The Great American Wheat Experiment (Part 1)

Raising a Respectable Wheat

Inspired by Bell's Wheat Project some time ago, a friend and I have decided to brew a series of one of our favorite styles - the American Wheat. The idea is to start out with a reasonably neutral recipe and go 'up and out' from there. We're shooting for something in the neighborhood of Sierra Nevada Wheat or Pyramid or Bell's Oberon - something like that. Just a nice, refreshing American wheat.

Once this first one is done, we will evaluate the beer and make the necessary adjustments.

Yeast Choices

We are starting with Safale S-05 (i.e. WLP001/1056 California Ale) yeast for its clean, neutral fermenting characterics. Because the recipe is simple, we may find that the first beer lacks character that could be added by using some different yeasts. Here are a few choices:

Kolsch Yeast - [White Labs WLP029] - This 'hybrid' yeast strain will add some fruity character and, because it can ferment at a lower temperature (compared to S-05) could be a good chance to produce a 'clean' character.
American Hefeweizen Yeast - [White Labs WLP320] - Developed from yeasts that produce an 'Oregon Style Hefeweizen.' This has little of the bannana/clove characteristics of traditional Hefeweizen yeast but apparently much less. Presumably, Pyramid is an 'Oregon Style Hefeweizen' so this may be another interesting choice.
Saison Yeast [White Labs WLP565] - Either by itself or in a blend with S-05/WLP001/1056, a Saison yeast is another choice that I might consider. I would ferment at the lowest recommended temperature (68) for this yeast to constrain some of its 'Belgianness' yet hopefully bring through a bit of it pear, spicy, complex character.

Hop Choices

Liberty is our initial hop of choice. An American hop with roots in the classic German Hallertauer variety, it just seemed a good, somewhat neutral choice. Other directions might include:

Saaz - The hop of choice in Bell's Oberon, Saaz would add a nice spicy character.
Amarillo/Cascade/Centennial - Going the American hop route would add a very nice fruity character. And, since people seem to always want to throw some fruit into any wheat beer style, this is a definite possibility.
Willamette + Cascade (Amarillo) - Willamette and American Hops like Cascade and Amarillo always seems to be a great combination for lighter ales and lagers. Willamette just adds some 'backbone' to the American hop and makes for a great balanced hop flavor.

Malt Choices

The grain bill in our version of this experiment is going to stay pretty straight forward in order to produce a very pale, simple malt profile. 2 pounds of Vienna malt was added to a 50/50 American Pale 2-Row and White Wheat base and that is about exciting as it will get. In the next version, we will be using Maris Otter (which is a bit darker than the American 2Row we used) and will probably back off on the Vienna to compensate.
A VERY little 10L crystal might be a possibility to add some sweetness. Another possibility is Honey Malt - although it is fairly dark to restraint is in order.

The Results : v1.0

The first beer (v1.0) was completed and, overall, was a very good beer. It was quite clean (if not neutral) tasting with a hint of that crackery wheat taste but not too much. The hops were neutral and somewhat noble (due to the lineage of Tettnanger in the Liberty hops used) and moderate in strength. 21 IBU is just about right for this beer in both participants opinion. The beer was not very cloudy like a hefe but definitely had a small bit of haze that is acceptable in this style.

We agreed that, while it was a nice, clean beer it needed 'something' in the way of fruit, citrus, etc. With that in mind, we decided our next batch (v1.1) will use the same grain bill and hopping treatment, but will use Wyeast 1010 American Wheat instead of the clean American Ale yeast in this batch.


Part 2: Adding Some Interest >


American Wheat Experiment v1.0 ::: 1.052/1.010 (6.25 Gal)

Grain Bill (Assumed 70% Efficiency)

5# - 2 Row Pale Malt
5# - White Wheat
2# - Victory Malt

Hop Schedule - 21 IBU

1oz. - Liberty - 60 min.
1oz. - Liberty - 30 min.

Yeast

Safale S-05 (WLP001/1056) American Ale Yeast

Mash/Sparge/Boil

Mash at 151 for 60 min.
Boil time : 60 min.
Cool and ferment at 68°

Notes

Results: a nice, clean, somewhat dry wheat. Easy to drink, moderate hops, subtle cracker.
Needs more citrus or fruity notes for interest.

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