17 June 2010

Isla Vistalicious: Lemon-infused Hefeweizen

On a hot summer afternoon, what's better than dropping a lemon wedge in a nice, cold Hefeweizen?  Today, I brewed a five-gallon batch of Isla Vistalicious -- a lemon-zest-infused, American-style Hefe.

  • 6 lbs Norther Brewer Wheat Malt Syrup (65% wheat, 35% barley)
  • 1 lb Weyerman Pale Wheat (1.5 °L, crushed)
  • 1/2 lb Weyerman Carahell (11 °L, crushed)
  • 1/4 lb Weyerman Carawheat (45 °L, crushed)
  • 1 oz Ahtanum hops (5.7% alpha acid, pellet)
  • 1 oz Cascade hops (4.5-7% alpha acid, whole-leaf)
  • 3 lemons' (1 Meyer) zest, soaked in Vodka to cover
  • White Labs American Hefeweizen WLP320 Yeast (from starter)
  • Arrowhead Spring Water (sufficient for 5 gallons of brew)
  • 1 tsp Irish Moss
  • 1 tsp Gypsum
The specialty grains were steeped in approximately three gallons of spring water as it was brought from room temperature to 170 °F, which took about 45 minutes.  Once at temperature, the heat was turned off, and the grains steeped for 20 minutes.  Over the duration of the "mash," only about 5 °F was lost.  The spent grains were removed (and composted -- yay John!), and the wort was brought to a boil.

Once at a boil, the malt extract was stirred in, and the jug was soaked briefly in the wort to remove the last of the sticky extract.  The Ahtanum hops were added at the beginning of the 60-minute boil.

After 30 minutes of boil, the Irish Moss (for protein coagulation) and Gypsum (for proper water minerality to accentuate the hops profile) were added.

After 45 minutes of boil, the wort chiller was placed in the beer to properly sanitize it.

After 50 minutes of boil, the Cascade hops and lemon zest were added for the remaining ten minutes of boil.

The beer was moved to a cooler filled with salted ice water, and the wort chiller was hooked up to a pump also submerged in salted ice water.  This dual cooling method dropped the beer from boiling to 75 °F in less than 20 minutes.

The wort was filtered through a strainer into the primary fermenter.  Additional spring water was poured through the strainer filled with hops to reach five gallons of volume.

Finally, the yeast starter was pitched, the beer aerated by shaking the fermenter vigorously for a couple minutes, and it was capped with an airlock.

Brewer's Commentary:
I went with malt syrup instead of dry malt extract in this batch primarily because it is cheaper, and I expect the quality of flavor to be the same.  I've used this specialty grain steeping method many times before, but have never done an all-grain batch.  This was the most specialty grains I've ever tried in a brew, and the nylon bag steeping method appeared to handle this amount of grain as easily as smaller batches.  I tried several different malted grains (mostly wheat based) for a complex malt profile and a fairly light color.

The Ahtanum hops were chosen for their moderate bitterness and citrus-like character, which I believe will pair well with the lemon zest.  The Cascade hops add the distinctive aromas common to many Northwest beers, like Widmer's Hefeweizen.

The lemons were organic, spray free, and grown locally in Carpenteria.  I soaked the zest in a small amount of 80-proof vodka for about an hour before adding them to the beer to disinfect and to extract essential oils, then added the whole mixture.

I implemented two big changes to my brewing process from the Brown Magic brew.  First, I used a yeast starter culture, which will hopefully result in shorter fermentation lag times, and more full attenuation.  Second, fellow brewer Andy lent me his expertise and his wort chiller, which cut almost 2/3 of the time off my cool time, post-boil.  This should have several beneficial effects: less chance for spoilage as it cools, better control over hop aroma profile, and cold break to improve beer clarity.  I'm a wort chiller convert now, and will either continue to borrow Andy's chiller, or construct my own.

I am having difficulties with specific gravity measurement -- after cooling and diluting to five gallons of volume, I used a baster to extract sufficient wort for a specific gravity reading by hygrometer, but my reading was about 1.02 -- nonsensically low.  BeerSmith software indicates an OG of at least 1.04 to begin with, and I have used similar recipes in the past which certainly achieved more than 2% ABV.  Any suggestions for how to obtain accurate gravity measurements would be greatly appreciated.

Cheers!  I'll move this batch to the secondary fermenter next week, after I bottle the Brown Magic.  I will keep you all posted!


  1. Using a wort chiller is nice isn't it. I hope that pump is ok with salt water. Was the pump giving you good pressure? I'm curious because I haven't seen one with a pump before. As a suggestion I like to move mine up and down while I'm using the coil. I could tell the difference because of the water output got much hotter doing that. I like the almost middle finger in the yeast starter photo above.

  2. The water was only slightly salty -- I was just trying to depress the freezing point a couple degrees. It didn't seem to have any negative effect on the pump. I stirred the beer periodically, and it does indeed make the outflow much hotter...circulation is key.