21st Amendment in San Francisco recently won first place in the newly created Indigenous Beer category at the Great American Beer Festival, for a beer called HQT. And, in part because who cannot pass along a story like this and in part because emmer was involved, here’s their press release:
HQT was a type of beer brewed in ancient Egypt, which is credited with being the birthplace of brewing. So, how does one pronounce HQT? “Heck if I can say it,” said (Nico) Freccia, to which (Shaun) O’Sullivan replied, “I think you mean ‘heket.’”
The Egyptians made the beer in clay pots using local ingredients including raw barley, honey and dates, but no hops. To start the fermentation, they tossed in a bit of Emmer wheat bread leavened with local yeast cultures. The resulting brew was a staple of the ancient Egyptian diet. In fact, it was given to workers in vast quantities – up to a gallon or more per day – to sustain them.
21st Amendment followed the ancient Egyptians’ recipe as faithfully as possible, even going so far as to grow heirloom English Pinnacle barley and Emmer wheat in old barrels on the rooftop of their San Francisco brewpub. They harvested the barley and wheat, then germinated it and dried it in the oven. According to Freccia, “We would have roasted it over hot rocks like the Egyptians did, but all the hot rocks in San Francisco were already being used by the spas.”
When a couple of buckets of fresh dates fell into Freccia’s lap, he presented them to 21A’s head brewer, Zambo, who incorporated them into the Egyptian brew, along with the barley and wheat, some local organic honey, and spices carefully selected at the San Francisco spice market. Staying true to the original recipe, he added no hops.
GABF judges appreciated the resulting elixir enough to award it a Gold medal. Curious beer drinkers on the East Coast will have a chance to pass judgment on it soon at 21A events in New York and Washington, DC.
The photo at the top was taken at Riedenburger Brauhaus, which uses variety of ancient grains such as emmer, dinkel and einkorn, all wheat-like and all grown under contract with local farmers.
According to Theory and Practice of the Preparation of Malt and the Fabrication of Beer these grains were most common in the south of Germany and Switzerland in the late nineteenth century and known as “Swabian Wheat.”
Riedenburger Brauhaus produces 20,000 hectoliters (17,000 barrels) of organic beer a year, widely distributing a gluten-free beer. Its Historiches Emmer Bier contains 50 percent emmer in the grist, as well at einkorn, spelt, barley and wheat malts. The amber beer pours with a massive head, spicy vanilla notes leaping out of the glass. It tastes somewhat of a dunkelweiss with dark fruity notes.
Pierre Celis died Saturday. Given that you’ve found this out-of-the-way blog I figure you already know why he was important and all about Belgian White beers (or Wits).
Instead, a quick look at the recipe he provided for the Hoegaard Blanche Bier in his biography, “My Life.” Temperatures are in Celsius.
“For every brew of 2,500 liters (one thousand bottles) use 625 kilos raw material such as unroasted malt, oat, and wheat. Oat and wheat are then ground and undergo three processes with boiling spring waters, successively at 45, 55, and 73 degrees. The mixture remains two hours in a boiler. Then seven kilos Czech hop is added. This wort chills to 17 degrees and ferments in the yeast tub for seven days. Then follows a secondary fermentation for about a month in beer tanks. This beer is not filtered.”
Notice he does not mention spices. An oversight? Or a reason to flash a mischievous smile? He made no secret of the fact he included Curaçao and coriander in the White he brewed in Hoegaarden or in Texas. Beyond that, he did a masterful job of keeping others guessing about if he used another spice and what it might be.
Appearing at a gathering in Chicago in 1996 he said rumors the brewery used that third spice were absolutely untrue.
He spoke quietly and his English wasn’t that easy to understand, so those listening naturally leaned forward whenever he talked. Now he smiled, his eyes twinkled. The pause was as well placed as Mozart at his most masterful. We leaned even closer. He spoke.
“Every brewer keeps his own secret.”
American Wheat Beer serves as a handy category for beer competitions, but there is no such style.
Granted, making a wheat beer the house light beer has been standard practice at brewpubs for more than twenty years. But those hardly represent the variety of beers American brewers are making outside any defined style. Few are as brazen as Nick Floyd of Three Floyds Brewing in Indiana, who said, “Most American wheat beer is boring. For me (American wheat) is the Miller Lite of the brewpub chains.” He brewed his own hop-centric Gumballhead to prove “American wheat beer doesn’t suck.”
Brewers don’t need to write recipes for wheat beers quite that full of hop flavor and aroma to make them interesting. Consider a couple of newcomers, Dundee Summer Wheat from Rochester, N.Y., and 7th Street Wheat from NOLA Brewing in New Orleans.
Quite honestly, the Dundee Summer Wheat has a few handicaps to overcome — at least with a certain crowd. That the brewery was once Genesee Brewing, and also High Falls, and is now owned by North American Breweries . . . does not sit well with drinkers who have not given many Dundee products high ratings at online sites.
