Archive for the ‘General’ Category

As I’m sure I’ve mentioned before, I’ve been an unashamed fan of Bavarian Weizen style wheat beers for as long as I can remember.  As far as I can recall, my love of the style started with my first Schöfferhofer Hefeweizen.  The bready malt sweetness and the terrific flavour and mouthfeel you get from a beer served “mit hefe” (with yeast) in suspension has long served my somewhat diverse beer palate, even well before I truly ‘discovered’ craft beer and homebrewing.  While I could stomach the pale, bland lagers that typify the Australian mass beer market, I never really enjoyed them like a did a good American-style Pale Ale or a good cloudy hefe or dunkel.  My drinking buddies would stare at me with a mix of amazement and disgust as I downed a dark, murky brew while they mindlessly chugged their cheap megaswill…and even today it’s rare to find others who truly enjoy the weizen style as much as I do.

So it is with enormous pleasure that I can report my latest dunkelweizen is just about as close as anyone could possibly want to both the flavour and aroma of a commercial dunkel.  If you’re familiar with the style, you’ll know it’s a very unique flavour, imparted predominantly by the yeast.  I personally have a lot of trouble describing beer flavours, but needless to say that my Frau Farbissina Dunkelweizen compares perfectly with my favourite commercial examples such as Weihenstephan, Paulaner, and Schöfferhofer.

It came down to the fermentation temperature in the end.  I had allowed myself to be somewhat led astray in thinking the flavour I enjoyed was imparted by the esters that are supposed to result from higher fermentation temperatures using a true weizen yeast.  I think this was mainly because at the opposite end everyone reports that lower ferment temps will produce more “clove-like phenolics”, which I assumed was a bad thing…I can’t remember when I last ate a clove, but I’m pretty sure it was spicy and perhaps tart?

I started making weizens with the dry wb-06 yeast, and my first attempt was done without any temperature control.  I fermented the beer in my under-stairs cupboard.  It stayed mostly around 20 or 21C.  I really enjoyed that beer (my Number 2 hefeweizen), but it wasn’t anything like a commercial hef.  I read up further, and tried wb-06 again, this time with a dunkel and temperature control, at around 20C.  I remember really enjoying that beer too, but in hindsight it still wasn’t anything like a brewery weizen.  I even went as far as entering it into a competition, looking for others thoughts and advice.  It scored ok, with one judge giving it a 30 out of 50, but to quote his comments “…not a bad beer, but not to style”.  Both beers had a tartness on the tongue, and were more dry than I would expect from the style (finishing with a 1010 gravity).

So I decided to move on from wb-06, as a lot of home-brewers were suggesting that dry yeast really couldn’t do justice to a weizen like their liquid counterparts.  I decided to start with what seems to be the most popular yeast for this style, Wyeast’s 3068 – Weihenstephan Weizen.  With a name like that, how could you go wrong, right?  So I grabbed a ‘smack pack’ from Grain & Grape, smacked it, let it swell, then split it amongst two sanitised jars.  Given the huge amount of information out there regarding ferment temps, my plan was to ferment two identical dunkelweizen batches…one at the higher end, and the other down low.  I chose high first, again thinking it was banana esters I was after…so I fermented at 23C.  Early indications were positive, with some great banana aromas coming out of the fermenter, but this seemed to have gone completely by bottling time, and again the beer was tart…and if anything less enjoyable than my wb-06 attempts.  I was very disappointed with this, as I had high expectations of this yeast.  But I still had one half of the experiment to go.

So I brewed the same recipe, and this time set my STC-1000 to 17C, as I’d seen suggested in “Brewing Classic Styles”.  I was doubtful from the start, especially given Wyeast’s website suggests a ferment range of 18C-24C…so how could 17C produce the right result?  But 17 it was, and the fermentation appeared to be quite active, which was promising.  After a week the ferment seemed to have stopped at 1019, a lot higher than anything I’d fermented before.  Wyeast’s 3068 page suggests 73-77% attenuation, but this had stopped at around 70%.  So I decided to up the temperature a couple of notches, given the fermentation was all but complete, so I figured it wouldn’t change the flavour, but might warm the yeast up enough to drop another couple of points.  I ended up leaving it for another 10 days, as things (such as Good Beer Week) kept getting in the way.  When I finally got around to bottling it, the initial tasting was promising, it seemed less tart…but it’s always difficult to really tell when the beer is warm like that.  So I stored the bottles away for conditioning and tried to be patient.

