Menu Icon

Heads up! We've had a few last minute withdrawals for the 2015 BrewUnited Challenge, meaning you can still enter for a shot at nearly $4700 in prizes! Join the wait list right away!

A Dark Journey Through Hefeweizen - Part 5

Posted by zVulture on 9/16/2015 at 10:22:26 PM


Part 5 - Open Fermentation

Continued from Part 1 - The Dunkelweizen Clone, Part 2 - Mastering the Yeast, Part 3 - Decocting Mashing, and Part 4 - Yeast Blending.

There always seems another thing to go out and try between the myths and methods behind brewing. Even with just focusing on Hefeweizen yeast I have managed to get through more than 12 brew sessions experimenting. Living in Southern California, everything has to be potent and powerful when it comes to flavors. A balanced beer isn't all that popular no matter how challenging it was to make it. So I go to find a path to focus just on Ester production and this time with Open Fermantion and Fermenter Shape.

Picking out a Fermenter

It was one thing to want something and another to pull it off. Stopping by a homebrew shop there was little actual options for fermentation vessels. Checking online didn't result in anything better as everything seemed to be the usual cylinder. Creativity knows no bounds though as I broadened my search to just plastic PET containers. Lo' and behold I come across my projects savior, The Gamma 2 Vittles Vault Plus! I had planned on picking some of these up for grain storage when I got more space so for $20 I couldn't pass up this as an option. The lid is air tight so I could drill and use an airlock if needed later or just use for actual dog food. I was also glad that the 25lb I selected was just the right size for 5.5 gallon batches. The more short and wide square shape had me worried at first but it seemed to fit fine in the fermentation chamber but I don't think I could fit two. On to the brewing!

Completely not a waste of Californian water at all


Type: BIAB All Grain
Style: 15b Dunkelweizen
Alcohol: ~4.5%
IBU: ~12
Batch Vol: 5.50 gal
Bottling Vol: 5.00 gal

Amount Name Type Addition %Bill/IBU
5 lb White Wheat Malt Grain Mash 62%
2 lbs Dark Munuch Malt Grain Mash 20%
1 lb Flaked Wheat Grain Mash 10%
0.4 lb (6.4 oz) Caramunich III Malt Grain Mash 4%
0.2 lb (3.2 oz) Caramunich I Malt Grain Mash 2%
0.15 lb (2.4 oz) Carafa Special I Grain Mash 1%
0.75 oz Hallertau [4%] Hop Boil 60.0 min 12.6
0.5 Vial Hefeweizen Ale Yeast (White Labs WLP300) Yeast Pitch Temp -
0.5 Vial Bastogne Belgian Ale Yeast (White Labs WLP510) Yeast Pitch Temp -


With my earlier results, the brew day was simplified down to just a BIAB two-step mash. A 10 minute rest at 111 F (44 C) and a Sacc rest at 154 F (68 C). Though I had entirely gotten used to the high efficiency of my decoction mash and I forgot to update my equipment profile. This ended up being a Session version which skewed my goal a little on this beer. Still, I knew that fermenting at 72F would really kick out a lot of esters in this beer so it should be enough.

The bad news on brew day

Open Fermentation

I was really worried about contamination on this one. A lot of the pro breweries have sanitization filters for their open ferment rooms to keep the air clean of possible contaminants. The best I had was a squirt down of starsan in a spray bottle. I then used the brew bag itself after a rinse and dip in sanitizer as a way to keep anything getting in yet letting it breathe. The trick though was that this still was a closed environment being a chest freezer as my fermentation chamber. So throughout the fermentation, about once a day as best I could remember, I would open the chest up and try to gently waft the air around to get the CO2 exchanged out.

7.1 CuFt chest freezer is mighty nice for double batches

The Results

The challenge with this beer was getting Esters out of it and I did indeed draw esters while avoiding the Phenol/Clove flavors with the high fermentation. Just as any local would tell me, it just doesn't have enough pop. The usual heavy esters that I get from warm fermentation just wasn't there. It was strange and then I got a few more beers in when it hit me. This was damn smooth for the temperature fermented at and the esters did not have any hints of the fusel alcohols they usually come from. I could imagine that this could be used for pushing the limit on the hot end with higher gravity beers. Dunkelweizenbock seemed like quite an interesting idea to store for later.

This definitely needs more testing, but I will have to put this on hold though as the year end competition season cranks up. Brew United, Reddit, and 3 other local competitions drawing my attention all before December. Plus the barrel project and I have about 45+ gallons coming over the next two months, a nice problem to have but there are limits till I get more space. I plan to bring this brew to the next QUAFF meeting though to help empty my stores just a bit more before the next batches come through. So see you if your local!


