The Roundup for Session 137 on German Wheat

The Beer Nut provided a detailed description of the “banana milkshake” weissbier called Patronus.  I hope his ensuing headache was not terrible.

Jessica and Ray of Boak and Bailey reminisce about their introduction to German wheat beers via Ayinger.  They pick up the same themes as our good Beer Nut, namely that banana profile and hangover headaches.

The eminent Stan Hieronymus of Appellation Beer revisited his book Brewing With Wheat and the Brauerei Gasthof Schneider.  That visit provided the best quote to support my continued bottle conditioning, so thanks Stan & Josef!  Also, he details the decoction mash schedule and fermentation temperatures that I just briefly mentioned in my post.

Derrick Peterman at Ramblings of a  Beer Runner reminded me that gose is a wheat beer I’d probably like since it has sour inclinations.  In addition to that he delineates the difference between authentic German beers and the translations of them in Northern California.

Alan McLeod has A Good Beer Blog and therein he tells us he had several hefeweizen’s many years ago.  His evaluations are piercing and laughable.  No, not laughable.  Humorous.  Jocose.  Funny.  My bad.  Anyway,  I enjoyed his reviews and have a list of more beers to try.  Thanks!

I can’t even pronounce the title of Fuggled’s contribution, but it’s enjoyable to read about not polluting a canal, drunken evangelists, and some wheat beer history in relation to the Czech Republic.  And perhaps home brewing was inspired again.

Jack Perdue gives us some Deep Beer thoughts with a beer style delineation which includes what has to be my favorite reference to beer glassware. Marilyn Monroe indeed. Cheers, Jack, cheers. There are other words in his article but I stopped at Marilyn.

Thanks again to all who wrote and read. The next Session is still open, waiting for a topic.

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The Session 137: (My Primer on) German Wheat Beer

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Welcome to Beer Blogging Friday.  Thanks again to all who are involved in perpetuating this digital salon and to all who participate, by writing and/or reading.

Ironically, despite my regular assertion that wheat beers are the best choice for the desert clime in which I live, I realized that I had never made one.  I suppose that’s not strictly true.  Decades ago I did make what I called a dunkelweizen.  I clearly remember fermenting this cold, lagering it in an extra refrigerator.  I do not remember why I used that method.  The beer came out very good, but it was not a traditional method.

I knew hefeweizen was a cloudy wheat beer.  I remembered that it usually smelled of banana.  But I’d also heard of ‘Bavarian wheat beer’.  Is that not a hefeweizen?  Does calling it “Bavarian” mean something specific?  And then there was Weissbier and Hefe Weissbier; the above mentioned dunkelweizen, or dunkles Weissbier.  There is Berliner weisse and witbiers.  I realized that I’ve drifted away from style exploration, content with assuming I knew the basics and that was enough.  I just enjoyed drinking beer, really, in the past several years.  So it was time to clarify German wheat beers in my mind.

Therefore, the topic for this month’s Session.  Writing about

the similarities and dissimilarities of weissbeers, kristall weizen, weizen, hefeweizen, etc.,  [and] the distinctions all you brewers and beer researchers know about regarding the various “styles” of weissbeer, experiences in brewing and drinking the beer, it’s history.

As specified in the theme, I am sticking to German wheat beers.  So, for example, the witbier I mentioned above is right being Belgian.  The beers written of here are those of Bavaria, the beloved state, for beer lovers, in Germany.

The Wheat Beer Categories

Weizen, or weizenbier, seems to be a comprehensive term that encompasses the wheat beer family.  The German word, weizen, does mean ‘wheat’ so this makes sense that it would apply to beers composed dominantly of wheat malt.  Barley is also included in the grist but for a beer to be a weizenbier it needs to have at least one-third of its grain bill to be wheat, and usually about fifty to seventy percent.  Of course, the other key component of weizenbier is the yeast strain.  The most well known strain would Weihenstiphan Weizen.  If the yeast you use is labelled German or Bavarian wheat that should do it.  The yeast contributes heavily to the spicy character of weizenbier.