That didn’t last long however, and I popped a bottle in the fridge after only 4 days (one of the last stubbies bottled, given they seem to end up with more priming sugar, and therefore carbonate more quickly).  I let it chill for a few hours, then cracked it open and poured it into my Weihenstephan wheat beer glass.  It smelled fantastic, and I was even more rapt to find it tasted just as good.  Straight away that bready malt with the distinctive yeast flavour…absolutely spot on for how I remember my last Weihenstephan Dunkel.  Brilliant!  So the journey ends…I’m still none the wiser why people think this flavour is “clovey”, but whatever it is, it works for me!

I still have some sachets of wb-06 dry yeast, so will try that fermented at 17C as well as a future experiment.  Stay tuned.


My fascination with Bavarian wheat beer styles continues, and after a few goes using Fermentis’ WB-06 dried yeast, I decided to give liquid yeast a run.  There are literally hundreds of strains of liquid yeast available to home brewers, compared to perhaps a dozen or so dry yeast strains.  The one that seems most popular for weizen brews seems to be Wyeast’s 3068 (Weihenstephan Weizen).  So this is where I started.  I was looking to produce a beer with the smooth taste you get from a commercial hefe, such as the Weihenstephan & Paulaner weizen range.  My WB-06 brews, while good, were coming out more ‘tart’ than I was expecting, even at the higher ferment temperatures.

I decided to make my first batch with liquid yeast a dunkelweizen, as my first dunkel is nearly all gone anyway.  My plan was to make two small batches of the same dunkel, changing only the fermentation temperature.  This is because I’ve read various reports on the web regarding the flavours imparted by 3068 at different temperatures.  Some swear a higher temp such as 23C will give solid banana esters, while others say 3068 is (surprisingly) best fermented at 17C.  Having now read Chris White’s “Yeast” book cover to cover, it also pointed out that under-pitching yeast into wheat beers can produce desirable results, as the stress this puts the yeast under (to reproduce quickly and significantly) can also produce these esters.

Yeastcalc showed me that the “optimal pitch rate” for 11 litres of 1.050 ale was 102 billion cells.  I decided to underpitch around 80 billion into this dunkelweizen.  My smack pack of 3068 was a couple of months old, so around 70% viability, and I was splitting the pack across the two batches, so starting with roughly 35b live cells.  Yeastcalc told me I’d need a 1.5l starter to achieve 80 billion cells.  So a couple of days before I was planning to brew, I smacked the pack and waited for it to swell, then poured it into a sanitised jar.  I boiled up 1.5 litres of starter using some DME, and after cooling, pitched it and half the yeast into a 2 litre mason jar, covering it loosely with sanitised foil (gotta love that Starsan).  I let it sit for 24 hours, swirling it occasionally.  Then I put it in the fridge for 24 hours to allow the yeast to settle out to the bottom of the jar.

On brew day, I brewed the dunkel then took out the yeast starter from the fridge.  You could see a thin white layer of yeast at the bottom of the jar.  I decanted the wort off the yeast, leaving just a little in the bottom, which I swirled to make a slurry.   Once at room temp, I pitched it into my dunkel, and put it in the brew-fridge at 23 degrees.  After a couple of days the smell was pretty impressive, plenty of banana aroma as I’d hoped.  It was similar a week or so later at bottling time, so I was looking forward to the first tasting after a couple weeks of bottle priming.

However, upon first tasting, it has a very similar tartness to my WB-06 brews!  I was surprised by this, thinking it would be a lot more like the commercial weizen beers.  The beer was good, marginally better than my first dunkel, but nothing like a Weihenstephan hefe.  I had read on the web where some brewers thought wb-06 was just a dried version of 3068, but it seemed to have been disproved.  Now I’m not so sure.  However, I will continue the experimentation and put another dunkel down soon, this time fermenting at 17C to see what, if any difference that will make.

