I do remember thinking: this is a perfect hefeweizen.  While I have only brewed one other Hefeweizen influenced beer (my tasty but unfortunately explodingly carbonated LimeWeizen) the hefeweizen style has been one of the most influential in my brewing experience.

As my tastes have changed over time, hefeweizen has faded from a favorite style to more of a situational/seasonal beer for me.  I haven't made a light, refreshing, low hopped wheat beer in a long time and I had much better success with my to-style weizen than my to style wit, so, very long story short: I went with Alyssa's choice.

In order to attempt an award winning hefeweizen (also known as Weissbeer) I went with Mino Choi's recipe featured on Chop and Brew.  I did decide however to not go with the traditional decoction (or in this case triple decoction) and instead did a step infusion and added a half pound of Vienna malt to up the malt character.  The recipe ended up being exceedingly simple:

6 lbs. Wheat Malt
4 lbs. 2-Row
.45 lbs. Vienna
1 oz. Tettnanger hops
WLP 300 Hefeweizen Ale Yeast

With the gravity down to a stable 1.008 for a week now I decided the beer was done.  Flavor is underwhelming and there seems to be a strange clumpiness to the yeast.  I decided to keg 3 gallons as a krystallweizen and bottle the rest.  Bottled portion received 1.30 oz. of sugar blended in 1 cup of filtered water, ended up with only a little more than a gallon of bottles (11), a little worried about over carbonation.
Bottled "hefe" version on the left and kegged "krystal" version on the right.

Side by Side Tasting
Bottle: Cloudy, almost no head.  Looks like a hefeweizen except for the lack of carbonation.
Keg: Mostly clear but with some small specks floating throughout.  A much nicer head of a couple inches that fades to a thin layer.

Bottle: Bananas, butterscotch, vanilla, light spice, apple.  Pretty classic hefeweizen aromas but fairly low on the clove.
Keg: Much cleaner/lighter without the proteins and yeast added. Banana, light grain, fairly clean.

Bottle: Some light banana and spice followed by a light snappy tart apple character.
Taste: Cleaner and brighter than the bottled version.  Light banana and spice, but almost Pilsner like in its cleanness.

Bottle: Moderate to high body with very low carbonation.  Hopefully the bottles continue to carb up some, I was actually worried it would be too high so I'm surprise it's so low at this point.
Keg: More moderate to light in body with a much higher, but still only medium, carbonation level. Seems to be better in both categories, though this doesn't save the low level of yeast derived character.

Both: All around this is a fairly disappointing though not offensive attempt at the style.  The low fermentation temperatures (~68F) didn't produce enough yeast character.  The bottle conditioned version with all of the extra bottle dregs poured in definitely had a small increase in flavor, but also didn't have as nice of a carbonation or look.  Were I to make this again I would increase the fermentation temperature slightly and likely do a decoction.

Other Variants:
Second runnings were turned into a sour (Berliner Weisse? too high gravity and wheat content. Gose? no salt or coriander. So I don't know). WLP677 Lactobacillus Delbrueckii added for 3 days prior to pitching a British ale yeast.  Bottled with 0.60 oz of sugar for 9 bottles (and a half bottle that I drank). Wheat Extract wort pitched on top of straight Lacto and fermented fully, bottled with 0.40 oz of sugar for 7 bottles.  The beer fermented with both lacto and ale yeast was much tastier with a much stronger lemony sourness and a nice wheaty and malty backbone while the purely WLP 677 version is pretty mild and bland, not bad but nothing exciting, probably similar to Mike Tonsmeire's experience with a 100% lacto fermented beer with this same strain.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Fruit Wine #1 Tasting

A- very clear for the most part but with a touch of sediment from the bottom of the bottle. Pale yellow in color, a few carbonation bubbles that disappear almost instantly. Certainly not "star bright" but looks good in a glass.

S-lots of sweet stone fruit: peach, apricot, nectarine. There is also some banana and some more  savory jammy/plum character.

T/M- dry and still, with a big, slightly sour/slightly sweet, peach sensation. In some ways less complex than the nose with an emphasis closer to straight peach flesh, but with a very nice balance and shift through the swallow from the up front sugars and on to the finishing sourness. No hotness or other off flavors, just mild to moderate peach characters.

O- I can't complain at all with how this one has turned out. Lots of stone fruit character, a touch of sweet, a touch of sour. How much of the sourness came from the fruit and how much came from other the additives is anyone's guess, but it certainly balanced well in the end. 

The wine tasted pretty hot a few months ago but has mellowed nicely and seems to have even more fruit character (less weird white wine-y) than it did when I first tasted it out of the bottle.

Nothing life changing here, but for someone who hasn't had many "fruit wines" I'm very pleased with the results.