Nick Carr on May 20, 2020 0 Comments Most craft beer lovers have probably tried a barleywine, if not taken the plunge and tried to brew one yourself. But, barleywine has an elusive cousin. It’s the yeti of the big beer world, rarely spotted, and when it is, often overlooked simply because unknown. It is seductress, lithe, and warming, keeping a secret alcohol punch hidden behind a sweet-honeyed smoothness. Usually made from at least 50% wheat malt and with an original gravity range just as impressive as an American barleywine, Wheatwine is not an easy style to make. If you want to give it a shot, here are few tips that will help you brew a great example. Grain Bill There are two ways to look at the formulation of a wheatwine recipe. Base Malts: The base for a wheatwine is pretty straightforward. At least half (often more) of the grain bill will be made up of wheat malt. Since it’s an American craft style most of the time domestic wheat is used, but continental wheat is another option. The rest of the base is usually a pale 2-row or pilsner malt. Though, if you want to bring a richer mouthfeel and flavor something like Vienna or a British pale malt (Golden Promise, Pale Maris Otter, etc.) could be included, either as a mix with the 2-row/pilsner or as a replacement. If this is your first time making a wheatwine, try 50 to 60 percent wheat and the rest pilsner or 2-row; or leave 10% for a specialty malt or two. This way you have a baseline idea of flavors to work from in future recipes. Specialty Malts: Specialty malts can include specialty wheat like caramel wheat malt, darker kilned wheat malt, even pale chocolate wheat malt. Usually, a caramel malt or two is used often in the lower color range i.e. 40oL or so. This is a style where honey malt (and actually adjunct honey) can really come into their own. You’ll also want to add rice or oat hulls because of the high amounts of wheat you’re using. Wheat does not have a husk and without these husks, you lose a large part of your filtration, which can cause a stuck sparge. Adding hulls in the amount of about 5% of your grain bill will keep this from happening. Some sort of adjunct sugar can be added to help with attenuation. In general, think of lighter flavored adjuncts here; this may not be the right place to break out those blackstrap molasses. White sugar will work, but if you want to add a bit more complimentary flavor try high-quality honey with a medium flavor profile. If included, keep the adjuncts below 10% of the fermentable. Just like a barleywine, a common practice is including malt extract with your all-grain batch. This allows you to use less grain, which in turn can increase your batch size if you are limited by the size of your mash tun. It can also help hop utilization in high gravity beer. The higher the gravity in your brew pot the lower your hop utilization. By having the ability to add malt extract towards the end of the boil you increase the hop utilization. Extract Brewing Extract brewing is a good way to ease into making bigger gravity beers like barleywines and wheatwines. Your extract brew may not have the same complexity and depth achievable with grain, but what it lacks in richness it’ll make up for in ease of brewing. And remember, every single year homebrewers win competitions with extract recipes. You can either use only a high-quality wheat extract as your base or mix this with some quantity of another base malt extract. However, the wheat extract should at least make up half your fermentables. Pale or Pilsner will work well, but you could also play with adding something like Maris Otter extract. This can be an especially appropriate addition if you either: aren’t going to include any specialty grains, or are only using them minimally. Remember, you’re shooting for a color range of 8 to 15, so don’t go too dark on the barley malt extract because it’ll likely darken further through boiling. And to retain more of that rich and complex depth you should consider doing a steep or mini-mash. Doing this with a small amount of one or two base malts and one or two specialty malts can make all the difference in the world. Hops Generally, you’ll want to avoid hop varieties with strong, dank, piney, or resinous flavors. These flavors can work, but they should only be included as subtle notes, so varieties with one or more of these as their dominant character will likely over announce themselves in the finished beer. A good way to pick varieties for a wheatwine is to think of flavors associated with white wines. Soft, fruity aromas/flavors of apple, lighter stone fruits, tropical fruit, and gooseberries work well. Varieties that have mellow floral notes like honeysuckle, jasmine, lemongrass, etc. also should be considered. Consider using hop pellets or the newer Lupulin dust when you can. Whole cone hops are great, but they inevitably increase the trub in your kettle, which decreases the amount of retrievable wort at the end of the boil; this in a batch that already may be smaller due to mash size and malt quantity logistics, so there is no reason to compound it further. VARIETIES TO CONSIDER Nelson Sauvin Galaxy Cascade Magnum Hallertau Blanc Galena Amarillo Motueka Bitterness tends to be lower than in Barleywines. A clean bittering hop does well here, such as Magnum, but Galena or Cascade can also bring some interesting bitterness to the whole. Or try a single-hopped wheatwine with something like Madarina Bavaria. Remember, this beer is meant to be aged, so even if the hops may appear a little overwhelming when it is young, they will mellow and round over time. The Mash The mash can run anywhere from the usual 60 minutes, up to a couple of hours. This will all depend on its makeup (thickness, grains used, etc.) And don’t forget those rice hulls! You can do a single step infusion mash, though it’s likely you’ll get better efficiency (higher attenuation) if you go with a multi-step infusion. If