Weissbier, too, is a comprehensive term for German wheat beers.  One article noted that the term ‘weissbier’ is the most widely used moniker in Bavaria.  The word Weiss means ‘white’ and indicates how much lighter in color the beer is from, say, a brown or a darker bock.    A Hefe Weissbier is what you may know more readily as a hefeweizen.  Hefe means ‘yeast’ so a hefeweizen describes a wheat beer with yeast still suspended in the body of the beer.  The light colored grains make the beer pale yellow and the suspended yeast makes it turbid or cloudy, also giving it a white-ish or milky appearance.

Therefore, if you go to your local brewery looking for a Bavarian wheat beer, a weizen, a weizenbier, a Weissbier or a hefeweizen know that those are all basically interchangeable terms for a cloudy, pale, refreshing, highly carbonated beer.  It will also be spicy, clovey, and possess hints of banana.  The phenolic, ester-y character is a style mark of this beer as is the high carbonation.  It contributes to its effervescent character which enhances its refreshing nature.

In his book German Wheat Beer, Eric Warner exposits it this way:

Smell the fruity, spicy aroma of the beer.  Roll a small sip onto the tongue and allow it to effervesce.  Your mouth should almost explode as the smooth Weissbier fills it.  The aftertaste should also be smooth, with only a slight hint of bitterness.

It is a quintessential session beer, which is what so many craft beer drinkers seem to be seeking these days.  The beer presents itself unpretentiously.  The alcohol is fairly low, ranging from three to five percent abv.  There doesn’t seem to be a great depth or complexity to it, yet when you stop and evaluate the drink it doesn’t lack sensations to explore, whether it’s the enticing interplay of banana and clove, or the search for another spice, or the ethereal and tingly carbonation.  It’s a beer to geek out over and yet it won’t overpower you.

But there are more versions than just the hefeweizen.

If you were to brew a hefeweizen and then filter it to remove the turbidity you have a kristall weizen.  It should be a limpid specimen, beautiful to look at, but I think it lacks some of the personality of the hefeweizen.

Then there are two styles that intrigue me.  First, the weizenbock, a wheat bock.  Take a hefeweizen recipe and increase the grain bill so that you’ve got an original gravity above the 1.065 range.  Use some dark Munich malt for a darker hefeweizen, or lighter base malt if you are aiming for a maibock influenced version.  Though it is nominally a bock, which indicates a bottom fermenting yeast, use a weissbier ale yeast and ale fermentation temps.  All the virtues of the hefeweizen will be engendered along with a firm malt presence.  Second, Berliner weisse, a tart wheat beer.  Its sharp sourness is derived from Lactobacillus delbrückii pitched with the yeast and it is the sourness that so appeals to me.  I can hear our local brewer groaning already.  But the spumy acerbity of a Berliner weisse is just grand.

A dunkleweizen, or dunkles weissbier, is a dark version of a hefeweizen.  The esters and spice can still be there but conflated and slightly muted by the darker roasted malts, either wheat or barley.

Notes on Brewing German Wheat Beers

Brewing a weissbier at home can obviously, then, be as difficult or as simple as you would like it to be.  As already noted, it is recommended that you use fifty to seventy percent wheat in your grain bill.  The remainder should be pale malt of your choice.  In German Wheat Beer the author notes that using more than seventy percent wheat may cause lautering difficulty and can cause an amino acid deficiency which can result in poor fermentation and resultant problems.

The mash is where this beer can get complicated, if you so desire.  In my recent home brew of a weissbier I did just a simple single infusion mash.  I think my mash temperature was a little high at 154 degrees but the beer seemed to be all right.  So far.  From everything I’ve read, modern well-modified malts will perform perfectly well in a single infusion mash (and maybe prevent some of the lautering problems referred to in German Wheat Beer).  But if you are adventurous there are several protein rests and single and double decoctions that can be performed on this mash.  I know there is debate over the value or necessity of decoction, but the procedure is out there if you feel like spending a few hours extra on your brew.  It might add some color or extra breadiness which would be valuable in a weizenbock.

The American Homebrewers Association noted that a mash rest at 110 degrees will promote ferulic acid, which converts to 4-vinyl guaiacol.  It is that compound that results the phenolic characteristics so important to this beer.  Ideally you should also do open fermentation in a shallow vessel, but not all home brewers will be able to swing that.  So the mash rest and warmer fermentation temperatures will be the route most of us take to get that clove/vanilla/spicy/et cetera magic.  And if you really want to have some fun, look into using some bottom fermenting Speise for carbonation.

