Thursday, July 29, 2010

Hoppy German-American Wheat Recipe

Why are American homebrewers so obsessed with brewing to style? Who cares that a schwarzbier shouldn't be too roasty? That milds have to be low in alcohol? Or that hefeweizens are brewed with almost no hops? The only question that should matter when you are formulating a beer recipe is "Will I enjoy drinking this?"

I won't say that beer styles are worthless.  They are a fine way to start brewing (giving you a target to aim for) and for commercial breweries to quickly communicate what kind of beer they are selling (calling a beer a porter is much easier than saying "A dark ale that is roasty, but not as roasty as a stout, with moderate alcohol content and bitterness"). However, styles don't lead to brewing the best or most interesting beer because they confine creativity and prevent brewers from experimenting with the huge range of malts, hops, and yeast that are available. 

American homebrewers sparked the most substantial change the brewing landscape in the last 150 years, since lager brewing generally and Pilsners specifically altered the way beer was brewed and consumed. The revolution homebrewers started 35 years ago has lead not only to the creation of a thriving American craft brewing industry but also similarly booming craft beer production in areas as disparate as Japan, Sweden, and Italy.  The rise of homebrewing has also created better educated consumers that have been able to sustain some of the more esoteric breweries in countries like Belgium that wouldn't stay in business without lucrative exports to American beer nerds.

American craft brewers certainly deserve some of the credit (although most of them are former, or even current, homebrewers), but there is little they have popularized that a homebrewer didn't try first (the first bourbon barrel aged beer was made by Chicago area homebrewers according to Radical Brewing). American homebrewers should still be pushing the creative envelope, not ceding creative control of brewing to the professionals.

So I say don't waste your time brewing to style, or copying someone else's recipes (take inspiration and go in your own direction). Try combining flavors and techniques that you think will work to see what happens.

To further this ideal I brewed a "German" wheat beer hopped like an American IPA, blending the complex citrus character of American hops (Amarillo and Cascade) with the fruity/spicy character of German wheat beer yeast. This is a combination a few breweries have played with (New Glarus Crack'd Wheat and Schneider-Brooklyner Hopfen Weisse) but it is a concept that has yet to gain much traction. My version is intended to have a bolder hop aroma than the commercial versions, letting the hops take center stage while pushing the yeast character towards the background. 

The wort was collected from the same mash as the Decocted Hefeweizen, so read that post for more details on the process. I steeped a small amount of CaraVienna in the wort for a bit of extra body to balance the aggressive hopping schedule. The fermentation started cool and slowly ramped up to ensure complete attenuation without creating too much banana flavor. After primary fermentation I'll give it a short period of cold conditioning before kegging the beer with two more ounces of hops.

Hopefully you've enjoyed this anti-style post and the previous pro-style one, like many homebrewers I feel the tug both to create/innovate and to refine my attempts at styles that have been slowly built and refined by brewers around the world. I'd certainly love to see more homebrewers experimenting (and I'm not just talking just dumping weird ingredients into your beer), but without having the foundation of classic styles the beer world would be a much blander place.

Hoppy German-American Wheat

Recipe Specifics
Batch Size (Gal): 4.50
Total Grain (Lbs): 8.88
Anticipated OG: 1.056
Anticipated SRM: 4.6
Anticipated IBU: 39.0
Brewhouse Efficiency: 73%
Wort Boil Time: 90 Minutes

47.9% - 4.25 lbs. French Pilsener
47.9% - 4.25 lbs. German Wheat Malt
4.2% - 0.38 lbs. CaraVienne (steeped)

1.25 oz. Perle (Whole, 7.00% AA) @ 60 min.
0.50 oz. Amarillo (Whole, 9.40% AA) @ 5 min.
0.50 oz. Cascade (Whole, 3.50% AA) @ 5 min.
0.50 oz. Amarillo (Whole, 9.40% AA) @ 0 min.
0.50 oz. Cascade (Whole, 3.50% AA) @ 0 min.
1.00 oz. Amarillo (Whole, 9.40% AA) @ Dry Hop
1.00 oz. Cascade (Whole, 3.50% AA) @ Dry Hop

0.40 Tsp Yeast Nutrient @ 12 min.

WYeast 3068 Weihenstephan Weizen

Water Profile
Profile: Carbon Filtered Washington DC

Mash Schedule
Clove 15 min @ 114 (Infuse)
Protein 10 min @ 125 (Direct)
Sacch I 40 min @ 144 (Direct)
Sacch II 20 min @ 161 (Decoction)

Brewed 7/18/10 by myself

The remainder of the no-sparge runnings from the Hefeweizen mash, plus a gallon of the first runnings transferred over since I didn't leave enough for this half. Added 4 g of gypsum to the wort for the hops. Steeped the CaraVienna in the wort for 30 minutes, then sieved out. Started heating to a boil inside while the hefe finished. 

Added aroma hops as I started the chill. Racked onto the extra ~1/2 gallon of wort from the hefeweizen half of the batch.

Chilled to ~85, moved to fridge set to 55. Added 1 cup of wort to the starter and put it in the fridge so it would be the same temp at pitching.

6 hours later I pitched 2 cups of the starter and gave 45 seconds of pure oxygen, returned to the fridge @ 55 degrees.

Good fermentation after 18 hours.

7/22/10 Upped temp to 62 to help fermentation finish out.

7/29/10 Fermentation seems to be complete, krausen has fallen almost completely.

8/1/10 Dropped temp to 34 to drop excess yeast/protein out of solution.

8/12/10 Put into keg, added dry hops, and put into the kegerator to carb.

9/8/10 Turned out very nicely, perfect combo of hops and yeast.  I'll have to get my hands on a bottle of Crack'd Wheat to see how mine stacks up.


Paul! said...

