By Andy Anderson
So, winning a SoFB prize is great, right? And winning a 1 st Place prize is even better, right? Well, that’s what I told myself when I won the Specialty category in the 2012 SoFB. Then I saw my prize: a 55 lb sack of Weyermann Oak-Smoked Wheat malt. Huh? I had never heard of it before. So, time to do some research.
It turns out that Weyermann (a fantastic maltster based in Bamberg, Germany – well worth a visit) has come out with an “Heirloom” line of malts. These are old traditional malts that have been discontinued in the modern times, but Weyermann decided to revive them. Oaksmoked wheat malt is one of those malts, and it is used to make Grätzer (German) or Grodziskie (Polish), a northeastern European (Prussia) wheat ale made from 100 percent smoked wheat malt. This is a beer style that dates back to 1400. http://www.weyermann.de/eng/news.asp?go=ne&show=yes&idne=1639&umenue=yes&idmenue=39&sprache=
In the words of Randy Mosher, Grätzer/Grodziskie was: “… a light, highly-hopped wheat beer made entirely from [oak]-smoked wheat malt, and usually described as having an apple-scented aroma … at about 1.032 original gravity. Grätzer has been extinct in Germany since the 1930s, and the one brewed until recently in Poland under the name Grodzisk is no longer in production.”
I spoke with Steve Marler & Robert Stevens, who were both intrigued by the concept, so we decided to brew a batch together. It’s actually a fairly simple beer recipe, although the lack of any barley malt means you have to create your own filter bed when sparging. The beer should be very low in alcohol (2 – 3 % ABV), with around 20 – 25 IBU in hop bitterness. It’s hard to know what yeast might have been used 600 years ago, so we settled on a German ale strain (alt).
For a 10 gallon batch, we used 11.5 lb of the oaksmoked wheat malt, along with 2 lb of rice hulls to create the filter bed. We used a multiple-step protein rest to break down the wheat malt & prevent it from becoming glue. We rested at 120F for 30’, 146F for 10’, 156F for 30’, and 165F for 10’. Sparging was actually quite easy. The water itself was fairly minerally with additions of gypsum, NaCl, chalk, & Epsom salts. The bitterness was approximately 24 IBU from Hersbrucker & Saaz.
The finished beer was only 2.2% ABV, yet it was served at 3.5 atmospheres of pressure (can you say gassy?). But the combination of high gas, smoke, and low alcohol make a rather intriguing mixture. I’ve only served it twice, and each time I brought home an empty keg. I think it’s because people like the fact that they are actually sobering up while drinking a beer!