Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Brew Day: Hefeweizen

I have mixed feelings about hefeweizens. On one hand, I've consumed countless pints of the stuff while living abroad - in Ireland it was often the only thing on tap that wasn't a stout, cider, or lager - and it was an integral part of my favorite German breakfast of weisswurst and a half litre of weissbier. However, since I've started homebrewing, I have only brewed a handful of German weizens and none with much success. Part of my problem with them is that I don't care for a lot of banana flavor and it seems like every time I have tried to brew them, they either ended up tasting like an over-ripe banana or retained some degree of sulfur, which is commonly produced by these yeasts. Given these issues, I haven't brewed a weizen since 2009 and hadn't considered re-brewing one, that is, until one of my friends gave me a very nice Hacker-Pschorr glass for my birthday and I figured I should give it another go.

The main goal for this hefeweizen is to make something that is reasonably authentic tasting, but with more emphasis on vanilla/clove/bubblegum flavor than pure banana. To do this, I am forgoing everyone's favorite hefe yeast - WY3068 - and I will be using WY3638 in its place. This yeast seems to produce less banana than the former, with more clove and light fruit flavors when fermented at lower temperatures. I'll be pitching the yeast around 62F and letting the beer free rise to 65-68F for the duration of the time spent in the primary. Recipe wise, I didn't have enough wheat malt for a proper 40/60 (barley to wheat) ratio, although I will be employing a step mash with a ferulic acid rest at 110F for 15 min (to increase clove phenols), a sacc rest at 150F for 50 min, and a mash out at 168F. Should be loads of fun. Lastly, I will be kegging this beer, so I hope that any sulfur that is produced during the fermentation can easily be purged if it makes its way into the keg.
First Attempt

Standard Weizen : Hefeweizen

Recipe Specifics:
Batch Size (Gal): 4.00
Total Grain (Lbs): 7.00
Anticipated OG: 1.048
Anticipated FG: 1.012
Anticipated SRM: 4
Anticipated IBU: 17
Efficiency: 70%
Boil Time: 90 Minutes

57.1% - 4.00 lbs. Pilsner Malt
42.9% - 3.00 lbs. Wheat Malt

0.60 oz. Tettnang @ 60 min for 17 IBU

Yeast: Wyeast 3638 Bavarian Wheat
Brewed on 2 April


  1. I've had the opposite problem with my hefeweizens -- lots of clove, no banana whatsoever.

    Proceeding on the assumption that I had been keeping the fermentation temperature too low, I tried brewing another one recently with 3638. I started the fermentation at about 64, and let it rise a degree a day until it reached 69 or so.

    Alas, the result was somewhat unpleasant. The aroma was dominated by sour apple, and the flavour had a strong sour peach element to it. I think that maybe this particular yeast strain produces some funky esters if the fermentation temperature gets too high too quickly.

    YMMV, of course. Good luck!

  2. Incidentally, I understand precisely what you mean about hefeweizen sometimes being the only interesting option abroad. I've spent a fair bit of time in the Mediterranean (Italy and Greece), and until very recently the beer situation there was very dire.

    It's gotten better recently -- in Athens you can now get Budvar, and there's a good local brewpub, and in Italy the microbrewing scene has literally exploded in the past few years. But I too consumed a lot of hefeweizen in both countries to avoid drinking Peroni or Stella.

  3. Uh oh. I noticed a few people mentioned tart apple and stonefruit in their descriptions of this yeast, wyeasts description is somewhat similar, although I expected it to be more subtle than anything. Guess I'll just have to wait and see.

    Aside, I somewhat underpitched this yeast and didn't oxygenate as fully as I normally would - as I was worried that I'd get a totally bland/neutral yeast character like my beers fermented with the Rochefort yeast - and even so the fermention was in full effect 12hrs after pitching. I now have the temp right around 65F, I wonder if I should leave it as is or increase it? Hmm.

    Lastly, I was quite shocked after coming home how good we had it all along (for beer) in the US, although the scenery around me doesn't quite compare to Italy or Greece. I do enjoy Budvar tho!


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