using a single step, shoot for a temperature range of 147 to 150oF. You may even nudge it a little higher if you want a little more mouthfeel. Any adjuncts you plan to add should also come into consideration when choosing the temperature. Adjuncts will increase attenuation. A multi-step mash will get you a higher attenuation and clearer wort. It might look something like this: Dough in and let it rest at between 95 – 113oF for 10 to 15 minutes. This not only helps establish mash pH but ensures the grain is well wetted and helps with enzyme distribution throughout the grain bed. Resting a couple of degrees above 130oF will allow proteinase enzymes to cut longer chain proteins into medium-chain proteins which can help with clarity without affecting head formation extensively. Rest here for about 15 minutes. Then jump it up to between 146 and 149oF. This is your main starch conversion rest, letting beta-amylase work. This lower saccharification temperature allows for a more fermentable wort. Let it work for 40 to 50 minutes. Then jump it up briefly to between 158oF and 160oF. Give the alpha-amylase a small prime working window of 10 to 15 minutes. If this is a new process to you or this is the first time you are brewing a particular recipe be sure to check conversion with the iodine test before mashing out. Finally, raise the mash to a mash-out temperature of 168oF and hold for 5 to 10 minutes. If you have the capability you can recirculate the wort during the mashout. Sparge and Boil Sparge slowly keeping your grain bed at between 168oF and 170oF the whole time. Collect your predetermined pre-boil volume. Boils tend to run between 60 and 90 minutes. A longer boil will drive off more DMS, increase hop isomerization, and allow more maillard reactions. Whether you need (or want) a longer boil is something you have to decide. The longer boil is recommended if you are using a quantity of pilsner malt. The added time to drive off more DMS is important in this case. Also because this is a higher gravity beer, which decreases hop utilization, a longer boil can help counter this somewhat. The increase in maillard reactions in a longer boil can be a bit of a balancing act. You want some maltiness in the style, but not too much and a longer boil will also darken your wort. So, you need to take all this into consideration when choosing a boil length. Hop utilization can be increased by adding any planned adjunct sugar or malt extract 15 minutes before the end of the boil. Yeast Yeast doesn’t play a huge part in the style, at least where aroma and flavor are concerned. The yeast profile is usually clean but also can contribute slight fruitiness to the beer. Most German Weizen yeasts will be inappropriate to the style — no banana or clove here. Here are a few suggestions: WHITE LABS WYEAST DRY ORGANIC Dry English Ale (WLP005) Kolsch (2565) Safale-American Ale (US-05) Imperial Yeast- Flagship (A07) California Ale (WLP001) American Wheat (1010) Safale- English Ale (S-04) Imperial Yeast-Joystick (A18) For this beer, you’ll want to pitch plenty of yeast. The higher alcohol will hinder the yeast somewhat so you want to start with a strong and healthy population. A good rule of thumb is about 50% more than what you’d use in a normal brew. With big beers, it always serves to make a yeast starter or plan your brewing so you can pitch a yeast cake off a lower alcohol clean beer that has finished fermenting. Fermentation/Aging/Bottling Once your boil is complete, crash cool your wort to the low to mid-60s and oxygenate well. Then pitch your yeast. How and if you control your fermentation temperature is going to depend a lot on the type of yeast you’re using and what kind of profile you want to have in the finished beer. If you are using yeast that produces fruity esters it may be better to keep the temperature in the low 60s to inhibit their formation. Keeping it low also will help control the alcohol flavors. You want them noticeable, but you don’t want them to become too sharp. Try not to let it rise above 72oF at any point. This is a good style to condition on oak, especially if you plan on aging it after it’s bottled. Oaking can deepen the complexity and add to perceived dryness. There are several options for oaking. You could go all out and by a small barrel, but this can be quite expensive. Oak chips and Oak spirals are available, or if you feel industrious and plan ahead, you can make your own oak chips to use in aging. Go with light or medium toast when making your selection. If you plan to age it on oak, after fermentation, rack the beer into a secondary with the oak and put it somewhere dark and cool (even down to lagering temperatures) and leave it alone for 2 to 6 months before packaging. Prime and bottle, or keg. You’re looking at a carbonation level of 1.5 to 2 volumes just like barleywine. If you do keg I’d suggest filling a least a couple of bottles so that you have the chance to age them and learn how your new brew changes over time. The yeast is pretty worn out by this point in such a big beer, so you may want to pitch something like Lallemands Cask and Bottle Conditioning yeast (CBC-1) when you bottle. In Closing You can’t be in a hurry with wheatwine. From the longer than average brew day, through a longer fermentation, and possible secondary conditioning on wood, to letting it age once it’s in the bottle it’s gonna take patience to make a good example. But it’s well worth the trouble and time. The height of beer enjoyment is nested in a big beer done right and sipped slowly in a cool season’s evening while around a warm fire. Barleywine, with its mighty malt backbone, is the deep winter warmer, but for those crisp evenings as the leaves flutter brightly down the streets, there is little better than the subtle richness of a wheatwine. Brew it early in the year and lay it down until that first drifting bite of cool air hits, then crack a bottle open and warm yourself.