Additionally, Dundee previously produced a beer simply called Wheat Beer that did not receive very good marks. It was discontinued before Dundee Brewer Jim McDermott (@dundeebrewer) began working on this beer from scratch. Summer Wheat is different, though not intended to knock your socks off. “The style can be fairly nondescript. We were looking for a little snap in the finish,” McDermott said. Malted wheat constitutes 35 percent of fermentables, rye a “couple of percentage points.”
That provides the first part of the snap, hops the second part. With less than 20 bittering units Summer Wheat it doesn’t pack nearly the punch of Widmer Hefeweizen, for instance, but a solid dose of Cascade and Centennial hops for flavor and aroma deliver citrus and grapefruit notes.
“It’s definitely an audience thing,” McDermott said. Take a look at the beer rating sites and you’ll read complaints the beer is cloudy but doesn’t taste like a (banana/clovy) German hefeweizen. At 4.5% abv and fermented with Dundee’s house ale yeast that wasn’t the plan. This is a beer thtn Nick Floyd might call boring, but a pretty good size crowd is finding refreshing.
To be honest, though, I’d go first for NOLA’s 7th Street Wheat — also a modest 4.5% abv, lightly hopped (15 IBU) — because the addition of fresh lemon basil both brightens the aroma and adds a little pop at the finish.
The brewery had to delay the release of 7th Street, earlier this month, for 10 days. Brewmaster Peter Caddoo and crew added lemon basil after fermentation in a small test batch and were happy with the results. That wasn’t the case with the first pass on a full-size batch.
So they tossed in (a “whole bunch,” according to brewery founder Kirk Coco) more lemon basil in the bright tank. If that hadn’t worked they were prepared to dump the whole batch. It worked. I have no idea what they would have done with the taphandles (pictured at the top) otherwise. The result is a beer that goes down too easy on a muggy New Orleans summer evening (is there any other kind?).
7th Street is subtle, but with character this is not easily overwhelmed. Just for fun, NOLA’s brewers added blueberries — it’s that season in Louisiana — to a firkin. By happy circumstance The Avenue Pub poured it a day after we got to New Orleans two weeks ago. (To be perfect accurate, as you can see, owner Polly Watts pulled pints from a handpump.)
The blueberries rounded the flavor, but the lemon basil still controlled the finish.
Now let’s back up. We are talking about a rather tame wheat-based beer. Lemon basil added. Then blueberries, in a firkin. Served from a handpump. On a muggy New Orleans evening. How many things could have gone wrong?
It makes a brewer think she or he can take a few chances with wheat.
As well as eight recipes in great detail, “Brewing with Wheat” also includes information about the formulation of dozens of specific beers.
Because of the way books are assembled sometimes things get cut. Unfortunately that included the “specs” for Dark-n-Curvy, the beer from Piece Brewery & Pizzeria in Chicago that grabbed still another medal in the 2010 World Beer Cup.
Like Top Heavy Hefeweizen this beer medals regularly in the WBC and at the Great American Beer Festival. Here are the basics:
Original Gravity: 1.053 (13 °P)
Alcohol by Volume: 5.5%
Apparent Degree of Attenuation: 79%
Malts: Wheat, dark wheat, Pilsener, dark Munich, Caramalt
Hops: Vary, Halltertau common
Yeast: Weihenstephan yeast from BSI
Primary Fermentation: Yeast pitched in mid-70s (about 24° C), 3 to 4 days
Secondary Fermentation: 3 to 4 days
From the book: Brewmaster Jonathan Cutler manages a single-step infusion by starting very dry for the protein rest, in the 118 to 122° F (48 to 50° C) range. Lautering takes a little longer, up to 2½ hours compared to 1½ for other beers. “Our hope is the protein rest breaks things up a little,” he said. He’ll cut an “X” in the mash and has had to rouse it and stir to get it to lauter evenly.
From the Table of Contents (with details added)
Foreword By Yvan De Baets
About the Book
Part I – Wheat, the Other Brewing Grain
1 Wheat, Beer, and Bread
2 Wheat Basics: Why Is My Beer Cloudy?
- Partly Cloudy to Cloudy
- Twenty-First Century Solutions
- You Say 4-Vinyl Guaiacol, I Say Clove
- The German View
Part II – The White Beers of Belgium
3 In Search of the Real Belgian White
- Biere Blanche de Louvain
- The Peeterman
- Biere de Hougaerde
4 The Six Degrees of Pierre Celis
On March 13, 1966, Pierre Celis brewed his first official batch of Oud Hoegaards Bier. Brouwerij Celis was in business, and eventually that business would take him (and wit) to the United States.
- It All Started With a White
Visiting Allagash Brewing, where White accounts for 80 percent of production.
- The Best-Selling American Wheat Beer Ever
The story behind Blue Moon White.
- Treating the Spices Right
Bavik in Belgium approaches spice additions differently.
- Acting Green and Looking White
How Mothership Wit became new Belgium’s first organic beer.
- Two Times White Is Still White
A stronger version of White turned into Southampton Brewing’s most popular beer.
- A Taste of Leuven?
Jolly Pumpkin Calabaza Blanca takes wit to the wild side.
5 A Recipe for Wit
From Jean-Francois Gravel of Dieu de Ciel! in Montreal.
