This Month's Question:† I want to make a wheat beer.† How do I make a good wheat beer?††

Answer:† Wheat beers have a long history.† The ancient Babylonians used wheat in some of their recipes.† The Germans raised it to a high art starting in the 16th century, and Belgians have added their own twists.†

Wheatbeers are mostly clustered into BJCP style 15, which also includes Rye beer.† However, other styles including Witbier, Berlinerweisse, American wheat and Lambics also include wheat as a major component.†

When most people think of wheat beer, they think of Bavarian Hefeweizen.† This is a pale-colored beer typically brewed with 50% malted wheat and the remainder malted barley.† In addition to the rather unique flavor of wheat, it has a very characteristic clovey-banana flavor, which arises from the yeast.

The next beer in the sequence is Dunkelweizen.† This beer is has many of the same characteristics, but is brewed from darker malts and has a richer malt flavor.†

The granddaddy of this style is Weizenbock.† Like it cousins in the Bock family, this is a very strong beer, ranging up to 8% alcohol.† It also has some of the dark fruit-like flavors found in doppelbocks.† Unlike the bocks, however, it is actually an ale and is brewed with the same yeast as the other wheat beers.†

Thrown in into this family, mostly because it has nowhere else to go is Roggenbier, or German Rye beer.† This beer is similar to dunkelweizen, except that it is made from rye, not wheat.†

To make a wheat beer, the basic recipe is pretty simple.† Make up a recipe with half malted barley and half wheat malt.† The differences come in the type of malted barley and the amounts.†† For Bavarian Hefeweizen, use pale malt.† For Dunkelweizen, use Munich malt.† Weizenbock also uses Munich malt, but the total grain bill has to get the starting gravity up to at least 1.064.† For you extract brewers, simply substitute the corresponding malt extracts, but note that the wheat extract is half wheat to begin with.† Finally, for Roggenbier, use half rye and half Munich malt.†

One trick for all-grain brewers is to throw in some rice or barley hulls to keep the mash running smoothly.† Wheat doesnít have a husk the way barley does, so the mash tends to get heavy and the flow bogs down.† Decoction mashing is the historical method of choice, though simple infusion mashing works quite well.

All wheat beers are low in bitterness.† An easy way to figure the hop additions is to only bitter the barley portion of the grain bill.† A look at the table below shows that all of the substyles have about half the bitterness of other beers.† Hop aroma is low to none, so make sure your additions are early in the boil.† Noble German hops are traditionally used.†

A big part of all wheat beers is a unique clovey-banana flavor and aroma contributed by the special yeast.† Wyeast makes a great version of this yeast, #3068.† White Labs has their version WLP 300, and a seasonal variety WLP351.† Homebrewers can vary the ratio of clove to banana flavor by tweaking the temperature.† Temperatures in the mid 70ís favor the banana flavor, while cooler temperatures favor clove.† The lighter styles mature fairly quickly, though Weizenbock will take a bit longer due to t the higher alcohol content.†

 

Vital Statistics for German Wheatbeers, BJCP Category 15

Style

Starting Gravity

Final Gravity

Bitterness, IBU

Color, SRM

Weizen

1.044-1.052

1.010-1.014

8-15

2-8

Dunkelweizen

1.044-1.056

1.010-1.014

10-18

14-23

Weizenbock

1.064-1.090

1.015-1.022

15-30

12-25

Robggenbier

1.045-1.056

1.010-1.014

10-20

14-19