How To Brew Wheatwine

by Steve Thanos Updated on April 11, 2021 American Beer Brewing Recipes

Wheatwine is a style that was created purely by accident. The story goes that Phil Moeller and a friend wanted to brew a barleywine.

While they were adding the grain, either a miscalculation or just a simple mistake took place and too much wheat was added to the water. 

Resourcefulness 

As any good resourceful brewer or homebrewer would do, they decided to ride it out and see what could come of their little mishap.

After fermentation took place, the guys were pleasantly surprised and pleased with their little mistake. 

First Commercial Example

Later that year, Moeller became the brewmaster for a new brewery in Sacramento, California called Rubicon Brewery. Moeller remembered his brewing blunder from earlier in the year and share it with the rest of the world.

In the end the result was a rich, deep, and complex beer. Rubicon’s Winter Wheat Wine became the first commercial example of the style. It grew in popularity throughout the 1990s. 

Bringing Home the Hardware

In 2006 this beer won gold in the Great American Beer Festival (GABF) and also won silver in 2009. This beer was given a gold medal at the World Beer Cup in 2008. It was once again a contender in 2016, as a vintage version of this beer won bronze for “aged beer” category in GABF.

Although sadly the brewery closed down in 2017, it did inspire many brewers to brew up their own versions of this style.

A Homebrewers Style

With so little commercial examples of this beer, this style lends itself to being a great beer to brew as a homebrewer. It certainly can be enjoyed fresh.

This beer is also really enjoyable after it has aged for a bit. A beer which can be enjoyed around a camp fire in the fall or after being out in the snow. 

Style Profile for Wheatwine

Appearance

Wheatwine will range from gold to a nice rich amber in color. This style usually has reddish highlights. Some chill haze will exist, but will disappear as the beers warms.

The beer is topped by a creamy, off-white head with low to medium heights and good retention. Due to the high alcohol content, the beer will develop “legs” when the glass is swirled.  

Aroma

The malt character of this style is moderate to strong. The aroma of bread with subtle caramel and honey notes are detectable. A mild hop profile is present.

Minimal levels of diasetyle are acceptable, but not a requirement for the style. Low, clean alcohol aromas and low to moderate fruity notes are acceptable. Banana and/or clove aromas are not acceptable for the style.

Flavor

Strong malt presence with a medium to medium-high wheat backbone is what this style is known for. Low to moderate notes of bread, honey, and caramel.

Hop bitterness will range from low to medium.

Although this style is known for being malt forward, some fruitness can be present, usually taking on a dried fruit taste. Some light alcohol notes can bring some warmth and complexity to the beer.

Overall, the beer should be clean and smooth on the palate.  

Mouthfeel

Full-bodied and even chewy with a velvety texture. Alcohol warmth should be noticeable but smooth.

Beer should not be syrupy and under-attenduated. Carbonation may be low to medium. 

Food Pairing

Wheatwines pair well with bold, robust meals such as sweet, rich caramelized flavors like roasted duck, pork chops, Mexican, Jamaican, Asian dishes, and sausage.

Pungent cheeses such as blue, Limburger, and Munster cheese all pair well. As for desserts, fruity desserts and/or caramel desserts really pair well.

Tips for Brewing your own Wheatwine

Grain

A starting point for the base grain is malted wheat, which will end up being 60% of the grain bill. Rice hauls will be a must in this recipe as to not have one of those dreaded stuck sparges.

Add around five pounds of either 2-Row or Vienna malt. Vienna malt will add just enough complexity to the grain bill.

The grain bill will be round off by some Caramunich, Maris Otter, and some Melanoidin malt to add some bready, biscuity components. 

Hops

A high alpha American hop should be used at the start of the boil. Go as high as 65 IBUs when considering your bittering hop. This will help to round out the flavor of this beer and assist in making the beer less sweet. 

Some aroma hops at around the ten minute mark and then an aroma charge at flameout will help.  

Yeast

London Ale III Wyeast 1318 can be the yeast used for your Wheatwine. The yeast that is chosen should not be a super attenuating yeast.

A bone-dry finish is not what you are looking for with this beer. 

