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German Style Hefeweizen 1.0

It's been quite a while since I tasted a true Hefeweizen.  The incredible popularity of IPAs, Pale Ales, Sours, and Stouts has been gradually squeezing dozens of other tasty styles off store shelves.  This is very unfortunate, especially for those of us who grow tired of the lack of variety.

In any case, I decided today to try my hand at brewing a decent German style Hefeweizen.  I began by reading an article on BYO.com about the style and tweaking an award-winning recipe from the AHA's web site.  This version features the traditional German Pilsner malt base, combined with both red and white wheat malts, and some Carapils for body and head retention.  I'll be using German hops for the bittering and a true Hefeweizen yeast for fermentation.

Some things I've done in this recipe that you might wonder about, and why I did them:
  • I wanted to source German wheat, but couldn't, so I went with Briess and Swaen, which were the best I could find at the time.
  • According to the BYO article, doing a decoction mash really helps "a full, toasty maltiness that seems absent in a single infusion mash."  Since I'd never done a decoction mash, it seemed like a worthwhile experiment.
  • Also according to the Firestone Walker brewer quoted in the article, adding a Ferulic Acid rest to the mash helps the yeast. I've had good results with that in Belgian style brewing, so it seemed worth trying also.  It should help express the clove elements.
  • The banana esters reportedly come out best at the higher end of the temperature spectrum for the yeast, so I want to finish fermentation with a temp that's high enough to allow for some of that to come through. But I don't want it to be overwhelming, so I'll wait until the main fermentation has begun to slow down before raising the temp.
  • Mashing at 154F should leave enough body in the beer to help with mouthfeel and fullness.
  • The BYO article suggests that fermenting at 62F will deliver the best results, and the author seemed to agree with this based on experience brewing the style, so I want to start the fermentation there and raise it later on to ensure that I get the banana esters I want.
  • I'm using First Wort Hops (FWH) to hopefully round off the bitterness, since this is a style that normally has only enough bitterness to balance the malt.  It's been suggested that a BU/GU ratio of 0.20 is ideal for the style, so I am aiming for that here.
  • The article suggests that you shouldn't overpitch or underpitch this style if you want the best results. Assuming that my yeast packet seems fully viable, I'll probably only pitch half of it given the batch size, and reserve the rest for another batch (or a re-pitch if needed).
With all that behind us, let's have a look at the recipe.

Ingredients

2 pounds Weyermann Pilsner Malt
1 pound, 2 ounces Briess Red Wheat Malt
1 pound, 2 ounces Whiteswaen White Wheat Malt
4 ounces Briess Carapils
2.25 gallons of mash water, RO treated with gypsum, calcium chloride, and epsom salts
1.75 gallons of sparge water, RO (untreated)
0.20 ounces German Northern Brewer @ 4.8% AA FWH
0.30 ounces Hallertau Mittelfruh @ 3.8% AA (10 min.)

Brewfather says the beer will have the following qualities:
  • BJCP Style:  10A Weissbier
  • Batch Size: 2.5 gallons
  • Pre-boil Volume: 3.6 gallons estimated (3.5 actual)
  • Pre-boil Gravity: 1.043 SG estimated, 1.036 SG actual
  • Original Gravity: 1.053 SG estimated, 1.043 SG actual
  • Final Gravity:  1.010 SG estimated, 1.009 SG actual
  • IBUs: 12
  • SRM: 3.6
  • ABV: 5.4%, 3.5% actual
  • Fermenter Used: n/a
  • Bottling Wand Used: n/a 
  • Carbonation Method: 4 Brewer's Best Tablets per 12-ounce bottle
Mash schedule:
  • Mash in at 113F to raise ferulic acid
  • Raise to 130F and extract a half-gallon of wort and grain, bring that half-gallon to a boil and hold for 15 minutes (decoction mash)
  • Return the half-gallon, grain and all, to the mash tun and raise temp to 154F
  • Mash at 154F for 60 minutes
  • Mash out at 168F for 10 minutes
  • Sparge with 170F water while bringing wort to a boil
Boil schedule:
  • While heating to boil, add first wort hops
  • 60 minutes: No additions
  • 10 minutes:  Add Hallertau Mittelfruh hops
  • 0 minutes: Chill and pump into fermenter
Fermentation schedule:
  • Chill wort to 62F
  • Add yeast and hold at 62F for 3-4 days until fermentation is slowing down
  • Raise to 72F for remainder of fermentation
Post-Brew Notes and Observations

05/17/2020:  Hooked up my reverse osmosis system and flushed the various filters with water.  Filtered enough water to brew, and got started. I'd never done a decoction mash before and I have to admit it seemed strange to boil both wort and grain, but I did.  Gravity came up quite low this time, which probably is because I forgot to add rice hulls to the grist to help the wort flow well. 

The yeast packet, despite being fairly new, did not appear to fully activate before I went to bed for the night, so I decided to leave it out and give it more time before pitching it.

05/18/2020:  The yeast packet was swollen and seemed fairly "alive" when I checked this morning, so I put about half of it in the fermenter and placed it in my temperature control setup, set to 62.3F.  At that point the wort was showing as 66F and 1.043 SG per the Tilt Hydrometer.  I'll need to keep an eye on it for a few hours to make sure what the temperature control rig and Tilt show is in sync.  If not, I'll need to adjust the temp control to get the wort where I want it. 

The temperature control system was able to drop the wort temperature about 2F in an hour or so. By 1pm it was down to about 63F.

05/19/2020:  Gravity has dropped to 1.039 SG. The temperature control system has held the temperature between 62.1 and 62.7 since fermentation started.  

05/20/2020:  Because the distance between the Tilt Hydrometer and Raspberry Pi was a bit too great, the temperature and gravity readings stopped overnight.  I moved the Pi closer to the fermenter this morning.  Gravity is now reading 1.023 and temperature is holding at 62F.  Since about 2/3 of the sugar has fermented away that I expected to ferment away, I'm planning to start raising the temperature in the fermenter daily by 1F now to help encourage some ester production in the late stages of fermentation.

Around 2-3 hours later, increased fermentation temp to 72F to encourage ester production during the last half-dozen or so points of fermentation.

05/21/2020:  Gravity is down to 1.012 SG today, a little lower than the expected FG, but not enough to be concerned about. Temp is up to 72-73F.  

05/22/2020:  Gravity is down to 1.009 SG today, much lower than the 1.014 I had expected, but still within one point of the BJCP guidelines.  Temp has been holding between 72-74F for the last two days, which should encourage the formation of some banana esters to go with the clove generated by the initial 62F fermentation temp.  I'm going to switch off the temperature control today and allow the beer to condition at the ambient basement temp of around 65F for a while before bottling.

05/31/2020:  The beer was bottled today, using four Brewer's Best Carbonation Tablets per 12-ounce bottle (medium carbonation).  A sample from the fermenter had a very pleasant, mild taste with a hint of citrus to it, but the clove and banana I expected was not present.  I think the advice I read to ferment low for this style might have been a mistake.  The Weizenbock I brewed with the same yeast yielded clove and banana notes when fermented low and ramped high after about 65-70% fermented.

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