Article

Dunkelweizen

My favorite German-style wheat beer is dunkelweizen. The other German wheat beer styles are good too, but they are not styles that I would want for my everyday beer. Weizenbock is too big and rich and I would get fat. Weizen or Weissbier is a little too light and simple and I would get bored. Berliner Weisse has too much acid for day-in and day-out and my stomach would complain. Dunkelweizen, however, is ideal; I could drink dunkelweizen every day. The melanoidin-rich malt character, the touch of caramel, the spicy/fruity fermentation profile, and the balanced finish would keep me entertained, fit, and my old-man stomach happy.

Dunkelweizen has the same spicy/fruity character of a hefeweizen, but it also has a rich Munich malt character, similar to, but not as intense as a Munich dunkel. Dunkelweizen is often hazy, ranging in color from light copper to a dark mahogany-brown, and topped with a large, dense, creamy off-white head. The aroma of a good dunkelweizen includes moderate spicy notes and fruity esters, usually described as clove and banana. However, one of the most common mistakes in homebrewed weizen-style beers is having too much clove and banana character. Brewers might point to the fact that the BJCP style guide says these phenolic and estery compounds can range up to “strong,” but don’t think for a minute that means a clove/banana bomb is acceptable. It does not mean that these fermentation compounds should overwhelm the other characteristics of the beer. It is critical that a brewer keeps these compounds restrained and that they blend in with the overall harmony of the beer, especially the malts. For new brewers especially, it might be better to think of the word “strong” as meaning “clearly evident.” You should be able to smell and taste wheat, caramel and melanoidin rich malts like Munich in this beer along with the clove and banana. Target low to moderate phenols and esters and you will have more than enough character for the style.

Like most weizen-style beers, dunkelweizen has a grainy, bready flavor underlying the beer. Slight, soft caramel notes and toasty, bread crust-like melanoidin character from Munich malt should be present in moderate levels. While it has a rich color, there are no roasted flavors or aromas. Hop character is minimal or non-existent. The balance between bittering and sweetness is usually even, though some examples can have an initial sweetness up front. While I don’t think an acidic or tart character is indicative of great dunkelweizen, I do think proper attenuation, pH and hop/malt balance keeps this style refreshing and balanced with any malty sweetness. I think the BJCP style guide captures this style’s overall impression well by describing it as, “a moderately dark, spicy, fruity, malty, refreshing wheat-based ale. Reflecting the best yeast and wheat character of a hefeweizen blended with the malty richness of a Munich dunkel.” Malty richness balanced with the spicy/fruity character is what it is all about.

A traditional dunkelweizen would be 50 to 70% wheat malt, 30 to 50% dark Munich malt and a small amount of mid-color caramel malt. By German law, at least 50% of the grist must be malted wheat. The Munich malt adds a rich, grainy, bready malt character and the caramel malt adds a gentle note of caramel sweetness.

Alternatively, a blend of wheat, Munich and Pilsner malt along with a heavier hand on the specialty grains seems to do well in competition. Greater use of specialty malts does make it easier to develop a rich color and add a touch of caramel flavor, but as always make sure what you are planning is balanced. A little caramel malt (5 to 10%) adds some color and hints of caramel flavor. If crafting a more traditional recipe, I prefer CaraMunich (60 °L). Another option is to split the caramel malt addition into a lower color and higher color malt, to develop some complexity. In either case, don’t add so much that the beer has a bold caramel flavor or the balance becomes too sweet. It does not take a lot and too much can be overwhelming.

To develop color without adding roasty flavors a little debittered black malt does the trick. My preference is for Weyermann Carafa® Special, a huskless, roasted malt. The lack of a husk means far less bitter roasted flavors, which would be inappropriate in roggenbier. Weyermann also makes Carafa®, which does have a husk and a lot more roasted character, so make sure you’re getting the huskless variety, Carafa® Special. Weyermann also makes Sinamar®, a liquid extract of Carafa® Special, made in accordance with the Reinheitsgebot. It is easy to use and provides as good a result as using the grain itself. Just add it to the boil kettle. One ounce by weight (28 g) of Sinamar® in 5 gallons (19 L) of liquid adds 6 SRM of color and little in the way of roasted flavor. The problem with Sinamar® is that it can be harder to find than Carafa® Special.

