Sunday, November 09, 2008

Operation Dunkelweizen: Tasting Phase (part one)

As I may have explained before, Leah and I are expecting our second child (a son) on Valentine's Day. As we did when Dorrie was born, we'll be handing out bottles of homebrew rather than cigars. We've decided on Dunkelweizen for the style because we want something that's 1.) appealing to beer geeks, 2.) accessible to non-beer-geeks, and 3.) somewhat wintery. Seems to me that Dunkelweizen fits the bill.

While we've brewed a partial-mash Weizenbock in the past (and it was quite popular... one batch even winning a first-place ribbon for Leah and our good friend Marta at the Queen of Beer competition), we've never brewed a regular Weizenbock before, and there are few commercial examples being brewed here in the U.S. While my first inclination is to simply scale down our Weizenbock to the gravity of a regular Weizen, I thought I would use this as an excuse to sample some German Weizenbocks. Tonight I'm tasting Erdinger Weissbier Dunkel and Weihenstephaner Hefeweissbier Dunkel. Here are my thoughts...

Right away, there's a clear difference in appearance. Erdinger pours a dark chestnut, almost black, color while the Weihenstephaner is a muddy, dark caramel color. Likewise the aromas are distinct. The Weihenstephaner has that classic, yeasty Hefeweizen smell with clove predominating. The Erdinger, on the other hand, has more of a grainy, slightly roasty aroma I would expect from a Schwarzbier.

Taking a sip of the Weihenstephaner Hefeweissbier Dunkel, I'm greeted with more spicy clove up front. A bready maltiness follows, and the finish has a dry quality resulting from the unfiltered yeast. I suppose there's a bit of Munich toastiness in it, but in all honesty the difference between this and a regular Hefeweizen is quite minimal. In fact, I wonder if I would even identify it as a Dunkel in a blind tasting.

Moving on to the Erdinger Weissbier Dunkel, here you get some roastiness up front (likely from de-husked Carafa malts, as there's no noticeable bitterness) followed by a slightly subdued maltiness. Like the Weihenstephaner, the finish is on the dry side, but it seems more roasty and less yeasty. Interestingly enough, while the Weihenstephaner seems very similar to a regular Hefeweizen, the Erdinger almost seems completely lacking in Hefeweizen character save a slight clove note here and there.

So overall, here's what I learned from this tasting. I definitely want a noticeable Hefeweizen character like the Weihenstephaner, but I want it to be more distinctly "Dunkel." At the same time, I don't want it to be as dark and roasty as the Erdinger just because some non-beer-geeks (like my mom) freak out when presented with such dark beers. As such, at this point my thought is to have something with a strong Hefe character like Weihenstephaner but that has a unique character like Erdinger. Unlike Erdinger, however, I think I want to use less dark malt and more crystal malts to give it a more caramelly, chocolately flavor. So after tasting these two beers, I'm still leaning towards my initial idea of scaling down my Weizenbock recipe. Look for me to try two more Dunkels later this week...


Blogger Hunington Sachs said...

You might consider Jamil's Dunkelweizen recipe -- you get the typical clove flavor and zero "roastiness". On top of the usual Hefe elements, you also get an unexpected and very flavorful spicy note, plus a bit of that wonderful Munich malt sweetness. Much more flavorful than the W-Steph Dunkel.

9:04 PM, November 10, 2008  
Blogger Russ said...

Thanks for the tip. I don't own any of Jamil's books but I understand most of his recipes are floating around the Interwebs, so I'm sure I'll be able to find it.

12:52 PM, November 11, 2008  

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