How To Brew Hefeweizen (Weissbier) | Homebrew Challenge

by Steve Thanos | Updated: March 5, 2020

Hefeweissen has been around for years.

The beer that many people start off making as homebrewers and then quickly forgotten about is the subject of this week’s look into Martin Keen’s ambitious brewing project; brewing 99 beers in 99 weeks.

The History

Traditionally wheat was used for bread baking. Due to the fear of running out of wheat and therefore not having enough bread, brewing wheat beers was not as prevalent as it is today.

Although there has been evidence pointing to the use of wheat in brewing some 10,000 years ago, the more substantial use of wheat was during the 1500’s in Bavaria, Germany.

The very first wheat beer brewed in the Bavaria region by the Degenberger ruling family. In true monopolizing fashion, the family decreed that no other person could brew a wheat beer with their permission.

As luck would have it, this royal license was reverted to the Bavarian Dukes, which at the time was Duke Maximillian I.

Reinheitsgebot

Reinheitsgebot or the German Purity Law states that only ingredients such as water, hops, and barley were to be added to beers brewed in Germany. This was done, in part, to keep brewers from adding ingredients to a beer that may have been problematic for the masses.

As anyone who has brewed or drank this style can attest to, a true well-crafted Hefeweissen is all about the yeast. This unfiltered beer has yeast left in suspension which makes the beer cloudy in appearance.

The O.G. of the Hazy Beirs, if you will.

Similar in taste, but a vast contrast in appearance is the Kristallweizen. As Martin describes in the video, this style is very clear and effervescent. It actually closely resembles Champagne.

Also, the American Hefeweissen supports a more assertive hop presence while still being cloudy and a yeast forward beer.

The Royal WE{iss}

Maximillian wanted to spread the wealth and allow others in his land to brew wheat beers. There was even a Weiss brewery constructed in Munich. There were actually many Weiss breweries operating under royal licensing during the following two centuries.

By the 1800’s there was a decline in brewing Weissbier. There were only two breweries brewing them by 1812. With this decline in these breweries, the license from the royals was pretty much useless. Once again Weissbier was open to the public to brew if they wanted.

Wheat ales then became more popular to brew along with lagers. Georg Schneider became a prominent figure in brewing this style. His brewery brought wheat ale back from the depths. G. Schneider & Sohn Brewery is still brewing today and their beers can be found on the forgotten shelves of your liquor stores today.

How To Brew Hefeweizen Weissbier Homebrew Challenge 6

Tips on Brewing Your Own

While researching Hefeweizen for this week’s article, I came across a great resource from the American Homebrewers Association(AHA). I thought it would be worthwhile to take a gander at what the AHA has to say about this popular style. Things to consider:

  • Picking the Right Yeast
  • Be particular about your wheat
  • Refined Hop Character
  • Know your Water
  • Avoid the Dreaded Stuck Mash
  • Fermentation Temperatures
How To Brew Hefeweizen Weissbier Homebrew Challenge 5

Picking the Right Yeast

Yeast strains all have different characteristics that make them unique. Choose a strain that gives off the easters and phenolics that you want out of your next Hefeweissen.

  • 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

Be particular about your wheat

Red Wheat or what is known as Winter Wheat, is one choice a brewer has when making a Hefeweizen. Although the name indicates a reddish/copper color, red wheat does not produce an amber colored beer.

Your other option would be to use White Wheat.

Refined Hop Character

This beer is mostly about the wheat yeast. Allow these two beer ingredients to shine, while keeping hop bitterness and flavor low. German noble with some spice are a good choice here.

Shoot for an IBU range of around 10-15, with low aroma.

Know your Water

Your water range can vary from soft to moderately hard. The pH range you are shooting for is 5.2 to 5.6.

If using reverse osmosis water or distilled water and you wish to add minerals, use chloride to accentuate the beer’s texture as opposed to sulfate, which will enhance the bitterness of the beer.

Avoid the Dreaded Stuck Mash

Since you are using a high amount of wheat and wheat does not have a husk on it, a stuck mash or sparge is very likely. I know there are a few of you out there that have this superpower of not having stuck mashes, but it is still a reality.

Rice hulls are very important to use when brewing with a high amount of wheat or rye. A half pound of rice hulls for a five gallon batch is perfectly acceptable.

You can also go the route of using a fabric mesh filter in the form of a brew bag. I have been using these forever and I really cannot say a bad thing about my BIAB experiences.

Fermentation Temperatures

Know your yeast. Look on the package of yeast or online for the temperature ranges. The key here is a consistent temperature range that stays consistent all throughout fermentation.

