Tag Archives: Dunkelweizen

So You Wanna Brew a Weizen

In this post, we’ll explore some of the ways you can brew up a 2.5-gallon batch of German Wheat Beer in your kitchen. I’ve included a recipe below for a variation on the Weizen theme: a Roggenbier (rye beer) that you can easily convert into a Dunkelweizen. If you’re new to homebrewing, consider picking up a starter kit from one of the many online homebrew suppliers, and take a glance at a book like Charlie Papazian’s The Complete Joy of Homebrewing.

If you haven’t already read it, check out my “Hefeweizen: A Beer for All Seasons” for some historical and stylistic notes on Weissbiers. Also included in the “Beer for All Seasons” article is a brief set of tasting notes spanning some of the more widely available Hefeweizens, Dunkelweizens, and Weizenbocks so you can get a sense of the style.

WheatHarvest Idaho (Wiki)

Now that we know something of the general characteristics of Weizenbier, how do we go about brewing one? I’ll focus on Hefeweizens and Dunkelweizens, but you can find recipes for Kristalls and Weizenbocks online or in other published sources. (Refer to the BJCP Style Guidelines for brewing parameters.) The vital statistics for both Hefeweizens and Dunkelweizens are similar: 4.3-5.6% ABV; low noble hop character from varieties such as Hallertauer, Tettnanger, Spalt, or Perle; a moderate starting gravity of 1044-1052 for Hefeweizens and 1044-1056 for Dunkelweizens; and a finishing gravity in the 1010 to 1014 range. Wheat typically makes up more than fifty percent of the grain bill in these refreshing medium-light to medium-bodied beers, imparting a creamy richness and sometimes a peppery, citrus-like acidity. The grist composition is usually rounded out by Pilsener malt in the case of Hefeweizens, and augmented by specialty malts such as Munich and crystal malts in the case of Dunkelweizens.

BJCP LogoWhat does this translate into on the palate? Here’s what the BJCP guidelines have to say:

Medium-light to medium body; never heavy. Suspended yeast may increase the perception of body. The texture of wheat imparts the sensation of a fluffy, creamy fullness that may progress to a light, spritzy finish aided by high carbonation. Always effervescent.

As with all beers in BJCP Category 15, the key to brewing an “authentic” German-style wheat or rye beer is yeast selection. Two of the more popular yeasts are Wyeast’s 3068 Weihenstephan strain, and White Lab’s WLP380 Hefeweizen IV. Bavarian wheat beer yeast strains give the beers both a fruity character often associated with bananas (and sometimes with apples) and a spicy character most often associated with cloves (and sometimes cinnamon).White Labs Yeast (thebrewhut-com) As I mentioned in the “Beer for All Seasons” article, “Hefe” means yeast; agitating the yeast in the bottle and pouring it into the glass at the end contributes to the classic hazy appearance of Weizens.

In his Brewing Classic Styles, Jamil Zainasheff suggests that the simplest malt bill formulations are the best: at least fifty percent wheat, and the rest a good Continental Pilsener malt. I have also used moderate amounts of Munich malt (less than ten percent of the grain bill) to give the beer a slightly toastier and breadier malt accent. Single-infusion mash temperatures should be in the 152-154F range (around 67C, give or take) so that you get sufficient body. The Weissbier yeast strains attenuate fairly well (around 73-77%), so you don’t have to worry too much about the beer being cloying.

Dunkelweizens exhibit a greater degree of malt richness and complexity due to the addition of Munich malts. Crystal malts may also feature in the malt bill along with small quantities of roasted malts like Carafa malts. The malt bill results in beers that are light copper to mahogany brown in colour. As with all beers in this style, the head is tall, dense, and mousse-like. Yeast and aromatics are similar to those of Hefeweizens – banana esters and/or clove phenols. Dunkels tend to be sweeter than Hefeweizens, with notes of toast, caramel, nuts, and even chocolate in the aromas and on the palate. Despite the additional sweetness, Dunkelweizens are rounded beers with a relatively dry finish.

After yeast selection, fermentation temperature is probably the single most important factor in brewing a tasty Hefeweizen. And that goes not only for Hefeweizens, but for all the beers in this category. Watch those fermentation temperatures! It’s best not to let these beers ferment much above 70F (21C), even if the stated range for the given yeast strain might fall between 62-75F (17-24C). Higher temperatures yield more banana esters, and lower temperatures yield more phenolics.

