Over a year ago I was interviewed for a homebrew blog over at Bottle Trade. In it I talked about how one of my dreams is to go to Norway and make traditional Norwegian Farmhouse beers, or, at the very least, get some kveik and brew some here. Well, thank's to White Labs, I finally got a chance to somewhat make my dreams come true! They recently came out with a Nordic Yeast Blend (WLP611) that is made up of a few wild yeast strains captured in Denmark. While not the traditional kveik of Norway, this would at least get me to the right part of the world.
I chose to do a very simply wheat beer base for this beer for two reasons: 1) Wheat beers are delicious and 2) I could brew 11 gallons of the base and use half for this beer and half for a sour blond to start my sour barrel project. Initial impressions of the yeast was that it made a really good hefe/wit style beer but it wasn't overly aggressive with the yeast character. So I grabbed grains and yeast from my local homebrew store, Blackstone Valley Brewing, and got to work.
Nordic Wheat, batch size 5.5 gallons (all amounts halved from the actual brew day):
- 4.5 lbs German Pale Malt
- 4.5 lbs Wheat Malt
Mash at 148 for 60 minutes. Bring temp up to 170F by adding boiling water and let rest for 15 minute before draining and batch sparging.
Boil additions (60 minute boil):
- .25 oz Warrior @ First Wort Hopping (total of 15 IBUs)
- 1 oz Northern Brewer @ 5 minutes
I used White Labs Nordic Yeast Blend (WLP611) for the yeast. It can ferment anywhere between 50F and 86F, which is pretty damned broad. I saved some of my starter so I'll definitely be using this again, they mention it being good for ciders, so maybe I'll make a 1 gallon test batch when fresh pressed ciders come to town in a month or two.
This is one of the few beers I've fermented outside my fermentation chamber in a long time. I cooled the wort to 75F and immediately pitched the yeast in my basement. The temp got up to around 80F at the peak of fermentation and by the 4th day the krausen was all but gone and the temp was dropping to what my basement is at in mid-August, which is a balmy 70 degrees.
Another beautifully simple brew day. I always marvel at some people who can never get through a brew session without the world exploding, I guess it helps all I have to worry about is a lazy dog sleeping next to me. After my West Coast New England IPA brew day where I had to weigh out hop after hop after hop after hop, it was nice to just have a bing-bang-boom 2 hop brew. There's a guy I know that absolutely hates Northern Brewer hops, but I really dig the earthy pine and touch of fruity mint it brings to the party; especially when you have a solid backbone of yeast characteristics that would blend well with that profile.
After chilling my wort down to 75F, I filled up my carboy and brought it down to my basement. I'll admit, it was odd to not turn on my fermentation chamber and get that going, but hey, this yeast seems to ferment at whatever temperature you give it, so I wasn't concerned. I also wanted to get this beer in a keg and carbed up ASAP because I was bringing it to the Homebrew Jamboree up in Tamsworth, New Hampshire so going on the warm end would get me to where I needed it to be faster.
After about 4 days the krausen had fallen but the beer still looking like it was churning away, on day 10 that activity had been gone for a solid 72 hours so I threw the carboy into the fermentation chamber and cold crashed for a few days before kegging. That's right, I didn't check FG. In fact, I rarely check FG until after I keg and package my beers. When I bottle, I will certainly make sure everything is finished, but I've never had issues this way. Once kegged/carbed up, I tried the beer and wasn't really blown away with it. It was an easy drinker for sure, solid yeast character, a touch of banana/fruitiness, some spice but no really clove (which I actually dug a lot), but it was lacking a bit of a punch in flavor overall. Luckily I had a bunch of orange infused vodka from when I was going to do a smoked breakfast beer so I added a 1/4 teaspoon to a pint and tried that. And that made a huge difference. The touch of orange made it like a very pretentious tasting Blue Moon, and I enjoyed the hell out of it. I dumped in about 1/2 cup total into the keg and was happy with how everything came together.
I brought the Nordic Wheat and the West Coast NEIPA to the Jamboree, branding the IPA as San Diengland IPA. People came back for both beers throughout the day so I considered both of them a success. There were a lot of non-IPA drinkers (weird, I know) there that were quite pleased that our homebrew club (W.I.Z.A.R.D.S.) had a good variety of non-IPA/hoppy beers: raspberry Belgian single, rhubarb and regular saison, a nice rich porter, and Munich helles. I did have one guy tell me that my IPA was the best beer that they had the entire day, which was really awesome since there were like 300 beers on tap (while he didn't look like he sampled all 300, there were a few that did!).
Would I brew this beer again? You know, I probably would. The more I drink the beer, the more I like it. The yeast character was good, not truly hefe, not truly Belgian, but a good mix of both. I would probably get a bit more out there with the hops though and punch it up with a dry hop. I really dug the Idaho 7/El Dorado in the WCNEIPA and I could see that combo working here. Since this beer base will be my sour base, I'll be brewing 11 gallons of this once a year, so next year I'll get a chance to make those changes and see how that goes.
Final numbers for my Nordic Wheat Beer:
Batch Size: 5.5 gallons
Original Gravity: 1.045
Final Gravity: 1.010