In search of the elusive WB-06 Banana

Posted: February 25, 2013 in General

If you’ve had the opportunity to read my previous posts, you will have gotten an idea of my love affair with Fermentis’ Safbrew WB-06 dry yeast.  My first ever homebrew beer was a “Wheat Beer”, but I used the kit yeast that came with the tin of Thomas Coopers Wheat, which is the same ale yeast they provide for pretty much all of their kit beers.  In hindsight choosing the Wheat Beer kit can as my first brew was a mistake…I should have gone with something hoppier, with much more flavour, to get a good idea of what K&K homebrew can be like.  With a true Weizen style wheat beer, it’s ALL about the yeast..the malt/sugar and hops matter little…weizen beer flavour and aroma comes from the yeast.

I actually knew this before brewing that first ever beer…but decided to go ahead with the kit yeast regardless, so I at least had a reference point.  But I quickly moved on to a specialty yeast, designed specifically for wheat and weizen brews.  This was the wb-06 dry yeast.  My 2nd ever brew used similar ingredients to the first…a can of TC Wheat, with some light DME and a bit of dextrose….but this time with the wb-06, pitched dry.  The result was amazing.  The aroma and flavour from the yeast was poles apart from the original brew, and much more like what I’d expect from a wheat beer.  Tart/spicy, with an in-your-face aroma that lasted the whole glass through.  I knew I was on a winner.  I started to research the use of WB-06 even further, and quickly realised it’s a love/hate kind of yeast….especially with weizen purists, who prefer the malty/bready characteristics given off by a number of liquid yeasts, such as the Wyeast 3068.  Some home brewers even argue that WB-06 is more suited to a Belgian Witbeir style (such as Hoegaarden), and I tend to agree…but that’s not the message the maker of wb-06 gives off in their description of the yeast ( and I quote “The yeast produces subtle estery and phenol flavour notes typical of wheat beers. The choice of Wheat or Weizen bier fans”).

Anyway, I had read that wb-06 yeast is capable of imparting both “clove like phenolics” and “banana like esters”.  The latter is supposed to be more prominent when fermented at higher temps, specifically above 23 degrees.  My first use of wb-06 was without temperature control, so the hefe was fermented between about 20 and 22 degrees.  I couldn’t smell or taste any banana.  I assumed the tartness I was tasting was clove…but to be honest I’m not sure what cloves taste like, so it was only an assumption.  I then brewed a dunkelweizen, fermented at 19.5 degrees.  Again I loved this beer, tart/spicy as before, but still no banana aroma/flavour.  So after brewing my Foxxy amber ale with Pete, I decided to really test the yeast out.  I tweeted Fermentis and asked them what temperature they suggested to bring out the banana, and they agreed that 23.5 would be suitable.  It felt a little strange dialling my stc-1000 in to this temperature, as most other ales are fermented at a much lower temperature, with 18 degrees seeming to be the most popular choice.  But I ploughed ahead with 23.5, and a few days into the fermentation could smell some banana in the brewfridge…but wasn’t sure if it was imagined or not.  Fermentation was complete within a week, as it always seems to be with wb-06…and tasting during bottling showed some promising results.

The hefe (which I’ve dubbed “No. Two Hefeweizen Premium”) is now two weeks old, and upon tasting today has a wonderful banana aroma and flavour…the usual tart/spicy wb-06 character remains, but there’s no doubting the esters that have been produced by the higher temps.  It’s time to move on to the highly popular liquid yeast strains now to compare, starting with the Wyeast 3068.  I’ll report back once complete.

It’s been a while since my last entry, xmas and new year tend to do that I guess.  So a quick update…I bottled my first Pale Ale (done with Amarillo hops) on Jan 12, after giving it 6 days in the primary, and another week in the secondary.  I’m not sure I’m going to continue with using a secondary, it seems to be primarily to help “clear” a beer, so that it’s more see-through once poured into the glass.  I’m not worried about how the beer looks to be honest, it’s the flavour that concerns me.  It seems many experienced home brewers are now doing away with time in a secondary, just allowing their brews plenty of time in the primary before bottling/kegging.  Since my last brew I’ve started using a fine stainless-steel strainer to catch the hop sludge/break from the pot, and that may be doing a good enough job that I’ll stick with brewing in one fermenter most times.