A Brief Word on Other Weizenbiers

Kristallweizen does not constitute its own BJCP category. These beers are very similar to the more ubiquitous Hefeweizens, but are filtered (hence the modifier, Kristall), and are generally fruitier, less phenolic, and more delicate than Hefeweizens.

Weizenbocks are strong, malty, fruity, and spicy wheat beers that combine elements of Hefeweizens and Dunkelweizens with the rich body and warming alcohol character of a Bock. These beers are typically dark, with a grain bill resembling an amped-up Dunkelweizen. That said, Weihenstephan does produce a compelling honey-gold version called Vitus. Schneider’s Aventinus is, technically, a Weizen Doppelbock, but it tends to get lumped in with the Weizenbock category. If you’re brewing a clone, check out this recipe in Brew Your Own.

WildRye (Wiki)Roggenbier is similar to a Hefeweizen or Dunkelweizen, the major difference being the replacement of malted wheat with malted rye. I have had one commercial German example only, and have yet to see a German Roggenbier in North America. Rogue produces a Roguenbier Rye Ale, but I have not been able to find it in my distribution area.

I did, however, take a stab at brewing my own Roggenbier in March, and just cracked my first bottle last night. One problem that I encountered was a high level of viscosity that didn’t dissipate much from mash through post-fermentation. Fortunately, the high levels of carbonation for these beers managed to tame the slickness of the rye somewhat. The viscosity comes from a high level of beta glucans in malted rye, and its persistence through to the finished product likely has something to do with mash temperatures. I have three years of home-brewing experience under my belt, and started formulating my own recipes only this season, so I’m by no means a pro at this. Once I get the beer into the hands of an experienced brewer who can provide advice on the mash schedule, I’ll let you know how to keep the viscosity in check. If you’re an experienced brewer and have any suggestions regarding process or recipe formulation, please leave a comment.

*Once fermentation’s all said and done and the bottles have conditioned, don’t forget the proper glassware to keep that towering foam cap in place! It’s tempting to drink these beers on the cold side – and that’s just fine – but at 48-54F (9-12C) you’ll be giving the subtle malt characters of these beers a chance to expand.

Post-Script: Keep On Roggen’ Rye


  • 2.5 gallons (pre-boil volume: approx. 3.3 gallons)
  • OG (Original Gravity): 1.052
  • FG (Final Gravity): 1.014
  • ABV: 5%
  • 90-minute boil

Grain Bill:

  • 3.3 lbs (1.5 kg) Rye Malt, 3.5ºL
  • 1.5 lbs (680 g) Munich Malt, 10ºL
  • 1 lb (454 g) Pilsener Malt, 1.8ºL
  • 0.6 lb (272 g) CaraMunich III, ~55-60ºL

Like wheat, malted rye will gum up a mash. Add about 2-3 ounces of rice hulls to the mash tun to ensure a happy brew day.

Hop Additions:

  • ½ oz (14 g) Northern Brewer (9.4%), 75 minutes
  • ¼ oz (7 g) Spalt (5.2%), 75 minutes
  • ¼ oz (7 g) Tettnanger (4.5%), 20 minutes
  • ¼ oz (7 g) Tettnanger (4.5%), 5 minutes

When I brew another Roggenbier, I’ll likely keep the bittering additions to 60 minutes, and will use Perle or Hallertauer in place of the Northern Brewer. I found that a slightly higher hopping rate compared to a Hefeweizen or Dunkelweizen helped counter some of the sweeter malts, but the Northern Brewer’s bittering qualities seemed to accentuate the peppery quality of the rye a bit much.


Wyeast 3068 Weihenstephan (One pack will do for 2.5 gallons, but making a small starter wouldn’t hurt.)


Step-mash the grains for 60 minutes total. Perform a protein rest for 20 minutes at the high end of the range – 130F (54C) – followed by a 40-minute saccharification rest at 154F (68C). I added more hot water to my mash tun at this point in an attempt to hit a 168F (76C) mash-out temperature, but only got things up to 162F (72C). You could easily skip the mash-out step and begin recirculating the wort and sparging after the saccharification rest. (One step I would add next time is a 10-minute ferrulic acid rest at the outset of mashing to break down the beta glucans.) Boil for 90 minutes to reduce DMS. Ferment at 63F (17C). Carbonate the fermented beer to between 3.3 and 3.5 volumes of CO2. Since you want all that aromatic yeast in your glass, this is one style for which you might want to forego kegging in favour of bottle-conditioning.