And you thought I was done, I did mention that the mixed yeast I use makes for an extra vial's worth. I didn't want this to go bad so I ended up spending under $20 for four gallons of non-condensed, perservative free, 100% apple juice from Costco. Dumping that into a carboy with the extra mixed yeast (300 + 510) with no other preperation. I had no idea how it would come out but fermented at 72 I thought it would get some nice fruity characters. The final product came out quite tasty for what I put into it. I recomend this for a quick party batch of 'Cider' as it is good. After going to a lecture and tasting on real ciders though it left me wanting. I might try to get ahold of some Crisp cider juice (must?) for the next time I try this to enhance the flavor.

Steven, otherwise known as zVulture on reddit or in games, is a homebrewer with two years and counting under the belt. Ambitious enough to think he can work his way up to opening his own brewery but knows he has a lot to learn. Beyond having fun doing experimental homebrewing to such an end, he enjoys learning and using old techniques, useful or not, to make beer. "[We] are only concerned with giving homebrewers accurate information based on our own experience in the hope that they will find the information useful and employ it to make their own homebrewing hobby more fun and rewarding. Because that’s what it’s all about– fun. If you’re stressing over homebrewing, you’re doing something wrong." - Denny Conn

Please support BrewUnited by using our Amazon affiliate link when doing any shopping there - be it for homebrewing or for your regular shopping!

Please log in to comment on this post
Don't have an account?

Great article! I just had one question. When your Hefe finished you noted that you didn't have that "pop" that your neighbors would expect, but had a smoother character. Were you going for less Clove flavor and more banana like esters? If it avoided those spicey esters, it would be interesting to try in an ale (Amber, brown, etc.) that those esters would be less than desirable, but the Brewer couldn't maintain low ferm temps.

posted by Buxman14 on 9/19/2015 at 03:08:59 PM

@Buxman14 sorry on the delayed response, I don't get notices on comments. Open fermentation does help mellow out the esters at higher temperatures but only in the fact it helps prevent the 'sharp' fusel alcohols that are ester per-cursors (they break down into esters). I will be doing more tests to see how open fermentation works in my process and will post on that later.

posted by zVulture on 9/24/2015 at 02:25:44 PM

Tags for this post: dunkelweizen, hefeweizen, open fermentation, adventure

Bringing Yeast Back from the Dead

Posted by homebrewdad on 9/15/2015 at 09:40:04 AM

The purpose of my last brewday was to put together my Christmas beer for this year. I'm lucky enough to be part of an email list containing some knowledgeable, accomplished brewers, and this year, we're all brewing up an assortment of Christmas beers for a swap. I'm excited to be a part of this, but I'm also a bit nervous, as I want to be sure that my offering is respectable.

My entry was supposed to be a big, caramel-heavy brew, so I put together a recipe that aligns pretty closely with an English old ale. Maris Otter, some layered British Crystal malts, a little honey malt (because that stuff is amazing), Target hops, a little table sugar to dry things out, and my favorite dry English yeast - WLP037 (Yorkshire Square Ale). I planned to reduce some of my first runnings to syrup, maybe employ a longer boil - all in all, I wanted this beer to be an absolute caramel bomb.

WLP037 is a Platinum offering from White Labs that is apparently a bit divisive; people seem to either love it or hate it, as the yeast has a touch of a Belgian like character to it. Sadly, it appears that I am in the minority "love" camp, as last year, White Labs elected to not sell the yeast... and it looks like they made the same choice this year; I suspect that they may never sell it again. Fortunately, I keep a culture of this yeast...
[ read more... ]

Tags for this post: yeast, starter, vitality, viability, old yeast, wlp037

QUAFF Maple Bourbon Barrel Project - Part 1

Posted by zVulture on 9/13/2015 at 03:21:03 PM


Sorry on the delay for the usual Friday post, but just by the title you can guess just what might have kept me busy this week. About a month ago I got into a group project with other local brewers, mostly with QUAFF members. The lead of the project managed to get ahold of two 55 gallon bourbon barrels that had been used to age Maple Syrup. These are usually reserved for founders of the aging project and so I jumped on this as a rare opportunity. Better yet, we already had the cooperation of a local nanobrewery, Arcana Brewery, to let us use their system and fermenter as it would be quite a bit of work to pull 55 gallons out of homebrew gear. This post is a bit more just documenting what we went through than any particular topic like I usually do.