Anyway, a couple of days before bottling Carnie Pale Ale I, I decided to brew Pale Ale II, using Cascade & Nelson Sauvin hops.  The former are hugely popular in the US, and seem to be a real “go to” hop for many brewers.  Cascade hops are meant to impart more of a citrus aroma and fruity nose to the beer than the earthier Amarillo I’ve mostly used to date.  And after enjoying a few Matilda Bay Fat Yak ales lately, I’m keen to get something similar going…popular opinion suggests a combination of Cascade & Nelson Sauvin hops late in the boil should get you pointed in the right direction.

I’ve also decided to dry hop for the first time with Pale Ale II…it’s a late decision, brought on primarily by a few Fat Yak pints at the pub today, I just love the aroma/hop flavour that beer has, and I’m hoping dry hopping with some more Cascade might emulate it somewhat.  It’s a little late given it’s day 6 of fermentation (would normally dry hop on day 4 or 5), but I’ll give it a run and see how it turns out.  This brew is already at its FG of 1011, so i’ll give it a couple of more days with the hops in there before bottling later this week.  Tasting just before dry hopping today is very promising, I can see a lot more Cascade/Nelson Sauvin in Carnie Brewing’s future!

Goldmember Ale Tasting

Posted: December 20, 2012 in General

I think I mentioned earlier that I opened one of my Goldmember Ale’s after 5 days of bottle conditioning, only to find it completely flat.  I shouldn’t be surprised given it’s supposed to take 2-3 weeks to carbonate, but I had been spoiled by my previous kit beers that i’d primed with carb drops being fully carbed inside of a week.  Anyway, after 10 days I couldn’t wait any longer, so I popped one in the fridge, and a few hours later cracked the top.  I was delighted to hear a telltale hiss, and sure enough on pouring it into the glass it had carbonated perfectly.

The colour is fantastic, a deep golden colour, with a perfect 1 inch head that stays until the bitter end.  And yes that’s a deliberate play on words, ‘coz this beer is a hoppy bastard.  The recipe, based on “Dr Smurto’s Golden Ale” called for around 33 IBU’s.  Given this was my first full extract brew, using a partial boil, I spent a lot of time trying to work out how to adjust the hop additions to achieve the desired result.  But it was always going to be trial and error, and I definitely seem to have landed on the “too much” side, with an IBU of more like 45.  Don’t get me wrong, what I mean is this brew has too many hops for the style…it’s probably no longer an “English Best Bitter”, like the James Squire Golden Ale it’s based on.  But it’s still fantastic, easily the best beer i’ve made, terrific mouthfeel, aromatic as hell, and deliciously bitter.  It got me thinking about IPA’s (India Pale Ales), a style of brew that is deliberately heavily hopped, so I jumped back into the BJCP style guidelines to see if my beer met any of the criteria for an IPA.  It didn’t take long to find an almost exact match…an American IPA.  Right colour (13 EBC), right level of bitterness, with American hops (Amarillo) and US-05 (American Ale) yeast.  So I guess I’ll just pretend that’s what I was going for, and I’ve gotten some valuable real life experience on how to adjust my hop volumes during partial boils for next time.

Stocking up on ingredients

Posted: December 17, 2012 in General

This post is a little out of order, chronologically speaking.  Before I brewed my Frau Farbissina Dunkel, of course I needed to source the ingredients.  So I took the opportunity to nick down to Grain & Grape in Yarraville, which i’d heard a lot about.  And I’d also noticed they had a “20% off everything” sale on their home brew gear, so no better time to stock up!

And stock up I did…instead of just a couple of tins of LME and some yeast, I walked out with the following:

  • 15kg container of Briess CBW Bavarian Wheat LME
  • 15kg container of Briess CBW Golden Light LME
  • 5kg bag of Briess CBW Sparkling Amber DME
  • 2 x US-05 and 2 x WB-06 dry yeast sachets
  • Various specialty grains for my upcoming Dunkelweizen and Amber Ale brews

The combination of bulk LME and G&G’s 20% off was brilliant, the 15kg’s of malt cost only $68, i.e. $4.50/kg.  Compare that to a single 1.5kg tin of comparable Coopers LME for $14 ($9.33/kg) and I now have enough LME to make roughly 10 brews for half the price i’d normally pay.  At these prices I can produce my home brew for around $1.24 per litre, or just under $10 a slab/carton!  Compare that to $30 a slab for megaswill (VB, Carlton, XXXX), $40 a slab for marginally decent beer (Peroni, 1664), or $65 a slab for commercial/craft beer that’s any good (White Rabbit Dark Ale, 3 Ravens)…

