Fine Wheatwine

Have you ever heard of wheatwine? If you know about this fairly obscure style of beer, consider yourself lucky, because wheatwine may be the ultimate homebrew. It’s potent, a challenge to make and decidedly different.     Wheatwine is a style that seems to have arisen in the United States, most likely in California, during the craft-brewing revolution. But few breweries have attempted to master the recipe.

Wheatwine is similar to its well-known relative, barleywine, with one obvious exception: Wheatwine’s primary ingredient is wheat. It’s a bit like a doppel weizenbock, with different hops and yeast. Wheatwine is smooth, full-bodied and high in alcohol content. This beer packs a wallop and it’s a worthwhile style for any intrepid homebrewer to master, whether you brew extract or all-grain.

Putting the beer together
When brewing an all-grain wheatwine, the biggest challenge is the high risk of a stuck mash: Because wheat malt lacks a husk, it’s notorious for gumming up the mash. So my best advice is to be realistic about your brewing system. Can it handle 20 pounds of grain, including 13 pounds of wheat malt?  If you have suffered a stuck mash with a normal beer, I suggest you start with an extract or perhaps a partial-mash version.

Recipes for wheatwine can vary. Start with the grain bill of your favorite doppel weizenbock, then adjust the hops and yeast. This brew won’t have any clove or banana characteristics, like a German weizen. You want a clean and malty flavor that leans in the direction of barleywine. The color range can be broad. A golden hue is fine (just leave out the crystal). An amber color may extend all the way to russet. It should be clear and clean.

A wheatwine grain bill might look something like this: 32 percent pale two-row malt, 64 percent wheat malt and 4 percent crystal (40° Lovibond). This grain bill will give your beer a light amber hue and a nice caramel malt flavor. The OG will be around 1.100 and the IBUs should be about 60.

Try to take a tactical approach to handling your wheat grain. For starters, keep your barley and wheat separate. Crush the barley malt and crystal malt first, making certain that the crush is coarse. Just crack the grains open to expose the kernel and keep most of the husk intact. Then move on to the wheat malt. You’ll find they are more brittle but try not to pulverize these fragile kernels.

You can take two approaches to mashing these grains. The standard method — throwing all the grains into the mash-tun until conversion, then transferring them to the lauter tun — risks a stuck mash. For that reason, I suggest one of the following methods.

Method One: Add a heavy dose of oat or rice hulls to the wheat grain (5 percent of the total malt bill). These replace the hulls that are missing from the wheat grain and create a natural filter bed. They are neutral in flavor and won’t affect the beer’s flavor.

Method Two: Use two mash tuns. The first is for the malted barley and caramel malt. The second is for the wheat grain and rice or oat hulls, with a small amount (5 pounds) of grain from the other malted barley batch added to aid in conversion. Transfer both batches to the lauter tun after each has achieved conversion and the iodine test is negative. Move the barley first to create a good filter bed. Let the barley settle for ten minutes. Then add the wheat grain on top.

If you have a mash-lauter tun fitted with a false bottom, you can still combine these methods. Add the oat or rice hulls to the wheat grain, and when you add the grains to the mash-lauter tun, put the malted barley on the bottom and the wheat on top. Don’t stir.

The mash profile is straightforward with either method. A simple, single-temperature infusion at 152° F  should get you a good conversion. Sparging and lautering proceeds as with any other brew, and the longer the sparge, the better. This allows the filter bed to get established, creating beautiful, clear wort. If you do get a stuck mash and need to stir it, recirculate again until you achieve clarity.

The Boil, Hops and Yeast
In the kettle, it’s best to do a longer boil, whether you’re working with extract or grains. This accommodates the high sugar levels and brings out some additional caramelization, which adds to the malty flavor of the finished product. A good target is 90 minutes.

You can adjust the hops to fit your preferences. Galena and Cascade are good choices. You’re looking for about 60 IBUs. The bittering hops are boiled for 50 to 60 minutes. The Cascade goes in for 15 and 5 minutes. If you choose a fourth hop addition (at 30 minutes) and raise the IBUs a bit, you will reduce the malt character a bit in favor of more bitterness.

Your ale yeast strain will determine the final characteristics of your brew. English strains tend to emphasize the malt. With an optimal fermentation temperature between 65° to 70° F, the average homebrewer will have little problems managing fermentation.
No adjuncts are added to the beer.

