How To Brew Dunkles Weissbier | Homebrew Challenge

by Steve Thanos | Last Updated: August 26, 2020

Dunkles Weissbier is a grainy, bready flavored beer. Dunkle is German for “dark”. There are slight caramel notes along with toasty, bread crust like melanoidin character that the Munich malt imparts on a beer.

Although it has a nice rich color, it does not contain any roasted flavors or aromas.

The hop character is pretty much non-existent. It contains an even balance between bittering and sweetness.

The Shifting of Rights

The Degenberger family originally had exclusive rights to brew Weizenbiers (which is the name of the larger category of German wheat beers). These exclusive rights are congruent to patents in today’s world.

This right or privilege, as the Germans would see it, was then passed on to the Bavarian Dukes. In 1589, Bavarian Duke Maximillian I built the “Hofbräuhaus am Platzl,” which is the current location of the Ducal Weissbier brewery.

The Beer of the People

Due in large part to the improvements of barley malt beers in the 1700s, Weizenbiers’ popularity declined. George Schneider used his own brewery as leverage to release the Weissbier rights to the public.

By 1872, Weizenbiers could be brewed by anyone and the government no longer controlled the production of the beer. These beers were no longer under control of the royals. Weizenbiers popularity rose following World War II. Weizenbiers account for a significant amount of beer sold in Bavaria and Germany overall.

Style Profile for Dunkles Weissbier

Appearance

Color is light copper to mahogany brown. An extremely thick, long lasting off-white colored head is common for the style. Due to the high protein content, this beer will not be clear.

Aroma

Low to moderately strong banana esters and clove phenols. Best examples are balanced and fairly prominent. Also, a very light to moderate vanilla character and/or faint bubblegum accentuate the banana flavor.

Bready, doughy grain flavor, along with a rich caramel flavor. Malty richness can be low to medium-high. Roast character is inappropriate. Hop aroma is low to none. Dry finish is also expected.

Mouthfeel

Medium-light to medium full bodied beer. The texture of the wheat and the yeast in suspension causes the sensation of fluffy, creamy. High carbonation makes the beer rather effervescent.

Taste

Very similar to the aroma. Low to moderately strong banana and clove flavor. Faint notes of bubblegum and vanilla may also present itself.

The wheat is bready, doughy, and grainy with a rich caramel toast or bread crust due to caramel malts. Low to no hop flavor with a bitterness that is very low as well. Well-rounded with a dry finish.

Food Pairing

A Dunkles Weissbier can be paired well with German dishes such as pork or sausage. Also pairs well with roasted chicken. The clove phenols also play well with ham.

Dunkles Weissbier also works well with desserts. Banana Cream Pie or Banana Pudding to name a few.

Tips for Brewing your own Dunkles Weissbier

Grain

Thanks to German brewing traditions, at least 50% of the grain bill must be wheat. Some versions of the beer are 70% wheat. The remainder of the grist is usually Munich, Vienna, and Pilsner malts.

A small amount of caramel malt (5-10%) adds some color and hints of caramel flavor. Caramunich is traditionally used.

The trick is to use the caramel malts sparingly so not to overpower the beer with caramel aroma and flavor. A small amount of Carafa is also a good way to achieve the desired color for this style. Carafa is a huskless, roasted malt. The lack of a husk means less bitter roasted flavor.

Hops

German variety of hops is prudent. Hallertau, Saaz, Tettnenger, Spalt, and Perle are all options. The majority of the hopping is done at the 60 minute mark. Aroma and flavoring hops are minimal if at all; usually under a half ounce for a five gallon batch.

Mash

Historically, like most weizen-type beers, dunkelweizen should have been decoction mashed. While a decoction mash might induce more Maillard reactions, the rich malt flavors provided by today’s malts, specifically Munich and Pilsner malts are more than adequate.

A single infusion or step mash works well too. Dunkelweizen has a medium-light to medium-full body. Target a mash temperature range of 152 to 156 °F (67 to 69 °C).

If you are making a lower gravity beer, use the higher end of this temperature range to leave the beer with a bit more body. If you are making a bigger beer, use the lower end of the range to avoid being too full of a body, which can limit the beer’s drinkability.

It would be helpful to use rice hulls with such a large amount of wheat malt in the grist.

Yeast

  • WYeast 3056 Bavarian Wheat Blend – subtle German style wheat beer with complex yet balanced esters and phenolics. 73-77% attenuation 64°F – 74°F(17°C – 23°C) range
  • WYeast 3068 Weihenstephan Weizen – most popular German wheat strain. You can manipulate the ester and phenols in this beer with temperature and pitching rates 73-77% attenuation 64°F – 75°F(17°C – 24°C) range
  • WYeast 3333 German Wheat – Delicate balance of banana esters and clove phenols. Once again manipulation can be achieved; the same as 3068. 70-76% attenuation 63°F – 75°F(17°C – 24°C) range
  • White Labs WLP300 Hefeweizen Ale Yeast – Banana forward but does contain some hints of clove. 72-76% attenuation 68°F – 72°F(20°C – 22°C) range
  • White Labs WLP351 Bavarian Weizen Yeast – Very clove forward type yeast.

