Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Wheat Wine - Empirical Series 2012

"Resolve, resolve, and to be men aspire...
Let godlike reason, from her sovereign throne,
Speak the commanding word I WILL, and it is done."

I was a little late getting this year's Empirical brew done. I want to get these done in February of each year, but I couldn't quite squeeze this one in. Early March isn't too bad though I suppose. This year's edition is inspired by Harpoon's Triticus, a dark wheat wine. My wife and I tried this during a brewery tour in Boston a couple of years ago and were both instant fans. Almost immediately I began searching for info to help me design a homebrewed version. The original Triticus was actually the concept of the Alstrom brothers (of Beer Advocate fame) for Harpoon's 100 Barrel Series, and, as luck would have it, they had made available some blog posts about their experience brewing this, including some details about the recipe. I can't seem to find those posts now, but before they disappeared I took down some notes, but hadn't gotten around to brewing it until now.

As is probably self-evident a "wheat wine" is a high gravity wheat ale - basically the wheat version of a barley wine. With this recipe almost half of the grist is wheat, including specialty wheat malts like Cara- and Chocolate wheat. Staying true to the Triticus recipe, the hops are German. Somewhat surprisingly the yeast is a neutral American strain (e.g. WLP001). I thought about using a more characterful strain, but, in the end, decided to remain true to the inspiration.

Unfortunately, brew day did not go as planned. Basically, my efficiency sucked. Normally, I am in the 72-74% range. For this batch I only hit 55%. The only other time my efficiency was this low was also my only other time using this large a percentage of wheat. I've come to the conclusion that because of the smaller size of the wheat grains, my LHBS's mill doesn't crush them as well as it does the larger barley. Luckily, I had some DME around, but, unfortunately, it wasn't the wheat DME I thought I picked up when I bought the ingredients for this batch - I must have grabbed the wrong bag off the shelf. So, a pound of Extra Light DME went into the kettle. I wanted the OG to be higher still (was shooting for the mid-1.090s), but didn't want to use any more extract or simpler sugars, so I decided to leave it in the 1.080s. I just hope it ferments out well. The pound of demerara sugar should help with that (with these high gravity beers, I like to use up to 10% simple sugars).

It is now fermenting away in the basement. I'll let it go for probably a month and then rack it into a glass carboy for extended aging before bottling it sometime this summer. The first tasting will happen sometime around Halloween or Thanksgiving, if I can hold off that long. At the moment, I am toying with the idea of adding either oak cubes and/or cacao nibs when I rack to the carboy. Guess I'll wait to see how it tastes when I get to that point.

UPDATE: I decided to go with the cacoa nibs and skipped the oak

Bene Victum (aka James) - Empirical Series 2012
Brewed on 3/12/12

Recipe Specifications
Batch Size: 3.75 gal
Boil Size: 5.00 gal
Estimated Color: 24.8 SRM
Estimated IBU: 65.5 IBUs
Brewhouse Efficiency: 55.00 %
Boil Time: 60 Minutes
OG: 1.084
FG: 1.012
ABV: 9.4%

5 lbs Pale Malt (2 Row) UK - 38%
4 lbs Wheat Malt, Pale - 30.4 %
1 lbs Munich I - 7.6 %
6.0 oz Carawheat (50L) - 3%
6.0 oz Chocolate Wheat (450L) - 3%
6.0 oz Wheat, Flaked - 3%
1 lbs Extra Light Dry Extract - 7.5 %
1 lbs Dememera Sugar - 7.5 %

20 g Magnum [13.10 %] - 60.0 min
10 g Hallertauer [3.80 %] - 20.0 min
10 g Saaz [4.00 %] - 10.0 min
15 g Saaz [4.00 %] - dry hop

California Ale (White Labs #WLP001)

Mash Schedule
Single Infusion, 149°F

aged on 6 oz cacao nibs


Anonymous said...

Have you sampled this recently? I made the wheat wine from brewing with wheat with biere de garde yeast and styian gold hops that turned out great. Would like to do a run of wheat wines was thinking of trying this recipe.

Jim Lemire said...

Interesting that you should ask this...just last night I popped open the first bottle! I did not take any formal tasting notes, but I am very pleased with the way it turned out. Super smooth for such a high ABV brew and nicely flavored with chocolate and hints of vanilla - one might think there was some oak aging involved (but there wasn't), which I attribute to the extended time on the cacao nibs. Perhaps a little thinner than I was looking for, but a very nice beer...especially after it warmed up a bit.

Let me know if you decide to try this recipe. Would love to hear how it worked.

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