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Style Matters - Hefeweizens

In each issue, CBQ spotlights a particular beer style and provide tips from an ingredient and fermentation perspective. In this issue we take a closer look at Hefeweizens.

Hop Notes: Often called "wheat beer," the Hefeweizen style can either be German or American, which uses different hoping rates. The German wheat beers usually have very little hop character and lower IBU’s and ABV%.

The hops used are the traditional noble varieties like GR Tettnang, GR Spalt, Czech Saaz or other varieties like GR Hallertau and GR Perle. Some German styles also use U.S. aroma varieties of the same pedigree.

For American-style wheat beers the hop character is more pronounced but still not dominating, and the IBU and ABV % are normally higher than their European counterparts.

The hops used are U.S. aroma varieties like Tettnang, Willamette, Cascade, Liberty, Crystal or Mt Hood. Again, the use of import hops can also be seen in some U.S. wheat beers.

You can see other hop information in the Hopunion Hop Variety Characteristics Book or view this information online at www.hopunion.com.

Hopunion CBS

Yeast and Fermentation Notes: Most German hefeweizen brewmasters begin the fermentation at 62 degrees, which may sound peculiar to the American ear. We are trained and believe that most fermentations will arrest if they begin at this low temperature.

But the Germans have learned some tricks over time that may be helpful to North American brewers who want to experiment with different styles of hefeweizen.

Try letting the fermentation raise the temperature naturally, as the Germans do. When pitching at 62 degrees, you must start with 1.5 times the yeast you normally use. To replicate this procedure is not easy. The results are worth it, however. It creates a cleaner, less fruity beer. The American style — which means in part starting at a warmer temperature — produces higher esters. This is not necessarily a bad thing, as American consumers often enjoy sweeter, banana-like flavors in their hefeweizens.

But why not be creative and try the German approach? Because of the popularity of hefeweizens at this time of year, it may even be worthwhile to put two on tap — one a German style and the other an American. 

Chris White, White Labs

Malt Notes: Weizen beer is one of today’s most popular craft beer styles, particularly in Germany the land of its birth. Fruity, light, and effervescent it makes a great choice for a hot summers day.

Because of the consumer expectation for a traditional German Hefeweizen to be over 50% wheat malt, these beers can present a serious challenge to a lauter tun — particularly those lauter tuns of the "not to modern" design. Wheat is huskless, providing little material to form a filter bed, and also high in large molecular weight proteins, which can slow down a lauter. We have several suggestions on how to solve this problem. If you are fortunate and have a modern system that can handle large proportions of wheat "brew on" and use a solid two-row malt. The chosen two-row malt will have a large impact on the final beer’s flavor. Cargill Two Row (varieties Kendall/Metcalfe) on the domestic side, or German Pilsner (varietal Barke) are malted for their brewhouse performance and overall flavor. Both make excellent choices.

If you are concerned about your lauter tuns ability to handle a high percentage of wheat, and would like to use a two-row malt, we would suggest using rice hulls in the grist. They are flavorless and soften the bed. They can make the difference between a regular and a very long day!

Another suggestion would be to use a six-row malt. Six-row barley is less plump than two row, and therefore has more husk material to aid in the lauter. Another benefit could be the higher amount of free amino nitrogen (FAN) in six row malts. Occasionally in fermenting a weizen beer the yeast will be short on FAN, causing flavor problems. The use of six-row malt makes this less likely.

Finally, the choice of malted wheat. Cargill offers three malts to choose from. Dingemans Pale Wheat is a maritime wheat (varietal Tremie) frequently used in German weizen – an excellent choice for a traditional European recipe. On the domestic side we offer both a Red and White wheat malt. Our Red wheat is malted from the varietal Crystal, and is known for it’s nuttier, bolder flavor profile. Because of its higher gluten content, it is also used by bakers to produce bread. White wheat, on the other hand, is cleaner in flavor, almost tangy. Because of it plumpness, we chose the varietal Andrew to malt in our white wheat malt. Less glutinous then red wheat, it is often milled and used in pastry flour. As a final thought, the use of roasted wheat, which we offer from Dingemans, is a traditional way to add color and roasted flavors to a Weizen beer while maintaining a high fraction of wheat in the grain bill. 

— Cargill Malt