I’ve decided to call my version of Dr Smurto’s Golden Ale my “Goldmember Ale”, sticking to my aim that each of my beers will have some kind of link to Austin Powers.  After about a week in the secondary, I decided it was time to bottle Goldmember, it had well and truly finished fermenting, and had enough time to clear itself up.  I indulged in the usual tasting while bottling, and it’s definitely the hoppiest beer i’ve made….quite bitter, and very tasty, so i’m looking forward to how this will turn out in a couple of weeks.

It was also the first beer I ‘bulk primed’….a method of adding just enough sugar to the beer before bottling to allow it to carbonate in the bottle.  Previously I was doing this via “carbonation drops”, little balls of sugar that you drop into the bottle before filling it with beer….nice and easy, but they have a few minor issues, such as:

  • they’re designed to be used at a rate of 1 drop per 375ml stubby and 2 drops into 750ml bottles.  Most stubbies these days are 330ml, so the beer can end up being a little over-carbonated.  And any 500ml stubbies you want to fill need to be primed separately, as the drops aren’t designed to be broken/cut with any accuracy.
  • the drops are relatively uniform in size/weight, at aroud 3.2 grams per drop.  This means you carbonate every beer you bottle with the same amount of co2 (known as ‘volumes’, e.g. “I prefer 3.6 volumes of co2 in my wheat beers).  This may not suit the style of beer you’re brewing each time, for example english bitters such as the Goldmember Ale i’ve just produced are usually quite lowly carbed (mid to low 2’s).
  • they’re relatively expensive compared to other methods of priming.

So rather than carbonation drops, there are various other methods.  Many home brewers use a measuring spoon to simply add the desired amount of sugar to each bottle individually, adjusting the amount depending on the size of each bottle.  This can be quite time consuming, and trying to get a measured scoop of sugar into the neck of a beer bottle can be a challenge in itself.  I’ve even heard of some guys using a syringe to inject a sugar syrup into each bottle, but that sounds way too fiddly for me.  Then there’s ‘bulk priming’…using a calculator such as this, you can determine exactly how much primer to add to the beer prior to bottling.  I say primer because you can use pretty much anything fermentable, such as dextrose, white/brown/raw sugar, dry malt extract, golden syrup or even honey.  Popular opinion seems to be that because of the minuscule amounts being added to each bottle it won’t make a difference to taste, but there are those that disagree.  I saw someone saying last week that using DME to prime will give smoother bubbles making it quite suitable to a Kilkenny-style Irish Ale.

Anyway, using the calculator I put in that I wanted 2.6 vols of co2, that my beer temperature had been about 19 degrees during fermentation, and that I was priming 21 litres of beer with cane sugar (raw sugar in my case).  That told me I needed about 140 grams of sugar, so I added that to 200 ml of water in a saucepan and brought it to the boil to ensure all the sugar was dissolved.  Then I added this solution to the bottom of my empty fermenter (now being used as a “bottling bucket”), ran a hose from the tap of my Goldmember ale’s fermenter into the bottom of the bottling bucket, and ‘racked’ the beer onto the sugar syrup.  This is a good way to ensure the sugar syrup gets evenly distributed throughout the beer, without having to stir it in, which risks oxidising the beer at this stage.  Once complete, I added my “little bottler” to the tap on the bottling bucket and proceeded to fill my bottles….including some 500ml stubbies now that I didn’t have to worry about priming them individually.

One last note, I was left with the usual 50ml or so of beer in the bottom of the bottling bucket, and not being one to ever waste beer, I decided to drink it.  I was a little surprised to find it was quite sugary sweet, it seems some of my sugar solution had settled to the bottom of the bucket.  This could mean a couple of things…if it didn’t get mixed in well enough some of my beer may be under-carbonated….and if there was a lot of the sugar solution in the beer that went into the last couple of bottles, they could become highly over-carbonated, and worst case turn into a bottle bomb.  So i marked the cap of the last couple of stubbies I filled and will keep an eye on them during conditioning over the coming days.