Part III – The Weiss Beers of Southern Germany
6 A Fallen Style Returns to Glory
The rise and fall, and rise again, of weizen in Southern Germany. The revival began at Private Weissbierbrauerei G. Schneider & Sohn. Brewmaster Hans-Peter Drexler provides a step-by-step tour through the very traditional production of Scheider Weisse Original.
7 Bavarian Tradition With a Wyoming Accent
Introduced only in 2005, Schönramer Festweisse also adheres to tradition, including bottle conditioning with speise.
- Meet the Other Schneider
“You brew the beer right, you serve it fresh, it is not a problem.”
- The Beers Are Smoked, The Wheat Isn’t
Perhaps all wheat beers were once smoky; Schlenkerla Rauchweizen still is.
- An Open Fermentation Policy
Sierra Nevada Brewing new Kellerweis uses “old” methods.
- Making Adjustments in New Jersey
Greg Zaccardi insists using a decoction mash still makes a difference.
- Don’t Be Nice to Weiss
“I treat it like a redheaded stepchild.”
8 A Recipe for Hefeweizen
From homebrewer Bill Aimonetti.
Part IV – The Wheat Beers of America
9 A Hefeweizen By Any Other Name . . .
America had little in the way of a wheat beer tradition before Kurt and Rob Widmer a game-changing cloudy beer that would help define a new style, American Hefeweizen.
10 Brewing in a Melting Pot
New Glarus Brewing in Wisconsin is well known for a variety of beers, but no American brewery is better equipped to brew traditional wheat beer.
- Beer From America’s Breadbasket
Wheat beers account for 70 percent of production at Boulevard Brewing.
- A Midsummer Night’s Dream
Although a “seasonal,” Oberon is Bell’s best-selling beer.
- Summer Ale on the Oregon Coast
Pelican Pub & Brewery takes a lesson from Great Britain.
- Wheat Wine: The Beer
A “style” born at Rubicon Brewing in Sacramento.
- A Beer for the Punk Comic Crowd
Gumballhead was brewed to prove “American wheat beer doesn’t suck.”
11 Two Recipes for Wheat Wine
Steven Pauwels of Boulevard Brewing and Todd Ashman of FiftyFifty Brewing take two different approaches in offering recipes for a wheat wine.
Part V – Wheat Beers From the Past
12 Beers the Reinheitsgebot Never Met
Berliner weisse and Gose from northern Germany have a long, sour and sometimes glorious history. A look at how they were brewed and how they are made today in Berlin and Leipzig.
13 The Care and Brewing of Relics
Nodding Head Brewery & Restaurant in Philadelphia has become the second largest Berliner weisse producer in the world. Granted that’s only 50 barrels (1,500 gallons) annually but interesting things are happening with old styles.
14 Four Resurrected Recipes
Recipes for Berliner weisse, for Gose, for Lichtenhainer and for Grätzer from homebrewer Kristen England.
Part VI – Putting It All Together
15 Judging and Enjoying, Brewing Tips Included
- Belgian White/Wit
- German Weizens
- American Wheat
- Berliner Weisse
- Don’t Forget the Pour
Part V – End Matter
Appendix – Yeast charts
I’ll be a guest Sunday on The Brewing Network Sunday Session. The show begins at 5 p.m. Pacific.
We’ll be talking about Brewing With Wheat, and I think they might have copies to give away.
You can ask questions live by joining the CHAT ROOM or calling 888.401.BEER. Show some compassion and don’t make them too tough.
The printer will ship Brewing with Wheat next week, meaning it goes to the distributors and then to stores. It could be in your hands by the end of the month.
You can pre-order it for 20 percent off from Brewers Publications, entering the code that is provided at the Beer Enthusiast Store.
The first draft on all 15 chapters of Brewing with Wheat is out the door. They will be back from technical editing soon enough, reminding me why I should stick to collecting stories instead of writing about brewing science.
In the meantime we can make fun of somebody who knows less than I. Should have noticed this before but had my nose in notes related to ferulic acid production.
Here’s the story: Top 10 Wheat Beers: Imported and Domestic.
Thanks for finding “Brewing with Wheat,” a website designed to make an upcoming book from Brewers Publications better. This only works with your help.
I’m the author. My name is Stan Hieronymus. I previously wrote “Brew Like a Monk” for Brewers Publications and I think that book was a little better because I asked both professional and amateur brewers what questions they’d like to see answered in the book. So let’s give that a whirl again.
This is downright easy. Just click on one (or more) of these links and add your comment.
Thanks in advance for the help.
Let’s get the semantics out of the way as quickly as possible. Belgian beers come from Belgium. Americans brew Belgian-inspired beers. Recently that’s included very popular beers variously known a Blanche, Belgian White, White, Wit and more. White beers were once all the rage in Belgium, then basically disappeared before Pierre Celis revived the style in the town of Hoegaarden. He later moved to Austin, Texas, and introduced Americans to Celis White.
There’s a lot more that that to White beers. What about the use of spices and unmalted wheat? Were these beers once “wilder?” Why the heck are they cloudy?
Whoops. You guys are supposed to be asking the questions. What would you like to know about Wit beers, both brewing and drinking them? Please leave your question as a comment.