Planning and Scaling

It's one thing to have a good idea and another to pull it off entirely. We had a good planning session together where we worked out the styles of beers and the recipes to scale up. The initial contenders were Old Ale, Breakfast (Pancake) Pale Ale, Breakfast Stout, and Barleywine. After some heated discussion, we ended up closing it down to the Old Ale for the first barrel which we modified to take Molasses instead of Dark Brown Sugar or Treacle to go with the Maple. The second barrel was going to get a Breakfast Stout where we really...
[ read more... ]

Tags for this post: Barrel, Bourbon, Bourbon Barrel, Maple, Molasses, Old Ale, Scale Up

unTraditional Bock - BrewUnited Challenge Beer #1

Posted by wildscientist on 9/11/2015 at 12:25:53 AM

Initial recipe for my unTraditional Bock:
8lbs Munich - light
3lbs German Pilsner
1lb Crystal 60L
1lb flaked wheat (toasted at 300F until golden)

Mash low at 143 and boil for 3 hours to build flavor and color

0.25oz Perle and Challenger @60
Irish Moss @15
0.25oz Perle and Challenger @15

Saflager 34/70, use Brulosopher’s quick lager method

After looking at some more recipes and letting the initial take simmer in my mind for a bit, I was on edge with using 1 full pound of Crystal 60L. At ~7.5% of the total grist, it seemed excessive even though many recipes seemed to have around that much of similar malted grains, but I just couldn’t pull the trigger. I was worried about a cloying caramel sweetness that would over power the rich deep malt backbone from the Munich and Pilsner. I also dropped the wheat because I didn’t want to fight haze with all the starches from the wheat and hoped that 4oz (just under 2%) of well toasted flaked wheat would add a bit of oomph to the beer, oddly the color of the wheat didn’t change all that dramatically, but the smell and taste sure did. I then bumped up the Munich and Pils to get OG more in range stylistically according to BeerSmith and increased the initial bittering charge of hops to again keep it more in style and to balance out the slight increase in gravity.

I then started to question the mash...
[ read more... ]

Tags for this post: bock, traditional, BrewUnited, challenge, untraditional, lager

How to Brew an Excellent Pumpkin Ale - Some Tried and True Tips

Posted by homebrewdad on 9/10/2015 at 01:09:08 AM

Yes, it's that time of year again - when it seems like half of the homebrewing population is debating the best way to brew a good pumpkin ale (often with little to no firsthand experience on the subject), while the other half is suggesting that the first step to enjoying a pumpkin ale is to pour it into the closest drain.  And of course, craft beer outlets everywhere are inundated with pumpkin offerings of varying quality, which likely encourages the trend even more. 

Rather than take a side on that debate, the following article is presented as some tried and true suggestions to follow if you find yourself wanting to brew a pumpkin ale.  After all, if you're going to do one of these beers, do yourself (and anyone you share the beer with) a favor, and make a good one!

Note from homebrewdad: this article is directly taken from a post by /u/rrrx at reddit's homebrewing sub.  While I have edited and applied formatting, I do not take any credit for the content.  I have reprinted it here with permission.

Interestingly, it seems that many brewers are adamantly opposed to using actual pumpkin flesh in their beers, feeling that doing so doesn't really offer anything to the beer and just makes a mess.  Instead, they rely on their spice mix to invoke that signature pumpkin beer flavor.

Pumpkin ale - image courtesy of Google image search

As an avowed advocate of using actual pumpkin in pumpkin ales, I...
[ read more... ]

Tags for this post: pumpkin, ale, spice, pumpkin flesh, homebrew

Custom Tap Handle from Half-Yankee Workshop

Posted by Matt on 9/09/2015 at 09:17:04 AM

I won!
As most of you know, Brew United ran a small raffle to give away an awesome custom tap handle from Half Yankee Workshop. This is the same Tap Handle that was previously reviewed by the user Stonehands, and after such an awesome review a lot of us were eager to win. 
Thanks to a lengthy discussion about the 2015 BJCP guidelines, I won! 

In all its glory!
I have a thrown-together one tap setup that I use primarily for IPAs and beers that should be drank fresh. It's nothing glamorous, but it's all I have the space, time, and money for at the moment. So this tap handle feels a bit like I'm putting (let's show my red neck upbringing here) "a new chandelier in a haunted house". 
The kegerator doesn't deserve the tap handle, it's fantastic. Solid, beautiful wood, it really is fantastic work. I'm pretty jealous of the craftsmanship and my own lack of woodworking skills. 
I had some trouble getting it onto the tap. Something about how the screws line up, I need to get it on pretty tight in order to have the board display out. Not a big deal, I plan on replacing this tap pretty soon anyways with a perlick. 

Awwwwwww yes
It's pretty tall, I think it will look a...
[ read more... ]

Tags for this post: Tap Handle, BrewUnited

Competition Hopes and Dreams: Down the Drain

Posted by homebrewdad on 9/08/2015 at 09:18:52 AM

I had planned to write about a fun - or, at least positive - subject for my post today. I've been working on my Christmas beer for this year, and while it's a bit off the wall, I have some high hopes for it. Related to that Christmas beer, I found myself trying to revive some old, neglected yeast; that turned out to be an interesting process. Also, I do really need to get a pumpkin beer "how to" post up.

