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A Dark Journey Through Hefeweizen - Part 2

Posted by zVulture on 8/12/2015 at 03:16:57 PM


Part 2 - Mastering the Yeast

Continued from part 1

My first alchemical run at brewing a Dunkelweizen Clone had started out quite a success but the yearning to make it better left me no time to rest. Lady Luck had provided me with a base yet being a new brewer it also left me in the dark on just how I did it. Where to even start when making this beer into something better? Again I search my clerical tomes, this time a real one, Brewing With Wheat by Stan Hieronymus. This book was about the history and modern methods of wheat beer creation.  While not a guide - as it details more professional level brewing than that at home - it gave me good insight to start experimenting.

The first step in my research was the two primary elements of this beer, Phenols (Clove) and Esters (Banana). These are what make a hefeweizen what it really is as the wheat base is generally quite simple and clean tasting. My primary goal forming, I wanted a balanced beer that wasn't strong in any aspect to make it quite drinkable yet tasty enough to enjoy drinking it daily. To that end I needed to figure out just how to perfect the flavors produced by the yeast. This post will be a little more extensive to cover both aspects of the yeast as well as the background to understanding the 'why'.

No clove was harmed in the making of this beer.

Four Vinyl Guacamole?

If you didn't fail your linguistics check (or are not dyslexic), 2-Methoxy-4-vinylphenol, aka 4-vinyl guaiacol (or 4-VG for short), is the chemical which brings out the phenolic flavor in beer often described as "clove". This flavor is produced by the break down of ferulic acid by certain strains of yeast that have the capacity to produce the right enzyme. Like many other enzymes this one has an optimal temperature range at which it works best. So there are two key components in order to focus on this clove like flavor, Ferulic Acid production and Fermentation Temperature.

Ferulic Acid is a component of grains that gets produced by, surprise surprise, an enzyme. Once again we are starting off with those two enzyme keys of temperature and pH. The temperature range for this particular beastie is 109–113 F (43–45 C), which I generally try to hit 111F (or 44C) because it's easy to remember. For the other half of this alchemy, it is best to be in the pH range of 5.7–5.8. This is outside normal mash PH range so hold off on any acidification methods you use till after this step.

The other part of this is going to be fermentation temperature. At least this is simple enough after all that right? Just keep that fermentation on the cold side, between 62 and 64 F (17-18 C). This should help produce plenty of clove for your beer so lets put it all together.


Clove Bomb Wheat

Type: Partial Mash
Batch Vol: 5.50 gal
Bottling Vol: 5.00 gal

Amount Name Type Addition %Bill/IBU
3 lb White Wheat Malt Grain Mash 35%
2 lbs Munich 10L Grain Mash 23%
0.55 lb (8.8 oz) CaraMunich II malt Grain Mash 6%
0.15 lb (2.4 oz) Carafa Special II Grain Mash 2%
3 lb Dry Wheat Malt Extract Extract Mash 35%
0.75 oz Hallertau [4%] Hop Boil 60.0 min -
1 Vial Hefeweizen Ale Yeast (White Labs WLP300) Yeast Pitch Temp -


I highly recommend doing a BIAB method for most of these brews as it allows direct heating to get through the step mash or similar methods quickly. Otherwise look into doing a step mash as best you can. You need to bring the water up to the strike temp to get the grain to 111 F and let it rest for 30 minutes at that temp. Once completed, add any acidification adjustments to get to your needed pH (if you do water treatment). Afterward perform a normal mash, I usually go hot at 156 F (69, hehehe, C) for an hour. Then ferment the beer at 62F-64F for three weeks or until done.

Just as a small warning, this is a drinkable beer but please try in a small one gallon batch. It does decently after aging a couple months but before that the strong clove and almost lack of esters isn't always what people enjoy tasting. I enjoyed surprising a few BJCP tasters with this one though to the point of disbelief I didn't use any actual clove.

Ring Ring Ring Ring...

Orange you glad I didn't say Banana?

Spice is nice, but not without the fruity flavors to help soften the blow a bit. Different yeast strains can produces Esters that come across as Bubblegum, Juicy Fruit, Apricot, or those similar to a certain yellow fruit. Hefeweizen strains - WLP300 in this case - can be quite sadistic in this case, as abusing the yeast helps create these wonderful flavors. Utilizing tools like Pitch Rate and Fermentation Temperature can help dial in the amount you want in the beer.

It all comes down to the production of Fusel Alcohols. That name might have a bad reputation among homebrewers but it actually is a category of alcohols that covers more than just the slovenly taste associated with it. Isoamyl alcohol is one of a few under that yellow umbrella of doom which is beneficial to be created. This compound is created inside the yeast cells and further processed into Isoamyl acetate which is also called 'Banana Oil' due to it's flavor. So the trick is promoting this yet avoiding the more nasty Fusel Alcohols.

In order to do this the easiest factor to manage is fermentation temeprature. The higher you go, the more stress you put the yeast under which helps promote the production of these Fusel Alcohols. In the case of WLP300, you can keep it around 72 F (22 C) to promote this flavor without causing too much issues. There is also the option of underpitching the yeast which helps stress it out further promoting production. This is a bit more tricky as pitching too little will give a chance for infection or a cut short fermentation. Luckily I found the key amount in a five gallon batch was...a single Vial, no more no less.

Isoamyl acetate

Banana Bomb Wheat

We are going to use the same recipe as the Clove Bomb so to not repeat it, here is the all grain version:

Type: All Grain
Batch Vol: 5.50 gal
Bottling Vol: 5.00 gal

Amount Name Type Addition %Bill/IBU
6 lb White Wheat Malt Grain Mash 56%
4 lbs Munich 10L Grain Mash 36%
0.55 lb (8.8 oz) CaraMunich II malt Grain Mash 6%
0.15 lb (2.4 oz) Carafa Special II Grain Mash 2%
0.75 oz Hallertau [4%] Hop Boil 60.0 min -
1 Vial Hefeweizen Ale Yeast (White Labs WLP300) Yeast Pitch Temp -


Because we are focusing on the esters, you can keep this to a simple mash at 156 F (69 C) for an hour. You want to then pitch a Vial of WLP300. This is usually around 100 million cells in a vial so you can do about the equivalent in other brands. Then just ferment the beer at about 72 F (22C) and try to keep it at that range. I highly recommend using a blowoff tube for this if you're not using it already as it can really get messy otherwise.

Final Notes

Once you have a grasp on these two flavor producers it just becomes a factor of balancing out the elements. Temperature is really the clincher of both these though so try to use Pitch Rate and the Fuleric Rest to your advantage. Otherwise you will have a battle trying to find a balance between getting your Phenols and the Esters. I will detail out my version of this in Part 5 when I bring everything together. Next up though, is around the brewing process part of my research, the Decoction Mash.

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

Tags for this post: dunkelweizen, hefeweizen, WLP300, Banana, Ester, Clove, Phenol

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