Brewday: Scott’s Sparkling Weisbier Part 2

We are now going to get to the real brewing of the wort. This is the second part of this series. Make sure you check out part 1 if you haven’t done so already.

Step Seven: Give me Some Heat!

Now its time to start the brewing. Fill up your pot. If your pot is only 3 gallons, I wouldn’t add more than 2 gallons of water, and you still need to watch very closely for boilovers. This is a 5 gallon pot, and I like to add about 3 gallons of water.  I still occasionally have to watch for boilovers, but I’m not generally too worried about it.

Easy to see where I have the water up to with the condensation on the side of the pot.

Put the pot on your biggest burner, and turn it up as high as you can get it. It still seems like it takes forever to boil, but be patient, there is beer at the end.

I love this power boil setting. It unfortunately tends to make this burner a lot less useful for everything besides boiling water, even on the lowest settings.

Once your water got to about 150° F you could add your specialty grains, and hold them there for half an hour, but that’s another post.

I should have used a spatula. It is very sticky.

You can add the extract when you start to heat the water or after the water heats up. Just remember, the longer the extract is over the fire, the more it will caramelize. This will result in a slightly darker beer. John Palmer’s book How to Brew suggests not to put all of your extract into the kettle right away. In addition to darkening the beer, all sorts of flavors that could potentially stick out in a lighter brew are created. This effect is reduced in a smaller gravity brew.  If you are doing a lighter brew like this, you therefore, might want to save a portion of the extract until just a few minutes left. This allows you to still be able to sterilize the extract. Whatever you decide, you should take the pot off of the burner while adding the extract to cut the chance of burning it before it is completely mixed in. Once mixed, this is called the wort.

Step Eight: The forgotten Step

Sorry to say that this step was probably one of my earliest steps. It is really a parallel step to everything else. As long as you do it early enough so that the yeast has enough time to propagate (usually a few hours), you could do it any time. This is a Wyeast Weihenstephan Weizen 3068 smack pack. It is Wyeast’s most traditional German yeast strain. This yeast produces a “beautiful and delicate balance of banana esters and clove phenolics.” Next to the cloudy character, this is exactly what I think of when I think of a German weissbier.  You could create a starter for your yeast, but the website for this strain warns that overpitching (or using too much yeasts) can results in the near complete loss in banana character, and a starter just multiplies the yeast. It is strain on the yeast that creates the esters and phenolics. Therefore, I just smacked the pack, and hoped I didn’t do too much. How do you smack one of these packs. Well first, you find the little nutrient pack inside, and hold it to the corner. Then simply follow the diagram below.

1)

Line it up.

2)

Wind up.

3)

Smack!

Step Nine: 60 Minute Countdown

As long as you have properly cleaned and sanitized everything, what you do during the next 60 minutes will greatly affect the final taste of your beer. It is time for your first hop addition. This hop addition will basically add only to the bitterness level of the beer. All of the volatile oils that you can smell and taste from hops are boiled away. The bitterness comes from alpha acids that have been isomerized into your beer. The most effective way to isomerize an alpha acid is to vigorously boil the hop. The longer you vigorously boil a hop, the more alpha acids will be isomerized. Different hop varieties have different alpha acids levels. A cascade might have an alpha acid level of about 4%, while Nugget might have an alpha acid level of about 13%. The Opals I was using had a pretty high alpha acid level of 8.4%. It also varies between years and farms, so double-check the package before you complete your recipe.

Dividing the hops editions up beforehand, makes it so you aren't running behind.


I had 3 hop additions for this beer. The later hope addition, the less volatile aromas can boil away, and the less alpha acids are isomerized. This means you get less bitterness, but more aroma and flavor from the hops. Having three additions increases the complexity.

These were my hop additions:

60 Minutes Remaining: 0.25 oz Opal, .10 oz Nugget (I didn’t have enough Opal to hit my target IBUs, so I added some of the Nugget I already had).

30 Minutes Remaining: 0.50 oz Opal

5 Minute Remaining: 0.25 oz Nugget

Watch for boilovers.

When adding hops, especially the first hop addition, your water is really going to want to boil over. Just keep on stirring and turn down the heat if needed. You might also want to keep a little spray bottle on hand. I have heard that spritzing with water helps keep the foaming in hand. Another trick is to put a few copper pennies in the pot. One thing you shouldn’t do is cover your pot completely to try to prevent boilover. There are sulfur compounds the wort develops while boiling, that you would prefer to not condensate on the lid and drop back into the pot.

Step Ten: The Lowdown on the Cooldown

It’s getting a little hot in here, so we’re going to bring the temperature down in Part 3.

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Scott’s Sparkling Weissbier

I think it’s high time for a brew session. It’s been months since my last one. With summer coming up, it might just be time to try my first wheat beer. It is a rather difficult beer to brew when brewing all grain, but as an extract brewer it is straightforward. The complicated part of making a wheat beer is the mash. Unlike barley, wheat tends to get sticky and gummy when wet. It is great for making bread, and if’ you’ve ever made bread you’ll know what I’m talking about. It’s the reason wheat is traditionally used for bread and barley is traditionally used for beer. Since it should be simple, it’s also a great beer as an introduction for brewing. I based this beer on one from my Radical Brewing book by Randy Mosher.

The recipe I came up with is the following:

  • 1.5lb of Dry Pale Malt Extract
  • 6.25lb of Liquid Malt Wheat Extract
  • Wyeast #3068 Weihenstephan Weizen Liquid Yeast

Since in a wheat beer, the hops kind of take a back seat, I’ve gone to my refrigerator to see what I have at hand. Right now I have Nugget, Cascade and Northern Brewer. I don’t want to use Cascade, as that will impart a particularly American flair to a beer that I’m trying to do in a Bavarian style. This leaves me with Northern Brewer and Nugget, which are both bittering hops. I’ll probably use Northern brewer since I may want to save the higher Alpha Acid Nuggets to use on other beers with more of bitterness to them. I might finish with Tettnang if the Brew store has them as this is a traditional hop to use in a weiss beer like this.

Beer Smith tells me that this recipe will have the following attributes:

  • IBU = 14 (depending on my choice of hops)
  • SRM (color scale) = 7.9
  • Original Gravity = 1.058
  • Estimate ABV= 5.8%

Beer Smith claims that some of these are slightly outside the normal range of a Weiss Beer, but who cares? What matters is that it tastes good. Mosher tends to not let BJCP style guidelines worry him. He is the radical brewer after all.  I also always seem to get slight differences from what the Radical Brewing book claims I’ll get and what Beersmith Claims I’ll get. This happened for my Coffee Stout as well, and my own measurements of gravity where closer to what the Radical Brewing book said I would get.

I’m going to try to head to my local Brew and Grow this Saturday and hopefully brew up the beer on Sunday.