*Substitute wheat for rye and add a bit of chocolate malt and/or carafa malt, and you’ve got a Dunkelweizen.




Wheat harvest in Idaho: Wikipedia


Yeast vials: www.thebrewhut.com

Rye: Wikipedia

Tempest’s Roggen: F.D. Hofer

© 2014 F.D. Hofer and A Tempest in a Tankard. All Rights Reserved.

Hefeweizen: A Beer for All Seasons

Recently my local homebrew club had its monthly meeting. Every month we try to bring beers that have been brewed to a particular style. The style on the agenda for March was BJCP (Beer Judge Certification Program) Category 15 – German-style Wheat and Rye Beer. What follows is an expanded version of my short presentation to the club on this fascinating style, along with some tasting notes from a few nights later. A subsequent segment (click here) will introduce you to a few Weissbier brewing parameters in case you feel like whipping up a batch.

* * *

WeizenGlass (www-ukhomideas-co-uk)The first thing that struck me on that evening in Saarbrücken about this beer they called Hefeweizen was the tall glass, slender at the bottom and fluted at the top. Then came the art of pouring, an elaborate ritual peculiar to German Weissbiers. Before I had even taken my first sip of this beer crowned by a majestic cap of foam, aromas of clove and banana seized my attention, suggesting that my sense of taste was about to be transformed. Several years have passed since that moment of conversion (which you can read about here), but German wheat beers have lost none of their charm.

Weizen? Weissbier? Weihen-what?

German wheat beers present the occasional terminological challenge for the uninitiated, especially since some of the terms are used interchangeably. Weissbier, Weizenbier, Hefeweizen, Dunkelweizen, Weissbier Dunkel, Weizenbock, Doppel Weizenbock. What’s going on here? Throw in a few brand names like Weihenstephaner, and it’s no wonder that these beers can languish in the tap lines of North American bars till well past their prime.

Weissbier means, literally, white beer. Now, none of these beers are actually white (but nor are any white wines for that matter), with colours ranging from straw all the way to russet. The high levels of protein in wheat make for a hazy drink, as does the suspended yeast. This is one style where you really do need to pour that sediment into the glass – hence the ritual attending Weissbier presentation. The one exception is Kristall Weissbier, which (in my opinion) has much of its character filtered out. Weizenbier is the most straightforward, translation-wise. It means what it says: wheat beer. Hefe means yeast, and Weizen means wheat. Put the two together and you have a Hefeweizen. A Dunkelweizen is a darker version of a Weizen, but nomenclature takes a decidedly paradoxical turn with beers like Franziskaner’s Weissbier Dunkel: dark white beer. Rounding out the German wheat beer category are the luscious Weizenbocks (wheat bocks).

Southern German Weizenbiers are nothing if not unique. Northern Germans also evolved different interpretations of wheat beers, the most famous being the tart and sour Berliner Weisse. But these styles, including the recently-rediscovered Gose of Leipzig,Gose - Label merit a separate discussion. Over the years, Bavarian brewers developed a top-fermenting ale yeast that links the lightest Kristall with the weightiest Weizen Doppelbock. The yeast produces phenolic notes usually associated with clove, but occasionally reminiscent of nutmeg, allspice, and cinnamon. Ester production is also high, imparting not only the typical banana aromatics associated with Weizenbiers, but also apple in some iterations. The interplay of scents can also come across as bubblegum. Unsurprisingly, the wheat itself leaves its stamp on the beer, with a peppery citrus acidity and a creamy fullness that manages to stay light and crisp on the palate. To me, nothing says spring or summer more than a Hefeweizen, but the spice and fruit flavours along with the periodic hint of vanilla and honeyed light brown sugar bespeak autumn and winter as well.