75-82% attenuation 66°F – 70°F(18°C – 21°C) range

Fermentation

Fermentation temperature of 62 °F (17 °C) can really do this beer wonders. At this restrained temperature, the flavors are balanced out and the bad flavors are held in check,

Dunkles Weissbier By the Numbers

  • Color Range: 10 – 18 SRM
  • Original Gravity: 1.044 – 1.056 OG
  • Final Gravity: 1.010 – 1.014 FG
  • IBU Range: 10 – 18
  • ABV Range: 4.3 – 5.6%

Martin Keen’s Dunkles Weissbier Recipe

Grain

53% 6 lbs Wheat Malt

9% 1 lb Pilsner; Floor Malted Bohemian

13% 1 lb 8 ozs Vienna Malt

9% 1 lb Caramunch II

9% 1 lb Pilsner; German

2% 4 oz Carafa II

5% 8 oz Rice Hulls

Hops

0.50 oz Perle Pellets – Boil 60.0 min

Yeast

1.0 pkg Hefeweizen Ale White Labs WLP300

Mash at 152°F (66°C) for 60 mins

Boil for 60 mins

Transcript: Yep. New Bling. Hello, I’m Martin Keen. I’m taking the Homebrew challenge to brew 99 beers and 99 weeks today, I’m going to whip up a Dunkles Weissbier.

Now this is a German wheat beer, so you can expect those clove and banana esters in the beer, but it also incorporates the toasty malty characteristics you’d get from a German Bach beer. So German Hefeweizen combined with Doppelbock = sounds pretty good to me.

Oh, did I mention I’m brewing it on some new equipment. Now this is a 10 gallon, 240 volt electric brewing system from claw hammer supply. And it effectively works as a Brew in the bag system. Um, I’ll tell you what the, the easiest way to show you how this works is to fill it with some water and let’s get started.

Now, the kettle itself contains three ports. We have the output port on the front here, which we can open and close. Then in here, we have a thermometer which sits in this thermal well. And then around the back, we’ve got a tri clamp port where the heating element is inserted.

So this controller has two on-off buttons, one to control the heat, one to control the pump. I can see here what my current temperature is. This is the reading from the thermonitor in the bottom of the kettle. And then this is my set temperature. So this is what temperature I’m looking to get to. So I’ve got it set here. 150 as the mash temperature.

Now where this system stands apart a little bit from other brew systems is in recirculation. And that it does something that I haven’t really seen in similar systems like that. And that’s all related to this little thing here on the lid of the kettle. Let me hook up the hoses and show you what I mean.

So let’s tell the pump on, and we can see if I open this, but we’re now spraying water from the top of the lid.

So I’m going to set the strike water temperature to what I want, which is 161 for this beer. Set. And then turn on heeting elements while that is heating. Let’s go measure out some ingredients.

Now Dunkles Weissbier is a German wheat beer. So clearly German wheat malt is going to play a big part in this. The style guidelines say you can use between 50 to 70% wheat malt in your beer. I have here six pounds of pale wheat malt.

Now the additional malt that you can add here to the base malt is typically either Munich or Vienna or German Pilsner. So I have one and a half pounds, each of Vienna, malt and Bohemian floor malted pills, the malt. And I’m combining that with one pound of German Pilsner malt. Now we do need some specialty malts as well to get that toasty flavor and that color we’re looking for a color for about 17 SRM.

To get there, I have here one pound of CaraMunich III and four ounces of Carafa II. Because this is a wheat beer and there are no husks with these wheat grains. We are going to add some rice holes as well, eight ounces of those.

Now I mentioned this as a brew in the bag solution. Actually, there is no bag. You are, you use the provided basket. So this is a mesh basket. And I put my crushed greens into here, and I’m going to put this into the kettle and it will just rest on the bottom during the mash.

So I’m at my strike water temperature now. So lets add this in.

I’m going to set the temperature to my mash temperature. I’m mashing in here at 152 Fahrenheit. So let’s set that, that should be, it should be mashing.

Okay. Without draining. I now need to bring this up to a boil. I’m going to press the AM button here to switch into percentage mode, and I’m going to set this to a hundred percent. And once I reached boil, I’ll bring that down a little bit, probably around 60, 65%.

Okay. We’re at boiling temperature. Now I ended up setting the percentage to 50%, um, at this point, and it’s still a very vigorous boil. Now this point, the hops go in and this system, you have a little hop basket here to put the hops into. So they’re not directly in the kettle gonna clog anything up. I am using for this beer Perle hops.

