In retrospect, there’s a lot of things I could’ve done to make this beer better. This was my very first all-grain batch, and for better or worse, it was a “teachable moment”. This was a beer I brewed before using a combination of extract and specialty grains. I felt it was simple enough to get my feet wet in all-grain brewing. To my chagrin, you’ll immediately see what errors I’ve made below.
- 4 lbs – Bamburg Pilsner
- 6 lbs – Bamburg Wheat
- 1 oz – Summit (18.1) bittering
- 1 oz – Citra (13.6) flavor
- 2 oz – Cascade (100% homegrown, unknown alpha acid content) dry hop
- White Labs Hefeweizen 4 (WLP380)
- Heat strike water to 150° F.
- Mix strike water with malted barley and wheat. Let mash for 60 minutes.
- While mash is… mashing… heat up water to 170° F.
- Once the 60 minutes is up, drain wort into a pitcher and pour gently back on top of mash to firm up the grain bed. Repeat until the wort is relatively clear.
- Lauter wort into boil kettle, rinsing mash with strike water. (It should be noted that this step took me all of 15 minutes.)
- Bring wort to a boil, add in Summit hops and boil for 60 minutes.
- At 40 minute mark, add wort chiller to the boil to sanitize.
- At flame out, add in Citra hops.
- Cool wort to approximately 65° F – 70° F, pitch yeast, aerate.
- After primary fermentation is over (approximately 8 days later), rack to a keg, add in 2 oz homegrown Cascade hops, and put into my lagering fridge. Dry hop for 1 week.
Tasting Notes (wort) — 6/24/12
Cloudy gold color with no head. Wort has a white-ish hue to it from all the floating particulate matter. Aroma is honey-like, with noticeable wheat malt character, and slight citrus hop aromas. Flavor is wheat malt up front with an assertive hop bitterness in the finish. Hop bitterness is lasting and medium-high in intensity. Body is medium-low with no carbonation.
Tasting Notes (after primary fermentation) — 7/2/12
Color is a cloudy gold color with no head. Aroma is yeasty, wheat malt, and some citrus hops. Flavor is a resiny and citrus in nature with low wheat malt flavors. Hop bitterness is medium-high and lasting on the palate. Body is low, very low carbonation, slightly dry finish.
Tasting Notes (final) — 10/9/12
Beer pours out a cloudy dark gold in color with slight pinkish hues… with a thick, meringue-like off-white colored head. Aroma is floral, with lemony/orange citrus notes and hints of banana. Flavor is fruity, with hints of banana, citrus, and resin notes. Hop bitterness is medium-high, and clingy on the palate without being harsh. The beer is thin bodied with high carbonation and finishes on the dry side.
I carbonated this beer at approximately 3 volumes/atmospheres.
Original Gravity: 1.030
Final Gravity: 1.006
Estimated Alcohol by Volume: 3.1% ABV
Yield: Approximately 5 gallons.
Where to start? First of all, I now know to have heated my strike water to a much higher temperature for mashing. I also now know to lauter the wort for a much longer period of time, say closer to 60 minutes, than the 15 minutes it took me to pull the wort from my improvised mash tun.
Had I done just those 2 things, I would’ve had a beer with the correct original gravity and appropriate final alcohol content. The beer might have been fuller bodied and have had much more malt backbone to it. In essence, it would’ve been more balanced. That said, it’s not terrible and would’ve been perfect for that small heatwave we had last week.
The next question that arises is probably “why did I lager the hefeweizen?”. I didn’t do it on purpose. I already had a beer and a cider on tap that we were still going through so there wasn’t room to put it on draft just yet. I just need to schedule my brewing a little better in the future.
For my first all-grain beer, it wasn’t bad. It’s certainly drinkable, but this baby isn’t winning any awards any time soon. As I mentioned in the beginning, this was certainly a “teachable moment” where I made several mistakes that I’ve since corrected on the all-grain brews I’ve done afterwards.
Going all-grain was a huge step for me. I’ve been an extract/mini-mash homebrewer for years and years. I didn’t make the switch because brewing extract makes for a shorter brew day, but primarily because I felt the beers I brewed were fine.
What was I thinking?
All-grain certainly adds length to my brew day (approximately 2 hours more, at least) but I think it’s well worth it. I feel like I’m actually brewing and accomplishing something, not unlike many of the local brewers I support and admire. Here’s to many more all-grain homebrews!