Sunday, May 17, 2009

Wheat Triplebock

After buying a 50 lb sack of German wheat malt last year as part of a group grain buy I have been trying to use it in as many ways as possible. I did quite a few light beers like a hefeweizen, and added a couple pounds to several other recipes, but I had been looking for something big that would use up a more.

My friend Nathan came back from a trip last fall with stories of The Livery, a fantastic brewpub in Benton Harbor Michigan. They do a huge range of beers, from mild lagers, to strong sours, with lots of barrel aged fun. After doing some reading on them I saw that they make a beer they call Trippel Weizenbock (a big dark lager with wheat) that sounded like just what I was looking for. I wanted to get this brewed in time for Nathan's birthday blow-out in March, but I wanted to let it lager for longer before bottling (it will probably really be hitting its stride by March 2010).

I was able to dig up a little info on the beer from their website ("Definitely the most complex beer coming out of our brewery, has rated this as the #1 Weizenbock in the world! Flavors of leather, fig, raisin, and a sweet finish from 33% wheat malt co-mingle with warm alcohol and noble hops for a truly unique beer experience! Also available barrel aged."), but not enough specifics to really put together a recipe. So I emailed the brewer (Steve Berthel) to see if he would be willing to help me out, he graciously obliged:

"I use German pilsener, vienna, and dark munich malts, and English crystal 155-165. 2 hr. boil. German Perle to bitter and Perle and Tettnang in late strikes to balance the malt sweetness. I use White Labs German Bock yeast for now. Starting gravity is around 1.106, finish gravity is around 1.025, giving an abv of 11.75%. Good luck!"

From there it was easy to come up with something I felt would get me in the ballpark. The biggest decision I faced was how much of the Simpson's Extra Dark Crystal to use (an ingredient I hadn't even tasted until my box showed up from Northern Brewer). The flavor of the grains was part way between a regular dark crystal (like crystal 120 or special b) and pale chocolate malt. So I decided to add a full pound to my 3.5 gallon batch, assuming it would be similar to adding half a pound each of crystal 120 and pale chocolate.

I lagered the beer for 4 months in 1 gallon jugs. I left two plain, but to the third gallon I added some bourbon soaked oak cubes (I'll post a tasting of that later).

The flavor is already pretty good, the oaked batch particularly (the oak tannins help to cut through some of the sweetness that the plain batch has). If I were to brew this again I would probably lower the mash temp a couple degrees since in finished .005 higher than the original and has a bit more sweetness than I like.

Tasting 5/17/09

Appearance – Pours with a thin crema of a head on top of a dark brown, nearly black body. When held to the light it is a less dark brown with some red, pretty clear. The head is composed of coarse bubbles, retention is good with some lacing.

Smell – Big sweet nose. Loads of malty goodness with a big overripe fruit character. There is also a nice hint of coffee. As it warms there is a clean waft of alcohol, but it is not boozy or hot.

Taste – Tastes like a huge sticky doppel/eisbock to me. The big bready maltiness is just flowing from this one. The alcohol and just a hint of hop bitterness provides just enough to keep this from being cloying. Despite the fact that this is not one of the ones I oak aged I still get a bit of toasted oak, but it is just the malt playing a trick on me.

Mouthfeel – Big and thick, with moderate carbonation. Spot on for a big bock, but it means I probably won't be drinking much of this one until it cools down in the fall.

Drinkability & Notes – This beer just took a second place yesterday at the Spirit of Free Beer as an Eisbock, an impressive result for a huge beer that is just 6 months old (despite the fact that it was not freeze concentrated, I thought it was too dark/strong to do well as a doppelbock). This is yet another one that I have high hopes for with a bit more age as the complexity increases and the flavors mellow (hopefully as the hop bitterness drops the beer will not become cloying).

Wheat Triplebock

Recipe Specifics (All-Grain)
Batch Size (Gal): 3.50
Total Grain (Lbs): 15.75
Anticipated OG: 1.105
Anticipated SRM: 27.4
Anticipated IBU: 34.3
Brewhouse Efficiency: 64 %
Wort Boil Time: 135 Minutes

5.25 lbs. Wheat Malt
4.00 lbs. Munich Malt (dark)
3.50 lbs. Pilsener
2.00 lbs. Vienna Malt
1.00 lbs. Simpsons Extra Dark Crystal 155L

0.75 oz. Perle @ 60 min.
0.50 oz. Tettnanger Tettnang @ 15 min.
0.25 oz. Perle @ 15 min.

0.50 Whirlfloc @ 11 Min.(boil)
0.25 Tsp Yeast Nutrient @ 11 Min.(boil)

White Labs WLP833 German Bock Lager

Water Profile
Profile: Washington DC

Mash Schedule
65 min @ 154

Brewed 11/16/08 by myself.

Added 1 tsp of chalk because the pH was low, around 5.0 (at room temp).