How To Brew Hefeweizen Weissbier Homebrew Challenge 9

Hefeweizen Characteristics

  • Color Range: 2-6 SPM
  • Original Gravity: 1.044 – 1.052 OG
  • Final Gravity: 1.010 – 1.014FG
  • IBU Range: 8-15 IBUs
  • ABV Range: 4.3% – 5.6%
  • Appearance: Pale straw to deep gold. Lasting white head. Typically quite cloudy
  • Aroma:Little malt and hop character. Phenols and esters are both prefelent. No diacetyl. Tart citrus, vanilla, and bubblegum are acceptable.
  • Flavor: Balanced clove and banana are acceptable. Soft maltiness and grain character. Possible notes of vanilla or bubblegum. Dry finish. No diacetyl or DMS.
  • Mouthfeel: Medium light to medium body, contributed by the wheat proteins. Should be effervescent.

Martin Keen’s Hefeweizen Recipe:

Grains

  • 54% Wheat Malt, Pale 5lbs.
  • 22% Pilsner, Floor Malted Bohemian 2lbs.
  • 21% Pilsner, German 2lbs.
  • 3% Melanoidin 4oz

Hops

  • Perle .5oz 60 min. 7%A.A. 15.5 IBUs

Yeast

  • White Labs WLP300Hefeweizen ALe

Directions

  1. Mash at 152F for 60 mins
  2. Boil for 60 mins

Brewing Equipment

Bräu Supply Coil in Coil Counterflow Wort Chiller is one piece of brewing equipment that Martin used for the particular brew day.

With less chance of clogging because of the coil-in-coil design, this chiller is as effective as their plate chillers. Built from stainless steel and tri-clap connections.

It also contains ½” MPT fittings which work easily with the quick disconnects. A garden hose faucet is included and a female garden hose barb.

How To Brew Hefeweizen Weissbier Homebrew Challenge 11 - Counterflow Wort Chiller

Transcript: Today I’m brewing one of my favorite styles of German beer. It’s a style that not only tolerates but actually benefits from a bit of abuse at the fermentation stage.Well at first you have to baby it through the mash process.

I’m talking about German Hefeweizen or Weissbier. I’m going to brew one up while putting a counterflow chiller to the test.

hi, I’m Martin Keen and I’m taking the Homebrew challenge to brew 99 different bear styles. and I have made it to the German wheat beer category. Now one of the very first beers I did on my Homebrew challenge was another wheat beer, but that was an American wheat bear. It’s time to brew a wheat beer and unlike its German counterpart, which has esters of banana and clove and American wheat, there is bready, grainy, and a little bit hoppy.

So yeah, this time we are going to go for those banana and clove esters and we’re going to get them through the yeast that we using.

So in the recipe for this beer, while the style guidelines say that at least 50% of the beer needs to come from wheat malt. So I have here five pounds of pale German wheat malt, so that’s really my main base molt.

In addition to that, I’m going to combine the wheat malt with pills, the malt and I am using two ounces of German Pilsner malt and two ounces of Bohemian floor malted Pilsner malt. And then just to add a little bit of a extra malt character, I’m adding four ounces of melanoidin malt.

Now to make up for the lack of husks with the wheat malt, I’m going to add my own. I have here in bucket of rice hulls.

I’m going to add eight ounces of rice hulls into my grist to help keep the mash moving. Now rice holes, they add nothing to the beer as such. There’s no sugar going to be extracted from these. This is going to do nothing for my gravity, but it should keep the mash recirculating.

Mashing here at 152 Fahrenheit to get to a pre ball gravity of 10 40. We’ll mash for about an hour, although actually I suspect it’ll take quite a bit less time than that to get to 10 40. So the way I’ve been chilling wort up until now is with an immersion chiller.

This is the one I’ve been using from Jaded. It’s pretty simple. Cold water goes in and comes out the other end recirculates through this copper tubing and you put this into the kettle that you want to call or uh, immerse it. And it’s just the contact between the wort and then these cold copper pipes that chills things down.

And you need to make sure that you give it a good stir to make sure that the temperature is even in the whole kettle. Now compare that to a counterflow chiller. Now the difference with this is you do not immerse it in the brew pot.

This will sit outside of the kettle. We’re still gonna send water in the top here and it’s going to come out of the bottom, but we’re also going to be adding wort in here as well.

So within this there are actually two separate tubes, one for the water and one for the wort, and where the counterflow part comes in is that the water comes in from the top and travels down and the word is pumped in from the bottom and travels up and that’s the wort in that tube goes past the cold water going in the other way. That’s how the chilling happens.

Now the advantage of using a counterflow chiller over an immersion chiller is that you don’t need to stir the wort to make sure you’re getting an even distribution of the temperature. So it’s going to be interesting to see how this compares to my immersion chiller.