The ideal extract for this style does not exist. The ideal extract would be at least 50% wheat malt and the rest dark Munich malt. Most wheat extracts and Munich extracts are approximately half Pilsner or two-row malt, which is more Pilsner malt than desired. If you are interested in giving all-grain a try, the brew in a bag method is an easy way to get started as it is very similar to steeping grain in a bag. You can find lots of good information on this technique by searching for “brew in a bag method” on the Internet. If you decide to stick with extract, use any high quality wheat extract and Munich extract.

Historically, like most weizen-type beers, dunkelweizen would have been decoction mashed. While a decoction mash might induce more Maillard reactions, the rich malt flavors provided by today’s Munich and Pilsner malts is more than adequate and a single infusion or step mash works well. Dunkelweizen has a medium-light to medium-full body. Target a mash temperature range of 152 to 156 °F (67 to 69 °C). If you are making a lower gravity beer, use the higher end of this temperature range to leave the beer with a bit more body. If you are making a bigger beer, use the lower end of the range to avoid too full of a body, which can limit drinkability. Keep in mind wheat malt is huskless, so if your equipment is prone to stuck mashes, you might want to add a volume of rice hulls equal to the volume of wheat malt.

Always try to use German hops for German beers, such as Hallertau, Spalt, Tettnang, Perle, Magnum or Tradition. Liberty or Mount Hood can be acceptable substitutes if you cannot source one of the others. Balance the beer with enough hop bitterness to be evident, but not enough to overcome the malt sweetness of the beer. The balance should be even or maybe slightly sweet, but not more. Target a bitterness-to-starting gravity ratio (IBU divided by OG) between 0.2 and 0.4. The bulk of the hopping should be as a bittering addition at 60 minutes. Limit late hop additions, if used at all, to a small addition of noble hops near the end of the boil.

While the traditional weizen fermentation esters and phenols should be obvious in dunkelweizen, keep in mind that the clove and banana fermentation character should blend well with the rest of the beer. While brewers like to pitch a reduced cell count to increase weizen fermentation characteristics, I’m not a big fan of that technique. Instead, pitching rates should be the same as other ales. My favorite yeasts for all weizen-type beers is White Labs WLP300 Hefeweizen Ale and Wyeast 3068 Weihenstephan Weizen, but feel free to try other weizen-type yeasts. A restrained fermentation temperature of 62 °F (17 °C) creates a beautiful balance of fermentation flavors and helps keep some unpleasant flavors in check. It is very important to follow the recommended fermentation temperature for this beer.

Recipes

Dunkelweizen

(5 gallons/19 L, all-grain)
OG = 1.050 (12.4 °P)
FG = 1.012 (3.1 °P)
IBU = 15 SRM = 18 ABV = 5.0%

Ingredients

6.6 lb. (3 kg) Great Western wheat malt (2 °L) or similar
3.3 lb. (1.5 kg) Durst Munich malt (8°L) or similar
8.8 oz. (250 g) Briess CaraMunich (60 °L) or similar
2.6 oz. (75 g) Weyermann Carafa® Special II (430 °L)
2.96 AAU Hallertau pellet hops (0.74 oz./21 g at 4% alpha acids) (60 min.)
Wyeast 3068 (Weihenstephan Weizen) or White Labs WLP300 (Hefeweizen Ale) yeast

Step by Step

Mill the grains and dough-in targeting a mash of around 1.5 quarts of water to 1 pound of grain (a liquor-to-grist ratio of about 3:1 by weight) and a temperature of 154 °F (68 °C). Hold the mash at 154 °F (68 °C) until enzymatic conversion is complete. Infuse the mash with near boiling water while stirring or with a recirculating mash system raise the temperature to mash out at 168 °F (76 °C). Sparge slowly with 170 °F (77 °C) water, collecting wort until the pre-boil kettle volume is around 6.5 gallons (24.4 L) and the gravity is 1.039 (9.7 °P).

