Spent some of yesterday brewing a batch of Bavarian hefeweizen. It’s a light, easy drinking summer beer that preserves the unique flavors of the Bavarian wheat beer yeasts. Most American varieties of hefeweizen use a cleaner, less flavorful American yeast. My original version of this beer was named after the shed I build to house our water tank in the old house. Now that we’ve moved and have a new shed, the beer has been re-christened “New Shed Hefeweizen.”
The beer has six pounds of base malt—two pounds of 6-row and four pounds of 2-row organic pale malt in this case—and six pounds of malted wheat. Wheat malt contains a lot of protein, as does the 6-row malt. As I mentioned in my post about Piper’s Red Ale, protein causes haze in the final beer and can affect it’s long-term stability. In the case of a hefeweizen, the haze is a feature of the style, and because it’s a summer “session-style” beer, it’ll get consumed more quickly than a typical ale. So all the protein shouldn’t be a problem and will contribute to a nice thick head on the finished beer. You can see all the protein floating around in the wort (it’s the white stuff in the photo that looks like the eggs in egg-drop soup). Most of the big chunks get filtered out in the pot as the wort is chilled, but even with the gross removal, there’s still a lot left over in the fermenter.
My last batch of beer, Devil Dog turned into a comedy of errors. The mash and boil went perfectly, but when chilling I accidentally left the stopcock on my fermenting bucket open. Lost a couple gallons of wort into the snow. After fermentation was finished and it was in the keg, one of my new serving lines had a loose bolt on the keg connector. Not only did this cause all the remaining beer to leak out inside my kegerator (three gallons of it), but I completely drained my CO2 tank. So this time around, I paid very careful attention to everything I was doing.
The mash, boil, and chilling went well. Mashing a grain bill that’s 50% wheat is always a little nerve-wracking because wheat has no husks to help in filtration, and as anyone who had made bread by hand knows, wheat plus water equals a very sticky substance. My mill does a good job of preserving the barley husks, and I didn’t have any extraction issues when sparging. I wound up with an excess of wort, however, so I had to boil it quite a bit longer to get down to five gallons. The final beer might be a bit maltier as a result, because of the additional carmalization of the sugars in the pot. I bumped up the hops slightly in an attempt to offset this.
Chilling was a bit of an experiment. I pulled thirty gallons of water from Goldstream Creek and used that in a closed loop through my plate chiller to chill the wort. It’s in the blue barrel on the right side of the image. The temperature at the start was around 50°F, and that wasn’t quite cool enough to drain the kettle with the valve all the way open. But I got it down to a pitching temperature of 70°F, which is about right for a hefeweizen.
A true hefeweizen yeast is an interesting strain because you can control the flavors from the yeast by changing the fermentation temperature. Like Belgian beers, a Bavarian hefeweizen comes with lots of flavors that would be considered serious defects in a British (or worse, American) ale. At cooler temperatures (cooler than 65°F), you’ll get more banana flavors, and warmer fermentation encourages clove tones. I tend to prefer the banana flavor, but at lower temperatures you’re always risking a sluggish or incomplete fermentation. This time around, I’m hoping to keep fermentation closer to 68°F, which should yield a nice dry beer with a good balance of banana and clove flavors.
Assuming I don’t pump all the beer into my kegerator again, I should know how it turned out in four to six weeks.
We got our first real snowfall last night, about two inches at our place. It probably won’t last (the second week in October is normally when we get the snow that stays until April), but it means the roads will be dangerous for the next couple days or weeks. Last week we saw our first great horned owl of the fall, and the snowshoe hares are rapidly turning white so winter is just about here. We’re hoping for a bunch of early season snowfall this year to get the trails set up for skiing and mushing.
What’s cool about the first snowfall of the year, especially when it’s a lot of snow like last night, is how totally different the world looks. You go to bed and it’s painted in yellows and browns, but when you wake up, it’s all cleaned up in black and white and blue. I know it’ll melt, probably later today and turn brown again, but as the sun comes up on the new wintry world, it feels fresh.
