January 5, 2012

Sexless Innkeeper: Dunkel Wheat Wine

After reading Brewing With Wheat about a year ago I got hot on the idea of brewing a wheat wine. If you've read some of my blog you know I'm not a particular fan of hoppy beers and I don't like American wheats too much. That's a problem for wheat wines since they are usually beefed up American wheats with a healthy dose of hops. (Wheat wines are to wheat beers what barley wines are to English-style beers: high ABV, high IBUs, lots of flavor and aging to produce a mellow meld of flavors.)

My thought was to convert the German-style weizen beers into some sort of wheat wine. Lagunitas produces a Double Weizen beer which is something like an imperial hefeweizen. It's pretty good but it tastes like a big hefeweizen. There's not a lot of flavor depth like you get in a barley wine. That's what I wanted. So I turned to the dunkelweizen style as a way to start off with something a little more complex that could afford some depth to the malt profile. One problem with a lot of dunkelweizens is that they come across very sweet because there's a lot of crystal and/or munich malts used and that caramel sweetness can easily take the natural sweetness of wheat a step too far. So I wanted to brace myself for a big hop addition to balance out the sweetness. Not enough for the hops to have to compete with the weizen flavors but enough to avoid the beer becoming cloying. As usual with weizens, I wanted to make a big hop addition at the beginning and avoid getting much hop flavor.

To get that good weizen flavor you need weizen yeast. Fortunately, weizen yeast can survive up to 8-10% (according to Wyeast and White Labs) even though they often only enjoy beers in the 3-5% range. So that meant I could get those good weizen flavors and avoid making an American-style wheat. I wanted to promote the clove flavors and get subtle banana so a cooler ferment would be necessary.I decided an oak addition would produce a more interesting flavor and add some tannins to mellow out some of the dunkelweizen sweetness. I considered dry hopping the beer -- and I may dry hop next time -- but I didn't want too much hops in the way of those weizen flavors.

So, here's the recipe for one gallon. Scale as necessary if you decide to reproduce.

Grist:
1.5lb red wheat malt
.75lb munich malt
.5lb pale malt
.4lb crystal 60

Triple decoction mash with infusion to 97F and stops at 122, 148 and 158F. 60 minute boil with .75oz addition of Fuggles (4.5%) at 60 minutes. Cooled and fermented with 3068. 0.80oz oak chips added after two weeks for seven days. Carbonated to 5 volumes.

Stats:
ABV: 8.83
IBUs: 45.6
SRM: 17
OG: 1.088
FG: 1.021

When I tried this beer after about five weeks of carbonation it tasted really bad. Lots of hops flavor and woody oak flavor. I left it alone for about six months and tried it again. The hops had mellowed and the oak had settled into the back into a gentle vanilla flavor. The clove comes through with a little banana and the caramel, wheat and malty flavors are complex and balanced. It's really easy to drink at 9% because it's very smooth. Not at all cloying.

In the future I will definitely make this beer again. I would add some carapils to improve body because it's a little thin from all the alcohol and maybe do a full ounce of oak. I could see the malt bill getting more complex with some aromatic and maybe taking the C60 and mixing it up with C60 and some C80 or C120 to get more dark malt flavors. Personally I think the beer doesn't need dry hopping but some styrian goldings or amarillo might add some good flavor. The fuggles were used in the recipe because it's what I had on hand. I'd probably use a noble hop next time for a little better hop flavor. The fuggles don't come through as a flavor but maybe a little hersbrucker or styrian golding would create some hints of hop flavors, especially with a small addition at 30 minutes.

As much as it's disappointing to sit on a beer for eight months while it ages and only have a gallon or so I'm actually looking forward to getting to play around with the recipe and try a more complex grain bill. I may not get around to that until 2013 (let's see how much of my current supply of homebrew plus all the grains I bought for 2012 last) but I might have to sneak in another grain order and get that brewed so it has time to properly age.

Oh, you might be curious about the name. My wife and I like naming our beers and we take a lot of inspiration from one of our favorite shows, How I Met Your Mother. In one episode the main character (Ted) is accused of being the Sexless Innkeeper, a person who brings somebody home from the bar but doesn't get sex because the person brought home only agreed to come home to find a place to crash and passes out before anything can happen. No direct reference to the beer we just think it's a funny title.

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