The total wort boil time is 90 minutes, which helps reduce the S-methyl methionine (SMM) present in the lightly kilned pilsner malt and results in less dimethyl sulfide (DMS) in the finished beer. Add the bittering hops with 60 minutes remaining in the boil. I skip using kettle finings in this beer. Chill the wort rapidly to 62 °F (17 °C), let the break material settle, rack to the fermenter, pitch the yeast and aerate thoroughly. The proper pitch rate is 9 grams of properly rehydrated dry yeast, two packages of liquid yeast or one package of liquid yeast in a 1.5-liter starter.

Ferment at 62 °F (17 °C) until the beer attenuates fully. With healthy yeast, fermentation should be complete in a week, but don’t rush it. The cooler than average ale fermentation temperature can extend the time it takes for complete attenuation. Rack to a keg and force carbonate or rack to a bottling bucket, add priming sugar, and bottle. Target a carbonation level of 2.5 to 3 volumes.

Dunkelweizen

(5 gallons/19 L, extract with grains)
OG = 1.051 (12.7 °P)
FG = 1.013 (3.2 °P)
IBU = 15 SRM = 15 ABV = 5.1%

Ingredients

4.4 lb. (2 kg) wheat liquid malt extract (4 °L)
2.2 lb. (1 kg) Weyermann Munich Amber liquid malt extract (8 °L)
8.8 oz. (250 g) Briess CaraMunich malt (60 °L) or similar
2.6 oz. (75 g) Weyermann Carafa Special II (430 °L)
3.12 AAU Hallertau pellet hops (0.78 oz./22 at 4% alpha acids) (60 min.)
Wyeast 3068 (Weihenstephan Weizen) or White Labs WLP300 (Hefeweizen Ale) yeast

Step by Step

I have used a number of wheat and Munich malt extracts with good results. Always choose the freshest extract that fits the beer style. If you can’t get fresh liquid malt extract, it is better to use an appropriate amount of dried malt extract (DME) instead.

Mill or coarsely crack the specialty malt and place loosely in a grain bag. Avoid packing the grains too tightly in the bag, using more bags if needed. Steep the bag in about 0.5 gallon (~2 liters) of water at roughly 170 °F (77 °C) for about 30 minutes. Lift the grain bag out of the steeping liquid and rinse with warm water. Allow the bags to drip into the kettle for a few minutes while you add the malt extract. Do not squeeze the bags. Add enough water to the steeping liquor and malt extract to make a pre-boil volume of 5.9 gallons (22.3 L) and a gravity of 1.043 (10.8 °P). Stir thoroughly to help dissolve the extract and bring to a boil.

The total wort boil time is 60 minutes. Add the bittering hops with 60 minutes remaining in the boil. I skip kettle finings for this beer. Chill the wort rapidly to 62 °F (17 °C), let the break material settle, rack to the fermenter, pitch the yeast and aerate thoroughly. The proper pitch rate is 9 grams of properly rehydrated dry yeast, two packages of liquid yeast or one package of liquid yeast in a 1.5-liter starter. Follow the remainder of the all-grain version of this recipe.

Trigo Oscuro

(5 gallons/19 L, all-grain)
OG = 1.056 (13.8 °P)
FG = 1.014 (3.5 °P)
IBU = 16 SRM = 17 ABV = 5.6%

Many people expect a darker beer to be bigger and richer, even though that is not always the case. This recipe is on the bigger end of the style, with a rich caramel note.