I finished wiring the shed yesterday afternoon. I was surprised at how long it took, but since everything is connected in series, each connection has to be perfect or nothing down the line will work. I’ve lived in enough cabins with funky wiring to know that it’s better to do it right the first time. The shed now has an outlet on each wall, an outdoor GFCI outlet on the outside of the building, a pair of lights in the ceiling, and an outdoor motion-detecting floodlight (that’s what’s lighting the photo on the right). The lights are wired to a switch next to the door. All that’s left is to clean up the inside and build what we need to store stuff in there. We’d planned on painting the floor, but I think it’s too late in the year for that now.
For the last month or so I’ve spent the majority of my time outside of work working on our new shed. It’s a sixteen foot by sixteen foot building with full eight foot walls, a nice high ceiling, a pair of small windows, and a large barn door. All of the materials came from Northland Wood here in Fairbanks, and except for the plywood and some sundries, the wood is locally harvested and milled white spruce.
I got the barn door hung last night, and today I built the ramp and added some window trim. All that’s left is a layer of tar paper on the back wall, installing a locking mechanism for the door, and doing the electrical work. It’s certainly the biggest project I’ve ever completed, and I can’t help but smile whenever I walk past it.
I took a lot of pictures during the construction process; some of the better ones are at this web page.
In the month or so since I’ve written, the Creek settled down to it’s usual level, the road mostly dried out, and the leaves are out on the trees. We’ve been flush with birds (see my yard list for a complete list), including some ducks on the slough and a pair of red-tailed hawks nesting in a tree next to the back cabin. But summer means work, and that’s what we’ve been doing this Memorial Day weekend.
The list of projects is very long, and we’ve already started on the first large job: building a new shed to replace the “leaning” shed that was next to the red cabin. It wasn’t particularly stable, wasn’t completely water-tight, and wasn’t convenient to get to. I spent the last few days removing the siding, and yesterday afternoon finally pulled it down. It didn’t come down as easily as I’d hoped (the lower photo shows me pulling it with the 4-wheeler), and after all the work it took to get the siding off, I’m dreading the work it’ll take to disassemble the roof and move everything out of the way.
The next step will be to get a bunch of gravel to fill in the low spot between the driveway turnaround and the new gravel pad the shed will sit on. I’m picturing a 2x6 base supported by 4x6 rails resting on concrete piers or cribbing, ¾" plywood floor, 2x4 rough cut framed walls, and a sliding barn door for entry. I’m not sure what I’ll side it with, but ½" plywood, tar paper and then rough cut bevel siding would be a nice choice. I guess an alternative would be to let in diagonal bracing into the walls and forego the plywood, but plywood will do a better job of keeping the building solid if we need to level or move it later. Once the old building is cleared away, I’ll make up a set of plans and see who can mill and deliver the lumber to us.
We got our ATV last week, and it’s already come in very handy. I pulled a log up from the Creek with the winch, we used it to pull down the shed, and Andrea went and got the Sunday newspaper. Once our plow shows up, we’ll get another dump truck load of wood chips for the dog yard, and it’ll get some heavy use moving gravel around in the driveway and for the pad the shed will sit on. We bought it for training dogs in the fall, and for clearing snow, but I expect it’ll get a lot of use this summer too.
Other smaller projects include fixing the planking on the bridge, repairing leaks and cleaning the gutters, redoing the discharge pipe from the sewage treatment plant, and shoring up the roof supports on the other sheds. Once the ground thaws, we’re thinking about building a second dog yard on the west side of the house. This time I’ll dig the post holes by hand. The gas powered auger we used last fall was fast, but not something I ever want to use again if I can help it. We had hoped to build an arctic entryway onto the house and wrap a new deck around it, but I doubt there’s enough time in the summer for that project. We’ll see.
Time to make breakfast, bake some bread and get back out there. Happy holiday!