Now this is the one and only hop addition that’s going in. And I have half ounce of perle hops. Those are going in at 60 minutes and ultimately I’m expecting to get IBU of about 14 from that. So let’s put the first hops and set the timer for one hour.

Now the claw hammer system also includes a plate chiller. So now I have finished with the boil it’s time to chill this thing down. So I’ve simply connected this up to the pump, and then I’m going to recirculate back into my kettle, and then I have, uh, in and out for the water as well. Um, so before I start running the water, I’m just going to run the wort through this system, just to, to sanitize the plate chiller.

So to do that, I will simply open everything up and turn on the pump. Then I’m going to turn on the water and we should see the temperature start to drop rapidly now, and we can just monitor that on here. So basically I’m bringing the wort in, chilling it through the plate chiller, returning it back in there, and I’m keeping an eye on this.

And when this reaches the temperature that I want, which is about 68 Fahrenheit, that’s when I know to turn off a plate chiller.

Now the claw hammer system that I got did come with a fermentation bucket here. Um, I was going to use this until, I realized that I don’t even have an auto siphon. So I’m going to use my usual conical berw bucket for this one. And no sooner was I able to sanitize my brew bucket. Then this thing had already done its job and I’m down to 68 Fahrenheit. So I’m going to turn that pump off now and now transfer into the bucket.

Gravity came out at 1.054, which is what I was aiming for. Um, look, whenever I use a new brewing system for the first time, it’s normally a total disaster, but either I’m getting better at brewing or this thing is pretty easy to use because this was a very, very smooth process.

Now, um, the yeast for this beer, it is WLP 300. This is German Hefeweizen yeast. Um, I did make a sort of starter for this. Uh, I just ran this for 12 hours, like the Hefeweizen Ale I did last week, you want to really give the yeast a little bit of stress so that they’ll produce more of these banana and clothed esters. So that’s why I didn’t do a sort of a full 36 hour starter, which is what I would normally do. We’re going to add this in.

This guy is ready to go my chest freezer. Now it will stay at 68 Fahrenheit where I’ll keep it for about three weeks before moving it into a keg for tasting. Now I should mention that claw hammer supply were kind enough to provide me with an affiliate code.

So if the claw hammer system that you’ve seen here is something that you’re interested in. Please take a look at the link in my description, in the video below. Alright. That is it three weeks ago and see you at the tasting.

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Tasting time with me, Welcome Kevin, welcome to myself. So what we have here is a beer that came down to 1.006. It’s about a 6% beer. Now you haven’t tried last week’s beer, which was the straight up Hefeweizen. This not yet. No, this is the slightly darkened version of the Hefeweizen. So it’s still a wheat beer.

Yes. I’m not what I would consider a wheat. Cause when I think wheat beer think blue Mooney type, you know, like this, but exactly, exactly. So, so not a fan of dark blue is just going to say that on the front of end, but I do like wheat beer, right?

This is going to be interesting. Okay. So we’ve talked a little bit about the color already, but let’s just take a quick look at the appearance that we think of this, also its thicker at the top of this glass, it looks very dark. And then down towards the bottom, you can sort of see the light more caramel color.

Yeah. Right off the bat. I, if I looked at this beer, I would go mmmmm not my type, but then you say wheat beers and now you are confusing me. Okay. Let’s see if you get any, um, any aromas with the last one, we were really getting some quite strong esters.

A wheat beer like this with typically have a little bit of Bananarama or cloth esthers or certainly last week they did. What’d you think about this one? If anybody’s ever been to the cheesecake factory they serve this type of Brown bread, man, it’s dark Brown bread. Pumpernickel? I would say that that’s the kind of smell I’m working with right here. Okay. So you’re definitely smelling some of those bready notes. Yeah. Okay. Okay. All right. Well, let’s try it. Let’s give it a try.

Yeah. Completely different. So why are we considering something usual wheat beer, but it’s good. It’s not, it’s not too heavy. It’s not too malty or anything like that. You’d associate with a bach, but what percentage are we at with this 6%? So I think, um, as to when you would drink a beer like this, the Hefeweizen just reminds me of spring and hot weather and stuff like that. And just the fact that this does have those darker notes to it.

It does make me think winter beer more. So when it came to yes, you like wheat? No. You don’t like dark. Where are you on this beer? No, I like this. I still feel with darker beers I would just prefer sort of a smaller amount. I don’t really know if I can do a whole thing of this, but no, this is very clean. Thank you very much. Cheers!

I am the former President of my homebrew club, Plainfield Ale and Lager Enthusiasts (PALE) in the western suburbs of Chicago, IL. I brew on my BIAB system with my incredibly patient and understanding wife, adorable 9 year old daughter, and 12 year old brew dog.