Unfortunately, those topics will have to wait. Instead, it appears that it is time for a classic "what Homebrew Dad screwed up this time" story.

You may recall me posting three weeks or so ago about my nine hour brewday in preparation for the Alabama Brew Off. I had wanted to enter at least a couple of beers into the competition, but had missed the announcement stating when they would accept entries; as a result, I only had a chance to brew once for the comp. I ended up deciding to go with a split batch, which resulted in seven gallons of a simple wort. Four gallons got WLP820 and was fermented via the fast lager process as a Festbier. The other three gallons got further split; both got WLP500 so as to be fermented as a Belgian Blond, but I decided to play with pitch rates to see which gave the best Belgian character.

The fermentation process seemed to go great; once fermentation slowed,...
[ read more... ]

Tags for this post: infection, competition, drain pour, beer, infected

When A Pot Is Not Just A Pot

Posted by zVulture on 9/03/2015 at 09:57:18 PM


With a short break from the dunkelweizen series as I wait for the latest batch to finish fermentation, my investigations turn to equipment. Moving into a place with more space by the end of the year I wanted to price out a set of equipment. I was hitting limits as far as making higher gravity beers or doing new processes for my experimental brews. So I started digging into the research that is one reason I enjoy this hobby, there is always so much to learn (and subsequently rant about). First I needed to get a pot, that can't be hard to pick right?

The right size is (not) all you need

It should just be simple as moving from my old 5 gallon pot when I was doing extract or partial mash brews to the one I have now at 8 gallons for full mash brews. Yet what I saw as the size I needed changed with the processes I used. Now I have this expensive pot and I am looking to replace it in less than a year! My method of no-sparge brewing suddenly became impossible when trying to brew a Strong Scotch Ale as apparently 7 gallons wasn't enough in one go. And that isn't even the only one as I started looking into parti-gyle brewing.

Planning ahead really is the key to a smooth brew day and equipment which is the most expensive piece is the most important. I only plan on doing 5 gallon...
[ read more... ]

Tags for this post: pot, kettle, equipment, tri-clover clamp

Reviewing the Lavatools Javelin Digital Thermometer

Posted by homebrewdad on 9/01/2015 at 09:50:03 AM

It has come to my attention that Lavatools mistakenly shipped normal Javelin thermometers to me, not the Javelin PRO models that I was supposed to review.  As such, I have edited my review to reflect this.
Accurate temperature reading are an absolute must for serious homebrewers, as variances of even a few degrees Fahrenheit can make huge differences in wort fermentability and the final mouthfeel of a beer. Let us all observe a moment of silence for that glass floating thermometer that comes with so many starter sets. While we may keep it around for fun, one of the first pieces of gear that gets upgraded by the typical homebrewer is that thermometer, as traditional thermometers like this are often neither particularly accurate nor quick (or easy) to read. And, of course, they are made of glass - making them susceptible to death by fall.

It seems like there is a wide range of very affordable digital thermometers for sale, but if you want serious accuracy and super fast read times, there is only one big name on the market - the Thermoworks Thermapen. Now, don't get me wrong; I received a Thermapen for my birthday a couple of years ago, and I love it. If I'm being perfectly honest, the "bling" factor of having a real top of the line piece of gear probably factors into my feelings, but being able to pull a dead accurate reading in an near instant manner is pretty great. Having a great...
[ read more... ]

Tags for this post: Javelin, PRO, Lavatools, digital, thermometer, Thermapen

In Pursuit of a Great IPA Hop Bursting and Hop Stands Are they worth it?

Posted by madcowbrewing on 8/30/2015 at 07:33:04 PM


For the longest time, I have been a very traditional brewer when it comes to hopping and bittering.  Sixty minute addition for my bitterness, somewhere around 20 for flavor and then 0-5 minutes for aroma. Some of it was my not wanting to invest in the amount of hops it takes to do these methods. But as of the last few years you are hearing more and more of these new techniques to insert not only flavor and aroma into your beer but bitterness too. And in search of a great IPA recipe, what would you invest to make it. These techniques are said to be anchored in home brewing and have cascaded into the commercial realm of some of the great IPA brewers. So there has to be some truth that they work.

Hop Bursting is the addition of late hops, and only late hops. No bitterness hopping at the beginning of the boil. Some brewers use a mash hop or first wort hop to compliment or add some bitterness. With this addition some say the bitterness tends to be softer. I am not sure it does, but I can tell you it lends a massive hop aroma and flavor.

Hop Stands, simply put, are the addition of hops post boil before the cooling, or sometimes it is during the whirlpool. As the wort is still hot, not boiling, you are extracting some alpha acids, but not as much as you would with boiling. And again, you are...
[ read more... ]

Tags for this post: IPA, Hop Bursting, Hop Stand

Jump to page:    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 [Next] [Last Page]