Brewday: Hefeweizen

‘Finally!’ say my German readers as I got around over the weekend to brewing the hefeweizen I’ve had in my cupboard (and my plans) for the last two months.

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Hefeweizen is a cloudy beer originating in Bavaria brewed with a fair proportion of wheat (up to fifty per cent) –  although I don’t know the exact proportion between wheat and barley here as I’m using a pre-prepared kit – and with a type of yeast that tends to remain in suspension when it’s done its job rather than fall to the bottom of the fermenter. This gives the beer, once bottled, a fair amount of yeast sediment, as well as a style and ritual of its own when being poured. Legally, apparently, a weizen has to be brewed with a top-fermenting yeast, making it clearly an ale rather than a lager. It’s a light (‘white’) beer which, sat in my fermenter, has a light caramel colour reminiscent of the banana flavours which the yeast will impart – being less keen on these, I’ve under-pitched my yeast since the-bible-according-to-James tells me that this will give me a clove-heavy beer, in terms of aroma, while nevertheless leaving ‘some banana at the back end’. As you can see from the size of the hops sachet – again endearingly packaged in a white pick’n’mix paper bag before being vacuum sealed – there’s not a lot of hop flavour on offer and, for the style, that’s exactly how it ought to be.

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Hefeweizen in the fermenter two days after brewing, with the extent of the krausen much in evidence (especially yesterday evening when the beer got a little warm), although now subsided following intervention. Note my particularly high-tech stopper solution. It’s now back under the office desk and underneath a towel for good measure, alongside my ‘session’ pale ale (which may after all turn out to be a bit less sessionable), which is due for bottling this weekend.

This is the third and final recipe in this current batch from Edinburgh’s Brewstore, and following a bit of e-mail to and fro in relation to the previous kit beer I brewed from there, I’ve learned to treat their recipes as a starting point, as the basis from which to brew, rather than setting out measurements which are particularly precise. (In short: they stand by the hops in their recipe – which gives me an interesting decision to make about dry hopping my pale ale, which stage is due today or tomorrow – while I know that it’s wrong.) But then, a lot of brewing is like that – if you get five brewers in a room you’ll get at least six different ways of brewing the same beer – and part of the enjoyment is the research and the consultation with others who’ve been there before. And, it also matters quite a lot how good is your process and set-up. Furthermore, it absolutely won’t stop me ordering from there again: what matters to the quality of a beer is, apart from your own process management and decision-making skills, fresh ingredients and I’ve been impressed with the quality of the malt and the hops on offer; and the staff also include a fair proportion of brewers too.

So, the beer shelf in the store cupboard is now bare (though there’s a mini collection of opened packets of dried yeast sealed up and happily chilling in the fridge). Next step from here is the capacity to brew larger amounts of beer than 4.5L in one go and, given the practical difficulty of boiling more than about 10L of liquid on a stovetop, that means a bit of investment in a system of one type or other. Final research is still being done on that, while Covid-19 is evidently causing a few complications to manufacture and delivery there, too. So, watch this space.

In the meantime, all my beers up to now have been straightforward ones. They’ve placed different technical and processual demands at different points, but there have as yet been no customisations. So, while I’m finishing off my research and waiting for delivery, I’m quite tempted to grab a load of dark malts to brew a few short-run (4.5L) stout/porter specials and (fans of the Reinheitsgebot look away now) use some fruit, chocolate, coffee, etc. to extend my skills there, too. Food for thought, anyway.

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