It's been about a year now. I'm trying to control it, but with little success. What "it" is is an obsession with brewing a decent hefeweizen. I'm determined to get it right. But I keep getting it wrong.
I decided hefeweizen should be my first attempt at designing my own homebrew recipe. I can't recall why. Why not start with a more straightforward beer, or yeast, for that matter? I think I was drinking a lot of weissbier when I thought, "THIS is what I should try to brew!"
The problem is, I'd never created a beer recipe before, and I was attempting to recreate one of the oldest and greatest styles in the world. Aim high, I guess . . . or fail sourly, in my case.
Before I started brewing, I researched the style to determine what color mine should be, as well as what gives its clove and banana notes and just what kind of hops to use. I like my hefeweizens slightly dunkel, in the amber range, so I decided that a small amount of Carafa III would do for the color. As for the yeast, Weihenstephan (Wyeast 3068) would provide the spice and fruit flavors.
Then, with a little more research I came up with a simple extract recipe. Should have been easy, right?
Problem was mine came out almost all wrong.
It all started with the blow-off tube. Joe at Princeton Home Brew warned me I'd need to use one to brew with this yeast. Actually, he scared the pants off of me with visions of a beer-splattered basement if I chose to go without one. I'd never used one so I was clueless. Luckily, he patiently showed me how to put one together by removing the top of a three-piece airlock, attaching one end of a length of hose to the opening and submerging the other end in a bucket full of water to create a seal.
But when I actually brewed my beer, there was never any extraordinary yeast action. It fermented like all my previous brews, with no blow-off-worthy action to speak of. Not good. And then things got really hairy. While racking to my secondary, some of the blow-off liquid got sucked into my primary and from there into my secondary. When the beer was finished, it looked fantastic, I’d nailed the color. It tasted passably like a hefeweizen but with a serious sourness. It would not have been unpleasant . . . if I'd brewed a sour!
When I asked Joe what the problem was, he said I had an infection (er, my beer did) and that I needed to replace all my equipment. But I wasn't convinced. I was haunted by the horror of my blow-off debacle. And I didn't want to get rid of everything. I'd grown fond of my old white bucket. It had been good to me.
So I replaced everything but the bucket. And tried the recipe again . . . with the same sour outcome. But here’s the kicker: between failed batches of hefeweizen I fermented a saison in there and produced a nuanced and refreshing brew, without a trace of sourness.
Which brings me to my next attempt to get my hefe right.
I told you I was obsessed.Last modified on