Hefeweizen 2: Judgement Day

It’s tough to judge a beer.  Diagnosing your own beer, let alone commercially brewed ones, is not easy. It takes a lot of experience to recognize subtle flavors, flaws, stylistic traits – all of which I’m trying to get better at identifying little by little. A good thing to do is let other people drink your beer and give you feedback. Even if it’s just a simple “tastes good!” accompanied by a smile, or a “eh, not my favorite” is a good start.   If I had to judge the Hefeweizen I made previously, I’d probably give it a 6 out of 10.  It came out a very drinkable, satisfying wheat beer with great color and nice frothy head.  But, the most common comment I got was, “it’s very light, but a little too light – could use a little more flavor”.  Fair enough.  Also, personally, I thought most of its style leaned in the direction of Belgian rather than German, which was a little disappointing.  Since I’m still in the spirit of the style, I really want to try and get this beer “right”.

  • 7 lb Weyermann wheat malt
  • 3.5 lb Weyermann pilsner malt
  • 1 lb Weyermann Munich malt
  • 1 oz Hallertauer (60 min)
  • 1 oz Hallertauer (30 min)
  • WYeast 3068 Weihenstephaner

If this recipe alone doesn’t scream “Deutschland uber alles” then I dunno what does.  Just look at those ingredients.  Damn.  I bumped up the amount of wheat and pilsner malt, still keeping the same ratio as before (2 to 1, wheat to pilsner) since my gravity was a little low last time. That should definitely add flavor. I also threw in a pound of Munich malt to add some bready flavors which I think will turn out nice. Same hop schedule, but I’m also changing up the yeast to another common Hefe-strain. I always wind up kicking myself after trying to change too many things in one iteration of a beer, so I hope I haven’t overdone it.

BEGIN BEER-NERD INFO // I’m still trying to figure out how to get my mash temperatures right, so I wound up mashing at 156 for 1 hour, having used 1.33 ratio of water to grain. Strike water was 168 F to start.  Sparge with 4.25 gal of 168F water.  By the end of the mash, the temp had dropped down to about 151F, so my cooler must have lost some of it’s seal around the edges to keep the heat in. Gonna have to fix that.  After the mash I collected  about 6 gallons of wort, which, after a 90 minute boil left me with 4.5 gallons of 1.052 gravity wort.  Also gonna have to bump up the sparge water to account for that boil-off loss. Cooled to 80 F, pitched a starter of the yeast and let it go to work.  After 4 days in the primary, the airlock dropped to a blurb every  minute :30 or so, so I racked directly into the keg again.  The finishing gravity read 1.012, giving me a solid 5% ABV. // END BEER-NERD INFO

Alright, so now to put the judge’s hat back on.  The overall taste has improved a bit from the last one.  More body, and the addition of Munich is slightly noticeable. But, other than that, still not super wheat-y or Hefeweizen-y.  What am I not doing right here?  The ingredients seem on par, but it’s just not cutting it for me.

Right after I was done racking into the keg, just for kicks I swirled around the yeast cake at the bottom of the primary bucket, dipped my face in and took a big wiff.  A thousand light bulbs went off in my head.  Yeast.  Lots of yeast.  The true aroma of Hefeweizen smacked me straight in the face and said, “LEAVE ME IN THE PRIMARY LONGER. MUCH LONGER.”  Bingo. I think that leaving the beer in the primary for longer amounts of time (even after it’s “done” fermenting) will let it really soak in that yeasty flavor (something that’s generally not pleasing in most styles) since the huge glob of yeast is just chillin’ there at the bottom.  This happened on my first couple batches before I had a better idea of when to transfer it.  I’m thinking at least a week, maybe even two in the primary.  I think this could be the missing link.

Phew.  All this work, just to try and make a stinkin’ little wheat beer!  It goes to show you how many factors go into making the beers you like the way they are.  I have a feeling I’ll be tweaking this recipe for many years to come. I may never even truly get it perfect, but I can’t picture myself wanting to stop, which is sort of humbling in a way.  At the very least, I have another keg of beer to help sweat out the summertime.

UPDATE:  I got some really helpful tips from Greg at Food and Wine Blog.  I tasted a Hefeweizen he had on tap (which was super delicious) recently at a party, so I asked him how to get my beer there.  First suggestion, decrease the amount of wheat malt. Seems sorta counterintuitive, but he explained that wheat malt really only can contribute well to the flavor of the beer in smaller dosages, say, 50% or less of the grain bill. Second suggestion: use more specialty malts. Vienna, victory, biscuit, you name it.  Though I was trying to keep this beer “pure”, throwing some of these in small dosages will create a more complex, enjoyable flavor profile.


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