Wheatwine By the Numbers

  • Color Range: 8 – 16 SRM
  • Original Gravity: 1.080 – 1.120 OG
  • Final Gravity: 1.016 – 1.030 FG
  • IBU Range: 30 – 60
  • ABV Range: 8.0 – 12.0%

Martin Keen’s Wheatwine Recipe

Grain

  • 47 %              9 lbs.             White Wheat malt  
  • 42 %              8 lbs.             2-Row Malt
  •   6 %              1 lb.               Caramunich I
  •   5 %              1 lb.               Honey

 Hops

  • 1.00 oz         Magnum – Boil – 60 min
  • 1.00 oz         Hallertau – Boil – 5 min
  • 1.00 oz         Nelson Sauvin – Boil –  0 min 

Yeast

  • 1.0 pkg   American Wheat Ale  Wyeast #1010

Instructions:

  1. Mash at 152°F (66°C) for 60 mins
  2. Boil for 60 mins 

Transcript: It’s a day of firsts. It’s my first time ever brewing or even tasting wheat wine. And I’m going to ferment it in this brand new conical fermentor. This is going to be sweet.

How’s it going? It’s the next day, now, the day after brew day, I discovered that I ended up with a little bit of corrupt footage from my primary camera, but no worries. I’ve still got the side camera and the overhead camera footage.

So let me just talk you quickly through the mash in. And I, uh, I probably started with my 99 beers in 99 weeks. schtick.

My name is Martin Keen and taking the Homebrew Challenge to brew 99 beers in 99 weeks. There we go. Now this wheat wine is about 50% wheat malt, and I just mashed this straight in here without any rice hulls. That becomes a bit of an issue later on nothing, nothing too much of a concern, but I didn’t use rice hulls. Um, you can see here, this is a lot of grain.

This is a very big beer around 10 92 original gravity. And then I mashed for just a little bit over an hour at 148 Fahrenheit or 64 Celsius. All right, back to the brew day.

I’ve been using a little bit of mood lighting in the basement here, look this room. It’s just mainly concrete and insulation on the walls. It’s not the best thing to look at, but what do you think is this too much?

Anyway, wheat wine, I said, it’s kind of like a cousin to barley wine, and they’re both really big beers, high gravity, best matured, but there is a bit of a difference. And that is in the fact that barley wine is primarily made out of malt, that gives you a very strong malt backbone.

Whereas wheat wine, because it’s predominantly wheat has a much lighter, easier drinking mouthfeel. So it has four ingredients; building a beer with an original gravity of 10 92 around about 9% beer.

In terms of the actual grains that are in this beer, they’re split 50 50 between wheat and barley. Um, although I am adding some form of sugar in there as well.

So I’m using white wheat malt as my wheat, and that will make up 48% of my grist. 42% of the grist is made up with pale two row malt. And then I’m adding in 5% of caramunich I. The remaining 5%, well that’s added actually during the boil. That’s when I’m going to add the sugar, my sugar is going to come in the form of honey. If you don’t want to use honey, then you could just use corn sugar or candy syrup in there, whatever it takes to get to around 10 92.

But speaking of the honey. So I’ve been chatting a bit with fellow homebrewer Scott McFarlane, who has his own honey farm in Canada. And he said, would I like to try some samples? So here they are.

Um, Scott has just an incredible setup. He has over a hundred colonies. Each colony has about 50,000 bees. So something like 5 million bees working for him, making honey. You can see here, there’s actually two colors. There’s a lighter and a darker color. Uh that’s from when the honey was harvested. So the lighter color is from the spring and the darker color is from the fall. And that just relates to the colors of the wild flowers at the time.

Now Scott tells me that you can effectively substitute the light honey, uh, for light candy sugar, basically one for one. So if you’ve got a recipe and you’re going to use one pound of candy sugar, you could use one pound of honey. And, uh, the darker honey here really equates to using a dark candy syrup. I’m going to use one of these darker honeys for this wheat wine.

Mashing out here at 168 Fahrenheit. Let’s talk a little bit about the hops. The barley wine and the American barley wine, at least as a, a bit of a hot monster. Uh, not so much with wheat wine.