Wheat into Beer: The Vaguest Outlines of a History

If yeast expresses the spirit of a German Weizenbier, wheat anchors its corporeality. Malted wheat must comprise at least fifty percent of a Bavarian Weizenbier’s grist,Malted Wheat - Northern Brewer with the classic Munich proportion as high as seventy percent. Wheat has been used since Babylonian times to brew beer, but because of its lack of a husk in its malted form, it has posed many a challenge for brewers. What makes wheat excellent for baking bread tends to gum up brewing vessels, especially at the mash and lauter stage of the process. But that didn’t stop some brewers from refining their processes, and wheat beer eventually became a popular and profitable drink in 1400s Bavaria.

From here the story gets hopelessly muddled, and no online source or beer book in my possession paints a clear picture of how Weissbier fit in – or not – with the famous Reinheitsgebot (Purity Law) of 1516 restricting brewers to the use of malted barley, hops, and water.Reinheitsgebot - Briefmark (Wiki-de) By all accounts, it appears that the Wittelsbach dynasty that controlled Bavaria managed to skirt the law of their own promulgation and maintain a Weissbier brewing monopoly at their Hofbräuhaus (Royal Court Brewery) in Munich. There’s much more to it, but I’ll refrain from venturing an interpretation based on a slim stack of sources. Instead, I’ll pick up the thread in the late 1870s with a promise to conduct some proper research into the subject at a future point in time.

In 1872, Georg Schneider (1817-1890), scion of what would become today’s Schneider brewing concern, used his position as lessee of the Hofbräuhaus since 1855 to negotiate an end to the royal prerogative on Weissbier brewing.Georg Schneider (brauerei.gesternheute.geschichte) schneider-weisse-de His purchase of the rights to brew wheat beer from King Ludwig II gave Weissbier a new lease on life, paving the way for Bavarian brewers to focus on rejuvenating a style that had lost ground to the novel and sparklingly clear styles then sweeping Bohemia and Bavaria. By the 1950s, Weissbier had again fallen into disfavour, seen by many as a drink of the pre-war generation. Production ebbed, but a younger cohort rediscovered the light and refreshing charms of this ancient beverage, and today Weissbier accounts for roughly thirty percent of all beer consumed in Bavaria.

Tasting Notes

If you’ve visited Germany, chances are you’re already well aware of the vast selection of excellent Weizenbiers available in tobacco shops and at newsstands, in supermarkets, and at hole-in-the-wall corner stores. Over on this side of the Atlantic, the selection is quite good, depending on where you live. Keep an eye on how much dust has accumulated on the bottle, though. Weizenbier is a somewhat underappreciated style, and that bottle you just picked up might have been sitting on the shelf for some time.

For this particular tasting, I got together with a few friends for blind flights of Hefeweizens, Dunkelweizens, and Weizenbocks available in our distribution area. Over the course of our epic session, we sampled seven Hefeweizens, three Dunkelweizens, and three Weizenbocks. Here are a few highlights.

Of the Hefeweizens, the two most compelling beers we tasted were the Weihenstephaner Hefe Weissbier and the Ayinger Bräu Weisse.Weihenstephaner Hefe (weihenstephaner-de) The Weihenstephaner was elegant and delicate, melding mild banana and apple-cinnamon with leather-like clove and vanilla-accented light brown sugar. On the palate, its peppery effervescence was met by rich honeyed malt and a touch of nuttiness before finishing crisp and spicy (nutmeg-clove). The Ayinger was the most complex of the Hefeweizens, with a panoply of aromas ranging from creamed ripe banana and apple to lemon curd and light milky caramel. The spices were subtle, more like a blend of baking spices that encompassed clove, cinnamon, and allspice. Creamy and mouthfilling yet still effervescent, the palate presented a harmonious mix of biscuit, vanilla-banana, and a touch of tingly pepper and hop spiciness. The refreshingly crisp finish left us wanting another before moving on to the subsequent flights.

We didn’t have a Weihenstephaner among the Dunkelweizens, but I’ve had it often enough to assume with a fair degree of confidence that it would have been among our top Dunkelweizens if tasted blind.Ayinger Ur-Weisse (ayinger-bier-de) The Ayinger Ur-Weisse Dunkel Weizen was by far the most impressive of the Dunkelweizens we did taste, and was the most malt-forward of all the Hefeweizens and Dunkelweizens we sampled – reminiscent, in many ways, of Ayinger’s profoundly malty Märzen. The luminescent orange-hued bronze beer exuded aromas of fresh bread, malted milk, cream, milk caramel, mild toast with honey, and even a hint of cherry before giving way to fresh-cut apple and banana and a subtle but beguiling “spice box” character. Smooth and unctuous, the Ur-Weisse isn’t as carbonation-prickly as some Weissbiers, but a subtle tangy acidity emerges to balance out the rich malted milk, dark cherry, marzipan, spiced banana, and caramel-light brown sugar sweetness. This is a beer suited less to summer and more to the changing of the seasons.