Once it is transferred to the fermenter, it is dropped to a temperature of 64° F for a two-week fermentation. The Papago Brewing Company in Scottsdale, Arizona, one of the few commercial breweries to make a wheatwine, uses White Labs WLP005 (British Ale). This, or a similar liquid ale yeast, will yield the smooth, balanced flavor you want. I age my wheatwines for three months, minimum, at the coldest temperature above freezing I can manage.

Whone Whicked Wheat Whine
(5 gallons, all grain)
OG = 1.111  FG = 1.027  IBU = 55
ABV = 11% SRM =  9.5


  • 6 lbs. two-row pale malt
  • 13 lbs. wheat malt
  • 1 lb. crystal malt (40° Lovibond)
  • 15 AAUs Galena hops
    • (1.25 oz. of 12% alpha acid)
  • 3 AAUs Cascade hops
    • (0.5 oz. of 6% alpha acid)
  • 3 AAUs Cascade hops
    • (0.5 oz. of 6% alpha acid)
  • British Ale Yeast (White Labs WLP005)
  • 1/2 cup corn sugar for priming

Step by Step

Mash grains in 6.25 gallons water in a single infusion at 152° F for 60 minutes or until iodine test is negative. Mash-out at 165° F for 15 min. Sparge with 170° F water to collect 6 gallons. Total boil is 60 to 90 min. Add your bittering hops so they boil for 50 to 60 min. The second hop addition comes with 15 min. remaining in the boil. Add the final hops 5 min. before the boil finishes. Chill to 65° F and pitch a one-quart starter of British ale yeast.

Ferment at 65° to 70° F. When krauesen drops back, check SG. Rack into secondary when gravity hits 1.015. Age at cellar temperatures (or lower) for 7 to 14 days. Bottle and prime. Condition in the bottle as long as desired (30 to 60 days minimum).

Easy Extract Wheatwine
(5 gallons, extract with grains)
OG = 1.098 FG = 1.025 IBU = 55

There are a few tips to keep in mind when brewing wheatwine with extract. First, be careful when stirring the extract into the brewing water. If you’re using liquid extract, be sure it is all dissolved. If you’re using dry extract, work with small increments to avoid clumping. Boost the temperature  a bit as you stir in the extract to compensate for heat loss. Always try to keep the temperature near 170° F.

Avoid boilovers with a bigger kettle or a watchful eye and constant stirring.   The wort will be heavily concentrated, which means it will be unstable and foamy. If foam starts to rise, remove from burner. After it settles down, put it back on high heat. Once the boil takes hold, you should be able to maintain a solid boil without boilovers.  Finally, aerate the wort extremely well before pitching. The yeast need plenty of oxygen to ferment all that sugar.


  • 0.5 pound crystal malt (40° Lovibond)
  • 3 lbs. Briess amber liquid extract
  • 10 lbs. Briess wheat liquid extract
  • 15 AAUs Galena hops
    • (1.25 oz. of 12% alpha acid)
  • 3 AAUs Cascade hops
    • (0.50 oz. of 6% alpha acid)
  • 3 AAUs Cascade hops
    • (0.50 oz. of 6% alpha acid)
  • British Ale (White Labs WLP005)
  • 1/2 tsp. Irish moss
  • 3/4 cup corn sugar for priming

Step by Step
Put cracked grains in a cheesecloth bag and submerse them in 5.5 gal. cold water. Let the grain bag steep while the water is heating. Remove the grains when the water hits 170° F. Bring the water to a boil, turn off the heat and slowly stir in the extract. When the extract is dissolved, boil the wort. Add the hops as specified in the original recipe. Add the Irish moss 2 minutes before the end of boil. Cool rapidly to 65° F.  Transfer to a fermenter. Pitch one quart yeast starter. Ferment with an airlock and move to secondary when the krauesen subsides. Age at or below fermentation temperatures. Bottle after 7 to 14 days. Boil the priming sugar in 3 cups of water, cool and add directly to secondary before bottling. Bottle and store at cellar temperatures for several weeks.
Thanks to Ron Kloth of Papago Brewing Company for his help in preparing this article.

Issue: October 2001