Here’s what I’ll be adding into the boil. I’ve got my bittering hop Magnum. This will contribute about 48-49 IBU. And I’m gonna put it in at the start of the boil. Then in terms of the flavor and aroma hops, well think kind of white wine, and you’re going to be pretty close to the style.

And I’ve got two whiny hops here, uh, how Hallertau blanc, which I’m going to add in with five minutes to go. The packet says here that this will add pineapple bruise, breathe, white, great fresh lemon grass. So some really sort of pleasant, fruity light flavors.

And then at flame out, I’m going to add Nelson Sauvin. So this one is key lime pine, tropical fruit or pupia. Um, so yeah, some sort of flavors you might expect to find and a nice fruity white wine.

And of course there is the honey. If you were bringing a five gallon batch, you’d want to use about a pound of honey. Um, yeah, I can add this into the boil with just a few minutes left.

So this is the second part of my spike and brewing fermentor set. I brewed an American barley wine in the flex plus last week. This is a CF five conical fermentor. It’s very similar in capabilities to the flex plus in that while everything’s stainless steel with these tri clamp fittings on everything, um, it has the ability for temperature control to work with a glycol chiller. It can be pressurized up to 15 PSI like the flex plus as well.

The big difference though is the fact that we have two butterfly valves, one of which is a dump valve for dumping out yeast at the end of fermentation and potentially harvesting it for something.

That’s stuff that I’m going to get to as I use this over a number of weeks, but just for today’s brew, I’m just going to use this like a normal fermenter except I am going to take advantage of its pressurized capabilities when it comes to transfer.

Conanical has got a fetching a jacket on. I have arated the wort. It’s come out on the money more or less. I think I’m a 10 90 original gravity. So that’s pretty good. Um, so the yeast I’m going to put in is Wyeast 1010, this is American wheat.

Okay. I’ve got this all set up now. This is my airlock. I’m just running into a growler full of starsan. Um, I have the glycol system hooked up. So that’s going in here, these three things, the glycol chiller, and then these two fermenters, they look like quite the setup now.

Well, I think it’s safe to say this is our first time ever tasting wheat wine. Yeah. I’ve never even heard of wheat wine. No, but, um, I know you were excited to try a beer made with that honey that we got sent in. It was really good.

So let’s see. It’s kind of got a golden honey look to it. Okay. I would agree. Yep. It’s very, uh, it’s got like an Amber color to it. Um, it’s also a little bit hazy. I can’t see all the way through it.

Yup. Yup. A little hazy little, yeah. Amber is there? I don’t know colors. Yeah. Okay. Well, let’s see what we get on the aroma for this one. I’m getting a little bit of a little bit of the hops, but not a huge amount. I think I can smell some sweetness too. Maybe it’s like, whine going to swirl it around in the glass? Let it breathe maybe? Well, um, how about we make some room in the glass. Okay. Sounds good to me.

So it’s definitely a lot, um, lights on the taste feel than the barley wines. For sure. Much sweeter too. Yeah. I’ll tell you what, um, is different from this and the barley wine from last week, because I felt like the barley wine, we’re still very immature at six weeks old. Really wasn’t quite ready to me. This tastes like, like it’s, it’s it’s ready to drink.

Yes. I, I do agree on that for sure. Um, I don’t, I mean, you probably could store this one and it would age more, correct. I’m sure it would. Yeah. But with the other ones that you want to age more, they just weren’t to that maximum potential. Yeah. Whereas this, yeah. It’s drinkable right now.

So for me, this is definitely got that sweetness to it. Um, a little bit of fruitiness to it, but not the same sort of fruity-ness that you get through adding a lot of citrus-y hops. It’s not that sort of fruitiness, but it’s still kind of a refreshing taste to it. Yeah.

I think it’s kind of a, more of a, like a dry fruit.

If you’ve not tried one yourself, it’s absolutely worth doing, I would highly recommend adding something like honey in there as well. Um, so yeah, recipe is in the description below as usual and Lauren, thank you for tasting this wheat wine. Cheers!

Steve Thanos: 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.