Also meriting attention in our Dunkelweizen flight was the Franziskaner Weissbier Dunkel, not so much because it was particularly stellar, but because at $1.86 for a 500mL bottle, it has to be one of the better beer deals out there. Its caramel-clove, brown sugar, banana bread, and grassy-peppery aromas build up to a piquant, wheat-spicy palate that reprises the mild banana and caramel notes. This is a solid beer that won’t disappoint your guests or break the bank – something to consider as the price of good beer creeps ever higher.

Aventinus (schneider-weisse-de)The Weizenbock segment of our tasting revealed to me what I already knew: Schneider’s Aventinus and Weihenstephaner’s Vitus remain two of my favourite beers. In this sense, the Weizenbock flight wasn’t as blind as it could have been: I can pick the Aventinus out a mile away, and the Vitus, which I’ve had more times than I can count, stood out from the other two russet-brown beers with its burnished honey-golden colour. But the tasting was eye-opening insofar as it reminded me (yet again) not to write off a brewery based on a few underwhelming products. Erdinger is one of those breweries whose Weissbier and Weissbier Dunkel I’ve had on a few occasions (including as part of our blind Hefeweizen and Dunkelweizen flights), but the beers typically fail to hold my interest. Their Weizenbock, Pikantus, is a different story. Rich and intense aromas of fig, honey, plum-prune, dark caramel, toasted toffee, and molasses, with a vibrant toasty caramel palate featuring dark bread, rum-raisins and hints of baking spice made for a pleasant surprise.

With that many beers on the table, there were bound to be a few duds, two of which were Widmer’s Hefeweizen (which, to be fair, seemed to have been improperly stored at the local bottle shop), and Flying Dog’s In-Heat Wheat. This is not to suggest that all North American attempts to brew a German-style Weissbier are doomed to fail. Live Oak’s Hefeweizen is a case in point. So, too, are some of the home-brewed examples I’ve tasted. On the weekend before our blind tasting, I participated in the first round of judging for the Bluebonnet Brew-Off homebrew competition in Dallas. One of the flights I evaluated was a flight of Hefeweizens. A goodly number of these home-brewed beers were of higher quality than the Widmer and Flying Dog offerings.

Now, if home-brewed versions of Hefeweizen are showing up some of the commercial examples brewed in North America, what’s stopping you from brewing your own batch of Weissbier? Find out how you can in my next segment, “So You Wanna Brew a Weizen.”


Related Tempest Articles:

A Coal Town and a Cold One: My Hefeweizen Craft Beer Conversion


Garret Oliver’s The Brewmaster’s Table (New York: HarperCollins, 2003) contains an extended introduction to German wheat beers, along with a comprehensive food pairing suggestions.

Michael Jackson’s The New World Guide to Beer (Philadelphia: Running Press, 1988) contextualizes the Weizenbier style within the broader sweep of German brewing, while his Great Beer Guide (New York: DK Publishing, 2000) focuses on particular brands.

On the historical role of the Schneider family in Bavaria’s Weissbier production, see the Schneider website, which has an English-language option.

Of the English-language sources available on the web, the German Beer Institute’s “German Beer Primer” has a section on the Purity Law of 1516. Helpful as this section is, it doesn’t shed much light on the status of wheat and Weissbier.


Hefeweizen glasses: www.ukhomeideas.co.uk

Gose: www.beersinthehouse.blogspot.com

Malted wheat: www.northernbrewer.com

Reinheitsgebot postage stamp: www.wikipedia.de

Georg Schneider: www.schneider-weisse.de

Weihenstephaner Hefeweizen: www.weihenstephaner.de

Ayinger Ur-Weisse: www.ayinger-bier.de

Aventinus: www.schneider-weisse.de

© 2014 F.D. Hofer and A Tempest in a Tankard. All Rights Reserved.