Adventures in Brewing - Beer #3: A Wheat Beer for Summer

I had wanted to start this batch a little earlier, but compared to my first two attempts, this one is actually a lot simpler and should take less time to mature. It's a wheat beer (a Bavarian Hefeweizen to be exact), which is generally light and refreshing - a perfect beer for summer. Since I brewed this yesterday, it will take about a month for this to be ready to drink, which will be right around June, just in time for summer.

My last attempt was a Belgian style Tripel. It was a relatively ambitious attempt, but it came out reasonably well. I like it better than my first homebrew, though it's clearly not a perfect beer. Still, it was quite encouraging. This time around, I went with a kit from Northern Brewer and was surprised to learn how much simpler the Hefeweizen is to brew. No specialty grains and only one hop addition means that the time between each step is relatively long, letting me get some other stuff done while waiting to finish the boil (or whatever).

Brew #3 - Bavarian Hefeweizen
April 30, 2011

6 lb. Wheat LME
1 lb. Wheat DME
1 oz. Tettnang hops (bittering)
Wyeast 3068 Weihenstephan Wheat Yeast

As you can tell from the relatively small recipe (compare that to the recipe for the tripel), there's not much to this one, and the process really was a lot simpler. This was, however, the first time I've ever used one of Wyeast's "Smack Packs", which come in a little packet containing yeast and a sealed nutrient packet. A few hours before you're ready to brew, you "smack" the nutrient packet, which gets the yeast started. It's a little weird, and I wasn't sure if I did it right at first, but after about a half hour or so, I could actually hear the yeast going, and about an hour later, the packet was starting to swell (which is how it's supposed to work). Comfortable that my yeast would be ready to pitch once I finished, I started the process proper.

Brought 2 gallons of tap water to a boil, after which I removed from heat and added the liquid and dry malt extracts (incidentally, I've heard that it's better to rehydrate the DME separately, though I've never done that - perhaps next time I use DME), stirring carefully. Put it back on the heat and returned it to a boil. Added the hops, stirring carefully to avoid any overflow, started my timer, then sat down with my book and read for about 50 minutes, stopping only once or twice to check on the boiling wort, stirring occasionally. I prepared my ice bath and started sanitizing the rest of the equipment. When the 60 minute mark was reached, I added the pot to my ice bath. This continues to be a bit of a challenge, but the temperature dropped quick enough. Once it was at about 100° F, I took it out of the bath and poured through a strainer into the fermenter. Topped off the fermenter with enough cold water to bring it down to about 68° F, which was just about perfect according to my yeast package. Pitched the yeast, sealed up the fermenter, and installed the airlock.

I was surprised that I could really smell the yeasty character while pitching, though it makes sense, given that the nutrient packet had already gotten the yeast started. Previous attempts were using dry yeast (which would have no odor) and a vial of White Labs yeast, which was more concentrated (though probably around the same volume as the Wyeast packet, it didn't have the whole nutrient pack to get things started). Temperature in my closet seems to be a pretty steady 70° F, which is about exactly what I was looking for. I just checked the fermenter, and the airlock is bubbling away happily.

Original Gravity: 1.048-1.050 (approximate). The recipe called for 1.049, so I'm almost dead on there. Strangely, the Northern Brewer site/directions make no mention of the expected Final Gravity (not that it really matters, fermentation ends when it ends).

Though the process was easier, I didn't really cut much time off of the session. It came in at around 2-2.5 hours, which isn't bad at all. The real advantage of the simple process was that there was enough unbroken periods of time that I could get other stuff done while waiting. The really time consuming part continues to be getting the pot to a boil. This is probably because I'm on a electric stove. Well, now that it's warmer out, I may be able to invest in some outdoor equipment, which might make things easier.

I'm already working on the recipe for my next beer, which will probably be a saison in the style of the excellent Saison Dupont, one of my favorite beers and another crisp and refreshing beer for summer. The recipe won't be an exact clone, as my understanding is that the Wyeast version of Dupont's yeast is infamously finicky with regard to temperatures (which is the part of the process I'm least able to control at this point). So unless global warming hits with a vengeance in late-May/early-June, I'll probably end up using the Wyeast 1214 Abbey Ale.

(Cross posted at Kaedrin Beer Blog)