Draining to the button kettle now, it took about 45 minutes to get mashed to a temperature corrected pre ball gravity of 10.40 so now it’s time to start thinking about the hops.

And there’s not an awful lot to think about. This is not by any means a hoppy beer. It’s bittering hops only and we’re only going to get to an IBU of about 13. With this beer you can use pretty much whatever you want. I am using half an ounce of Perle hops.

So the rice hulls, they seem to have worked really well. Everything in the mash was moving pretty well there. So I’ve hooked up the counter flow chiller now to my system. So the beer is going to come out at the bottom of the kettle, through the pump, and the wort will go into the bottom of this counter flow chiller. It will then cycle through, come out the top, and then dump in the top of the kettle.

Now before I start cooling, I am just going to recirculate the wort just to sanitize everything inside there. Now remember because this is accounts flow chiller, the cold water is coming in the top exiting the bottom and going into my sink. All right, let’s turn on the water.

All right. And we’re done. That took about 15 minutes and uh, maybe a hair slower than it would have been with the immersion chiller. But the wonderful thing about this is that I was just able to leave it completely unattended and go about my business, cleaning up the brewery. So I wasn’t having to stand over it and stir like crazy. So I’m impressed.

This is a really nice quality piece of equipment from Brown supply and I think it’s gonna be pretty easy to clean as well because I can just run from PBW through it and then flush it out with water. Okay. Now let’s talk about the yeast that I’m putting in this.

And I mentioned a little earlier that you can kind of abuse this beer a little bit at fermentation time. And the reason I say that is because we want to get those banana and clove esters.

And the way we’re going to do that is by just stressing the yeast just, just a little bit. So I uh, I took some W L P 300, this is Hefeweizen yeast and instead of making my usual starter, I split a single vial of yeast into 10 little test tubes like I normally do. Took one of those and then ran that in a year, starter just for 12 hours.

Normally I do like 24 or 48 hours, so there’s much less yeast in here then normal. I’m going to pitch this and the yeast is now going to have to really get to work and as it’s doing that, hopefully it will start to develop those banana and clove esters.

Theres one way to find out.

All right, so its tasting time, I have Andy with me fresh off the boat as it were from England. Welcome Andy, all the way from England for a beer just for a beer . Yeah, Hefeweizen. So a little little a fermentation note about this beer.

Um, I literally had almost nothing with it during fermentation, so I left it, uh, at its fermentation temperature, didn’t cold crash it, put it straight in the keg. And here it is, didn’t cold crash because this is supposed to be a cloudy beer. So, um, didn’t want to try to clarify it. So, um, we’ll take a look at first of all the appearance of this Hefeweizen beer. See what ya, So we think. It’s looking quite nice. Real light. Yeah. It’s got a definitely is cloudy, can’t really see through it, which is desirable in this case. Very much so.

Very much so. Right, right. So let’s try aroma now what we think it smells like. The style guidelines say that you should some sort of clove or banana, uh, esters from the smell. I can definitely get banana definitely get banana in there, yeah. Yep.

So that, that really comes from the yeast that is used with the beer. Hefeweizen, Hefeweizen, that’s right. So, uh, yeah, so I’m really pleased actually at how prominent that smell is. That smells to me like a proper German wheat beer. It really, really does. I’ve done a lot of work in Germany and this is actually smelling pretty good.

Now, you mentioned that hypervisor is one of your favorite beer styles, so kind of nervous about you’re tasting it, but let’s go and move. Hey, sure. It’s all my friend, my friend. What you think Saval, first?.

Ooh, that’s, that’s really quite good. Yeah, hits the back, doesn’t it? It’s got a little delay on it. Can’t really taste the banana so much, but the cloves are coming in the back, right? Yeah, very much so. There’s a clove taste of more of a banana smell. Yeah, I mean, I’ll take that.

That’s a, that’s, that’s really, that’s really good. This may or may not be true, but you said that there is a clear version of a Hefeweizen. I seem to remember from a, from Germany there’s a thing called a “Krystalweizen” where you can actually sort of see more through it, so it’s a wheat beer. It’s a clear wheat beer.

That’s what, that’s what I seem to remember. My memory may be literally clouded, but that’s the kind of thing. So they, when you say, can I have any vice beer, please. They wouldn’t. You won’t. Krystal or regular?

All right, Andy, well, thank you for, uh, for flying all the way over here just to try this beer. Okay. Um, we’re going to hit to the airport now and head all the way back. No, it’s been an absolute pleasure, Martin. I appreciate it.

Check out the rest of the recipes and follow along the Homebrew Challenge.

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.