Ingredients

6.2 lb. (2.8 kg) Great Western wheat malt (2 °L) or similar
2.6 lb. (1.2 kg) Durst or Weyermann Munich malt (8 °L) or similar
1.9 lb. (850 g) Durst or Weyermann continental Pilsner malt (1.8 °L) or similar
5.3 oz. (150 g) Dingemans Special B malt (120 °L) or similar
5.3 oz. (150 g) Briess crystal malt (40 °L) or similar
2.6 oz. (75 g) Weyermann Carafa Special II (430 °L)
3.36 AAU Hallertau pellet hops (0.84 oz./24 g at 4% alpha acids) (60 min.)
Wyeast 3068 (Weihenstephan Weizen) or White Labs WLP300 (Hefeweizen Ale) yeast

Step by Step

Mill the grains and dough-in targeting a mash of around 1.5 quarts of water to 1 pound of grain (a liquor-to-grist ratio of about 3:1 by weight) and a temperature of 152 °F (67 °C). Hold the mash at 152 °F (67 °C) until enzymatic conversion is complete. Infuse the mash with near boiling water while stirring or with a recirculating mash system raise the temperature to mash out at 168 °F (76 °C). Sparge slowly with 170 °F (77 °C) water, collecting wort until the pre-boil kettle volume is around 6.5 gallons (24.4 L) and the gravity is 1.043 (10.8 °P).

The total wort boil time is 90 minutes, which helps reduce the SMM present in the lightly kilned Pilsner malt and results in less DMS in the finished beer. Add the bittering hops with 60 minutes remaining in the boil. I skip kettle finings in this beer. Chill the wort rapidly to 62 °F (17 °C), let the break material settle, rack to the fermenter, pitch the yeast and aerate thoroughly. The proper pitch rate is 10 grams of properly rehydrated dry yeast, two packages of liquid yeast or one package of liquid yeast in a 2-liter starter.

Ferment at 62 °F (17 °C) until the beer attenuates fully. With healthy yeast, fermentation should be complete in a week, but don’t rush it. The cooler than average ale fermentation temperature can extend the time it takes for complete attenuation. Rack to a keg and force carbonate or rack to a bottling bucket, add priming sugar, and bottle. Target a carbonation level of 2.5 to 3 volumes.

Trigo Oscuro

(5 gallons/19 L, extract with grains)
OG = 1.056 (13.8 °P)
FG = 1.014 (3.5 °P)
IBU = 16 SRM = 17 ABV = 5.6%

Ingredients

5.0 lb. (2.3 kg) wheat liquid malt extract (4 °L)
2.2 lb. (1 kg) Weyermann Munich Amber liquid malt extract (8 °L)
5.3 oz. (150 g) Dingemans Special B malt (120 °L) or similar
5.3 oz. (150 g) Briess crystal malt (40 °L) or similar
2.6 oz. (75 g) Weyermann Carafa Special II (430 °L)
3.36 AAU Hallertau pellet hops (0.84 oz./24 g at 4% alpha acids)(60 min.)
Wyeast 3068 (Weihenstephan Weizen) or White Labs WLP300 (Hefeweizen Ale) yeast

Step by Step

I have used a number of wheat and Munich malt extracts with good results. Always choose the freshest extract that fits the beer style. If you can’t get fresh liquid malt extract, it is better to use an appropriate amount of dried malt extract (DME) instead.

Mill or coarsely crack the specialty malt and place loosely in a grain bag. Avoid packing the grains too tightly in the bag, using more bags if needed. Steep the bag in about 1⁄2 gallon (~2 liters) of water at roughly 170 °F (77 °C) for about 30 minutes. Lift the grain bag out of the steeping liquid and rinse with warm water. Allow the bags to drip into the kettle for a few minutes while you add the malt extract. Do not squeeze the bags. Add enough water to the steeping liquor and malt extract to make a pre-boil volume of 5.9 gallons (22.3 L) and a gravity of 1.047 (11.8 °P). Stir thoroughly and bring to a boil.

The total wort boil time is 60 minutes. Add the bittering hops with 60 minutes remaining in the boil. I skip kettle finings for this beer. Chill the wort rapidly to 62 °F (17 °C), let the break material settle, rack to the fermenter, pitch the yeast and aerate thoroughly. The proper pitch rate is 10 grams of properly rehydrated dry yeast, two packages of liquid yeast or one package of liquid yeast in a 2-liter starter. Follow the remainder of the all-grain version of this recipe.