The wicked ah-some goodness of Kölsch, American Wheat, German Hefs, and Saison.
Kölsch (Alaskan Summer Ale)
The Appelation “Kölsch” is protected by the Kölsch Konvention, which limits production to breweries within the city of Cologne and defines Kölsch as a “light, highly attenuated, hop accentuated, clear, top fermented vollbier.” (Vollbier is a German classification similar to a session beer.) Examples brewed outside Cologne are usually called “Kölsch-style” or “Summer Ale” (or some such nonsense) and can be hard to spot. Some kölsches display a little bit of mineral, sulfur, grape, or wine-like character in the aroma and/or flavor, but these characteristics are not a requirement for a good example.
Malt: Mostly Pils malt, with perhaps some pale, a touch of wheat (up to 20%), or very light touches of something like biscuit to bolster the breadiness.
Hops: German Noble goodness and similar. Perle/ magnum might be good choices for bitterness. Tett, Hal, Spalt, etc for flavor and aroma. Might conisder FWH (30% of IBUs while kettle is filling.
Yeast: WLP029 / Wyeast 2565 or American Ale (WLP001 / 1056). Maybe German ale yeast…
Water: Wide range ok. City of Tucson water works pretty well, but some chloride/sulfate adjustment would be prudent (keep the ratio balanced to bitter)
Other Kolsch Classic Examples
Available in AZ:
The Great American Wheat (Bell’s Oberon)
American Weat is a pretty broad category: the balance can be malty to hoppy, finish full to dry, it can have late hop character or not. The main thrust of this style is drinkability and balance. When brewing these beers, it is important to have a clear vision for what you want the beer to be.
While AW should generally be clean, just about anything goes (even 4-vinyl guiacol—Widmer Hefewiezen is an example that contains light clove), as long as there is some wheat character and good balance. Yeast character can be present, but should be in the background. These shouldn’t be boring.
American Wheat Ingredients
Malt: Any base malt (pale or pils), often up to about 50% wheat (any combo of malted and unmalted is fine). Small amounts of more flavorful malts for color/flavor (crystal, munich, victory, etc)
Hops: Anything goes, but American hops (citrusy, fruity, piney, etc) are pretty classic. Consider the overall balance!
Yeast: Wide range of options. WLP001/1056 is always a winner, but there is nothing off limits here. Many examples even made with lager yeast.
Water: Anything goes, but consider the overall balance of the beer when plotting out your sulfate to chloride ratio!
Other American Hef Examples
Available in AZ:
German Hefeweizen (Sierra Nevada Kellerweiss)
Generally cloudy in appearance, with a malty, wheaty aroma & flavor, with notes of banana & clove. Banana character comes from esters produced by yeast at warm temps. Adjust fermentation temps (warmer) to accentuate this character. Clove (4-vinyl guaiacol) is converted from ferulic acid by yeast. Wheat contains more ferulic acid than barley, but it is harder to get to. To increase ferulic acid in your wort (and 4VG in your beer), perform a rest at 113 (~10 minutes). For extract brewers, Briess Wheat ME is 4VG ready (it contains plenty of Ferulic Acid). Keep ferm temps low to restrain ester production if you want the balance towards clove. Freshness is really important for the maximum enjoyment of a good Hefeweizen!
German Hef Ingredients
Zee germans say: “Icht must be 50% wheat (malt)!” Often the remainder is pils malt, but pale is fine as well. Small amounts of Munich, Vienna, or Caramel are perfectly acceptable. (Briess Wheat ME is 60/40 wheat/barley).
Hops: Noble is traditional, but just about anything can work. Keep late additions low, if used at all.
Yeast: Bavarian! WLP300, 351. Wy 3056, 3068.
Water: anything goes!
Other examples available
Check dates on German Examples!
Fresher examples (not necessarily “classic: examples):
Four Peaks, Oak Creek, Flying Dog
Saison (Ommegang Hennepin, Saison Dupont)
First of all, fuck the style guidelines. Saison originated in Wallonia (southern Belgium), and was traditionally brewed in winter to to quench the summertime thirst. Due to long storage time, special care had to be taken to make sure they weren’t too infected. Inevitably they were, So don’t be afraid to give a little brett, just for authenticity!
These are generally complex, pale, medium-strong ales with fruity & spicy character from yeast. The finish should be dry, not sweet. Balance is usually toward hops.
Ingredients for Saison
Malt: Lightest base malt available is traditional, which today means pils malt. Some light caramel, munich, or vienna would be appropriate. Don’t be afraid to do something different.
Adjuncts can (perhaps should?) play a big part: anything from corn to flaked oat. Probably best to stick with single infusion mash at low temp to maximize fermentability (you want this sucka dry!). If efficiency is low, or a bit of haze makes it through, that is perfectly fine for this style!
Hops: small bittering additions (possibly mash hop or FWH additions?), with more stacked at the end-o-boil. English varieties most common, esp. EKG. Styrian goldings, hallertau, saaz, also good choices. Late additions are important (flavor: 15-20 min, aroma: 0-5 min). Don’t be afraid to use whatever hop you like!
Yeast: wlp 565, wy3724. Other options available. It is important to let these yeast strains go a little warm, but pay attention to upper limits! May take a while! Do additional research for whatever yeast strain you choose.
Spices/wild yeast: optional. Use spices sparingly, please.
Lost Abbey Red Barn
Warner, Eric. KÖLSCH : History, Brewing Techniques, Recipes. Brewers Publications, 1998.
Hieronymus, Stan. Brewing with Wheat. Brewers Publications, 2010.
Markowski, Phil. Farmhouse Ales: Culture and Craftsmanship in the Belgian Tradition. Brewers Association, 2004.
Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP). 2010. <www.bjcp.org>.
Eder, Michael. “Brewing Wheat Beer with Intensive Banana Aroma.” Zymurgy. May/June 2010.