Collected 6.25 gallons of 1.068 wort. Boiled down more than expected (~3 gallons and 1.118) so I added .5 gal of boiled/chilled water.

Chilled to ~60, but my ground water wasn't cold enough to get it any lower. So I put it into my chest freezer at 48 degrees. 7 hours later I pitched ~1 qrt of slurry from the Helles, very fresh yeast.

11/23/08 Upped temp to 52 to help it finish out.

11/30/08 Moved out of the freezer to let my ice cider freeze.

12/08/08 Racked to three 1 gallon secondaries, the clear one got 1/2 oz of bourbon soaked American oak cubes. Put into the freezer at 34 degrees. The gravity is down to 1.030 (71% AA, 10% ABV). Pretty good flavor, certainly tastes like a big bock to me. Looks like it will finish a few points higher than I expected, might drop the mash temp to 151 to get it lower next time.

4/11/09 Bottled 2 gallons straight with 1.25 oz of cane sugar, and 1 gallon oaked with .625 oz of cane sugar. Both got a splash of WY1728 from the International Session Ale primary to aid in carbonation.

4/28/09 Fully carbonated thanks to the added yeast.

6/13/09 Scored a 37/38/38 and got a second place in its category as an Eisbock at the SoFB. The main complaint from the judges was that it wasn't boozy enough.

2/3/11 Realized I never did a tasting of the oak aged portion, one of my favorites since the oak helps to cut the sweetness.

11/1/12 At four years the plain version is still great, smooth, rich, complex, balanced, terrific! Hopefully malt-whisky-barrel-aged re-brew ages just as well!

2/18/14 Final tasting of the oak-aged portion along with the re-brew. Held up well (caramel, dried fruit, vanilla, smooth etc.), but is slowly fading with subtle oxidation.


  1. It's pretty impressive for such a young beer to do well in the eisbock category. I'd give it 3-5 years and it could do really well in NHC. But I doubt you would want to give up the bottles.

  2. Agreed, I might even try entering it in the NHC next year. I may also give some of my sours their first real taste of competition, gotta build up my street cred.

  3. Don't most weizenbocks actually use ale yeast? My friend entered a big weizenbock he did in a comp this fall and got docked points for being too clean (he has used that same Bock lager yeast, I think)

  4. Yep, a standard weizenbock is essentially a big dunkleweizen. There are generally fermented with the same sort of yeast as a Hefeweizen (lots of character).

    You could either think of this (and his) beer as a doppel/eisbock with some wheat (which there are some historical accounts of) or a big weizenbock fermented with a lager yeast. I entered it as a lager because the type of yeast has a much bigger impact on the finished beer than the wheat.

  5. Do you think a lower OG version of this would work?
    I was thinking

    3.75 wheat
    3.00 Munich dark
    2.25 Pils
    2.25 Vienna
    0.50 extra dark crystal (or 120 if I can't get my hands on extra dark)

    0.75 perle (60 min)
    0.50 tett (15 min)
    0.25 perle (15 min)

    Pretty much just divided your recipe by 2/3 and I wondering if you think it will have any problems from brewing it this way

  6. Or should I just go for the triplebock??

  7. It'll still be a really excellent beer, bu it'll be very different. I also think the Simpson's Extra Dark is pretty key to the character, C120 has a very different (more caramel, less toasty/roasty) flavor. If you can't get it, but do half C120 and half carafa special II?

    Best of luck, let me know how it goes!

  8. hi Mike,

    I'm looking at this recipe and I'll brew something similar as my first high OG. you didn't mention if you aerated or oxygenated the wort before pitching the yeast. any advice?

  9. Big omission on my part! 90 seconds of pure O2 would be ideal for a strong lager like this. If that isn't an option, then you could probably get away with shaking for 5 minutes. Either way, wait until right before pitching the yeast to aerate, hopefully the wort is close to the intended fermentation temperature by then.

  10. Hello! I brewed this as my first stab using lager yeast. The beer just wet into long-term cold storage the other day (in secondary). Here's my question: at about 62% attenuation I'm getting some huge clove notes (used the WLP833 in 2L starter), will this go away over time and is it normal at this stage?

    Brewed: 1-21-17
    OG: 1.130
    Primary volume: 3.5 gallons
    Ferment temp: 50/52F ~4 weeks
    Diactyl rest: 65F ~3 days (2/20/17)
    Secondary: 3/15/17 @38F

  11. Big lager to start with!

    You under-pitched pretty substantially. Most brewers suggest higher pitching rates for lagers than ales. For a lager starting at 1.13 you should have at least doubled the starter size. That's why I repitched mine from slurry.

    A young lager might be a bit sulfury, which can blow-off with aging. Phenols are unlikely to go away though as they aren't volatile.

    Sounds like you are at 1.050, if it tasted nice I'd say don't try to change that, but as is you might want to warm it up and pitch a starter of high gravity yeast or something to dry it out?

    Best of luck!