I think Jamil Z's success with Brewing Classic Styles and the Brewing Network definitely play a large part in the mass's fixation of brewing to style. When just learning to brew having such a rich source of information such as the BN that is also so Pro style is bound to draw you into that mindset.
I also think that the fear of failure is a big part of it, no one likes to fail, especially with the price of ingredients on the line.

I will be curious to see how this one turns out. I've had pretty good luck with Amarillo playing nicely with heavy phenolic/ester producing yeast.

Unknown said...

I made something similar recently (actually the 3rd incarnation of the recipe). This time I did 10 gallons and split 5 between WLP001 and WLP320 (american hefeweizen).

I tasted them at racking and they were both good, but I'm waiting to really drink the WLP320 one till I kill the other keg (pretty soon)

I used centennial hops for bittering, a bit of galena, a bit of citra, and a bunch of amarillo

Just delicious. We took a keg out to Beerstock last weekend and it was practically killed. Perfect hoppy beer that is refreshing and lower gravity for a hot day

Andrew said...

Excellent anti-style rant!
I like experimenting with my brews, and brewing to my taste instead of an arbitrary style. I made a lovely summer wheat ale with yarrow, lavender and wild chamomile.
I often do split batches with 3 gal playing it fairly safe and two 1 gal plays on the same basic brew.

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

Did Jamil create the style obsession, or did he just tap into something that was already there? I think the fear of failure is much stronger in brewing than it is in cooking (for example) because you are investing much more time, effort, money etc… I think that probably does play a big roll.

Most of the really great brewers I know don’t enter competitions because the judging on specialty beers is often lackluster. It is hard to “prove” you are a great brewer unless you brew to style like Jamil or Gordon Strong.

Glad you guys enjoyed the post.

pester said...

I also made something much similar to this, although I modeled it after the Brooklyn version of Hopfen Weisse. 1.085, Galena to bitter, amarillo/palisade at 20 and 10, amarillo and cascade at 0 and amarillo dry hop. Just a fantastic beer, but I think a smaller version would actually be a much better summer bbq beer.

Seanywonton said...

Well, styles at least give beginning homebrewers something to measure up against. Too many homebrewers want to start out with wacky, often very creative recipe ideas but they haven't gotten their technique down yet, and they think their beer problems are due to ingredients when really it's about their technique (or they just don't even realize their beer is bad). I know I did that and then had to reign it back in after some bad brews.

I don't know, I don't' fall on either side of the "style argument" and never will. I like both. Just brew what you want! And stay creative whether you are brewing in the style or out of it.

Ron said...

I took my typical german weiss recipe (one of the only to style types I brew) and loaded it up with Amarillo and Citra hops in april. It turned out amazing and tastes like a passion fruit weiss beer. It actually reminds me of the Wieamea Wheat from Kona brewing company, which actually has passion fruit in it. I think a german wheat yeast with Citra hops is a great combo.

Jo3sh said...

I don't know which came first, Jamil and his books or the emphasis on brewing to style, However, I am another proponent of brewing beer you like to drink. My current session beer uses Belgian malt, German hops, and American yeast to make an XPA I am enjoying in the heat, but doesn't fit anywhere in the BJCP categories.

One thing that may have influenced the style craze is Americans' obsession with winning - you can't win unless there's a competition. Jamil's beers win lots of medals because they match the style guidelines perfectly - however, it's arguable that there is better beer to be made in the 'I like what's in my glass' way.

For me, the only competition that matters is whether my palate is happy when I take a sup from my pint. When my beer makes me or others happy, I win. I don't care if my beer is 'perfect,' as I think the idea of making objective measurements of opinions is pretty silly.

JLap said...

My position on the style vs "creativity" debate is a little different. First of all, I feel like referring to the opposite of brewing to style as "creative brewing" really loads the issue. It's kind of like when the Right uses words like "freedom". Who would oppose freedom? Or creativity?

I focus mainly on brewing to styles b/c it helps me master brewing skills and allows a lot of opportunity for comparison. Beer styles developed organically so there is a lot of trial and error leading up to the development of a "styles". What I've found is that styles have a balance that is often lacking in "creative" beers. I don't believe that I as an individual brewer am in a position to discount the work of some many in the past.

I also find that there's tons of room for creativity within the traditional style guidelines. Creative acts are always within boundaries, it just depends on how wide or narrow they are. Sometimes operating within narrow boundaries increases ones focus and attention to detail in ways that can produce illuminating results.

All this being said, I of course believe that you should brew what tastes good to you and gives you the most pleasure as a brewer. I can understanding being pissed if your beers don't do well in the Specialty Beer category b/c the judges aren't open-minded or aren't paying attention. Frankly, many judges just aren't that skilled and it doesn't matter what category you're talking about. I've had frustrating experiences with "style" and "creative" beers in competitions and I understand that it can be frustrating having to enter everything in one category. It's also very hard to judge when every beer is so radically different than the one before it.

Kevin LaVoy said...

I think a lot of it has to do with the BJCP. A lot of home brewers that I've come across get involved in the BJCP to better evaluate their own beers. It's hard to brew a beer, hand it to them, and NOT put a style name to it. And then they promptly evaluate it according to beer styles. It's amusing that you mention roasty schwarzbiers, because I had what I thought was a pretty decent schwarzbier ripped apart at a home brewing meeting for just that reason. I never went back.

As a counterpoint to that, I live down the street from the head brewer at Three Floyds, and whenever I try something truly strange, he always says that is the sort of thing they would experiment with in the brewery.

With that in mind, I've been doing that a lot lately. Simcoe hops in Blegian style beers. Mixing cistruisy hops with spicy ones. A dubbel with only a 30 minute hops addition. Etc. It's fun, and the beers have been pretty damn good too.