A hefeweizen can be completed at home within two to four weeks.  Fermentation can be complete in just four or five days if temperatures are maintained.  Warm storage (if you bottle) is about a week and then two to three weeks in cold storage.  And, of course, tasting during the entire process will let you know when your beer is ready for you.

For a seemingly simple beer there is a great amount of variation and work that can be put into it. Isn’t that the way with all art though? What writer has not put hours and hours into an essay, or spent years writing a novel?  What brewer doesn’t spend weeks researching and hours brewing and years practicing?  The end product is a sleek, polished, fascinating thing to be savored.  Only those hours and months of work make it such.

Cheers to German wheat beers.

 

 

Beers for the Week

Since this week will see the publication of sundry posts regarding German wheat beers, I recommend finding one.  And drinking it. Here are some you can find locally:

  1. Wheatever. A weissbier, home brew, in bottles at my house. Should be ready in a week.
  2. K-Town Weiss. A kristall weizen available at Black Bridge Brewery. I wrote about it here, mostly. It was a hefe weissbier version at the time. This latest iteration has been filtered.  It was also mentioned recently by Tap That AZ.
  3. Chocolate Banana Nut Hefe & Hefen’ A.   According to Rickety Cricket Brewery’s website, both these beers are weissbiers and are on tap. I’ve not had either, so can’t share any thoughts on them.  Obviously I need to get to them this week.

Other suggestions if you don’t get to a wheat beer:

  1.  Backwoods Bastard & Dank Wood.  The former is a barrel aged scotch ale and the latter a barrel aged imperial red IPA by Founders Brewing.  Evaluations pending.
  2. Hell Bitch.  A Belgian strong golden ale from Black Bridge Brewery.  It’s nearly perfect.

Those are the beers on my radar for the week.

Reminder for The Session 137: German Wheat Beers

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The title for this blog post says it all.  Next week, Friday July 6, is the time to post your words on German Wheat Beers,

the similarities and dissimilarities of weissbeers, kristall weizen, weizen, hefeweizen, etc.  I’d love to read about the distinctions all you brewers and beer researchers know about regarding the various “styles” of weissbeer, experiences in brewing and drinking the beer, it’s history.  Yeah, whatever you’d like to say about German wheat beers will be great.

Please leave your comments and links to your articles on the original announcement post.  I’ll also check this post for them.

Cheers and thanks in advance for all your enlightenment.

Coppertop Alehouse

A few weeks ago I was able to go to Prescott, Arizona with Karry from Black Bridge Brewery here in Kingman.  One of the places he was adamant about us visiting was Coppertop Alehouse.   It is on Montezuma Street, in the proximity of Whiskey Row, and it’s a tiny place, the proverbial hole in the wall.  A dozen people would crowd the pub.

Gaston and Scott are the brewers/owners/operators.  They are gracious hosts, so here’s a “thanks” to them both for an enjoyable couple of hours.  One of the reasons we went to Coppertop was Karry’s insistence on introducing me to their Belgian quad.  Since Karry knows his Belgians, I was amenable to this idea.   And he was right.

The quad was wonderful.  It hit all the markers in the style guidelines, to be sure.  Mid-range brown, like a cola or tea; it was sweetish, and had a definite dark fruit character.  (Evidently, they make their own candi sugar, too.)  It was a strong beer, no denying that.  But it did have that ephemeral hint of joy mixed in, just a delight of a beer.

But it was the tripel that I loved even more.  This was bright, yellowish-orange, moderate body, and hints of citrus. It was like drinking a sparkly wheat beer in Wonderland (I know, there’s no wheat; it just felt that bright and refreshing).  It is also strong beer, around 10%, but unlike the quad, brewer Gaston disguised the power of the tripel. It tastes and feels like a session beer but it is not.  Far too strong for that such things.

What a cool place!  A small 40+ gallon brew system, their own Candi sugar, their own spirits – vodka, gin and plum schnapps. It’s got a great local pub vibe, familial, comfortable, salubrious. Drop in, grab a chair, chat with the owners.  If I recall correctly, there was even some bartering going on there, fresh eggs for a small amount of a banner quad.  If political debate is your thing … well, stop by and talk to Gaston about that end of things.

And drink that tripel.  Crafted with such elan, just can’t say enough good things about it and the brewery.