This recipe appears in Michael Dawson’s book, “Mashmaker: A Citizen-Brewer’s Guide to Making Great Beer at Home.” Learn more at mashmakerbook.com.
In his book “The Brewmaster’s Table,” author and brewer Garrett Oliver lauds the versatility of Bavarian weissbier as a pairing companion for a wide range of dishes and cuisines. Its simultaneous sweetness, tartness, high effervescence, and host of yeast-derived flavors make it a good match for everything from brunch to spicy Indian or Thai curries. Dunkelweizen, a variant brewed with dark malts for deeper flavor and color, goes especially well with chocolaty Mexican moles or molasses-heavy barbecue sauce.
This information is especially valuable now that we northerners are finally heading into outdoor-food season: Let’s make a beer for barbecue and tacos.
Going by the numbers
Rauchweizen is a sub-subspecies of weissbier: a dunkelweizen brewed with a portion of beechwood-smoked malt, a top-fermented companion to the smoked-malt lagers of the Franconia region of Bavaria. Leaving the smoked component for later, we’ll use the specs for dunkelweizen as our guide.
An original gravity of between 1.044 and 1.056 makes dunkelweizen a middleweight beer with an alcohol by volume content of 4.3% to 5.6%. Hops take a backseat in these ales, with the emphasis on a very low bitterness of 10 to 18 IBU, ramping up in step with the OG to maintain balance. The color of dunkelweizen is dramatically darker than the golden to pale orange of classic weissbier, pouring from a deep amber 14 SRM to a verging-on-porter-territory dark brown 23 SRM.
What makes it tick
By German law any member of the weissbier family must contain at least 50 percent malted wheat; apart from that, the defining ingredient is the yeast.
The top-fermenting yeast used for weissbier and all its variants is a unique collection of little beasts. In the sexy and ever-changing microbial taxonomy scene, you may see its genus referred to as either Saccharomyces or Torulaspora, but you’ll know it by the trail of its fermentation byproducts: the weissbier profile is dominated by spicy (cloves, nutmeg, vanilla) and fruity (banana, bubblegum, plum) aromas and flavors created by the yeast.
With dunkelweizen, the wheat malt is accompanied by darker base and crystal malts to create the darker color and a more intense caramel/bready/chocolate malt character to peek out from beneath the yeast flavors.
And with rauchweizen, at least some of those darker base malts will traditionally be dried over a beechwood fire, which gives a warm, phenolic overtone—sweet and woodsy—to something reminiscent of ham or bacon. Which is precisely where the magic is going to happen when we pour a big half-liter vase of the finished product next to a plate of pulled shoulder or brisket.
A recipe to try
Smoke ‘Em If You Got ‘Em Rauchweizen
Target OG: 1.048, Target IBU: 15
• 5 pounds wheat malt
• 3.5 pounds Weyermann (beechwood-smoked) Rauchmalt
• 4 ounces Weyermann CaraAroma
• 3 ounces Weyermann CaraFa II
• 1 ounce German Tradition
• Your favorite weissbier/hefeweizen strain—I’m using Wyeast 3068 Weihenstephan Weizen
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