May 4 2011

Organic American Wheat with Rakau Hops – Haka

In 2009, I made a Gumballhead clone that turned out great and not too terribly far off the mark from the original. It even got a silver medal in the Dominion Cup for the Light Hybrid Beer category.  I wanted to make it again but, being me, I couldn’t make the same recipe twice.

In the end, I changed more things than I expected.

I wanted to keep the same grain base, which was almost a 50/50 split between American 2-Row and Wheat malt with a touch of Crystal 20L. The first was a single hopped beer of all Amarillo, so the real question was what hop did I want to highlight with this batch?

After some random conversations and stumbling around, I came across a New Zealand hop called Rakau. I could only find it on the Seven Bridges Cooperative website and it was described as having a “fruity character with tropical aroma highlights of passionfruit, mango, and peach.”

That sounded interesting and, since the Seven Bridges Coop is all about organic products, I decided to make the entire batch organic. After further conversations, and some advice from Bison Brewing, it didn’t appear that brewing an organic beer was in anyway different from the my normal brew day.

The only wild card was that I ordered the wrong yeast for the beer. I meant to get the WLP001 California Ale yeast, but accidentally asked for the WLP060, which is an American Ale Yeast Blend. The WLP060 is a mix of the WLP001 and two others strains, and sounds like it brings more of a lager character to the beer. This would accentuate the bitterness and the hops.   

These are the three organic grains: Crystal 20L, American 2-Row and Wheat Malt

These are the Horizon hops since the Rakau were pellets and really boring to photograph

The final change in the beer was a major one and completely accidental. In fact, it would be better labeled as a sloppy mistake. While putting this recipe into my brewing software, the Horizon hops defaulted to 0.25 ounces and I simply forgot to adjust it up to 1 ounce. Since Horizon is a 10.2% alpha acid hop AND it was added for the full 60 minute boil, it blew the IBUs off the top of these beer. Instead of being ~25 IBUs, like a normal American Wheat, this one is probably closer to 60 IBUs, like an American IPA.

I don’t what that spells for the beer. From my pre-carbonation tastings, it isn’t overwhleming bitter, but it certainly isn’t an American Wheat anymore. The hops are evolving. It is certainly like nothing I’ve made before.

It is named “Haka” for a traditional dance form of the Maori of New Zealand. I first saw this dance performed by the New Zealand All Blacks before a rugby game, and it was nothing but intensity and intimidation.

Just like this beer so far.

Haka – (Organic Rakau American Wheat)

Starting Gravity: 1.057 (4/3/11)
Final Gravity:  1.012 (5/4/11)
6.0% alcohol (by volume)
Apparent Attenuation: 78.1%
Real Attenuation: 64.0%

Mash (@150º 70 min)
5 lb American 2-Row
5 lb Wheat Malt
1 lb 20L Crystal Malt

1.00 oz Horizon Leaf Hops (10.2% AA) (60 min)
0.75 oz Rakau Pellet Hops (12.7% AA) (15 min)
1.00 oz Rakau Pellet Hops (12.7% AA) (5 min)
Irish Moss (Boil – 15 min.)

Primary (66º F)  

WLP060 American Ale Yeast Blend – Starter Made
2.0 oz Rakau Pellet Hops (12.7 AA) (4/27/11) (Dry hopped for 7 Days)


Jul 6 2009

Gumballhead and My Homebrewed Clone Review

So here’s a little side-by-side comparison between Three Floyd’s Gumballhead and my homebrewed cloned version.

Three Floyds Brewing began distributing their beers to Virginia years ago, but then cut us off again after what seemed like less than a year later. I assume that they couldn’t keep up on the production side of things, and I don’t blame them for that. But it was cruel deed when they snatched away their Alpha King from me after it had, in no short order, become my favorite IPA.

Another of the many casualties of the withdrawal was Gumballhead. Gumballhead is an American wheat beer that had been aggressively hopped with Amarillo. American wheat beers had always underwhelmed me, and I think I can write some of that off to a younger palate that was still hoppy-crazy. I only had one bomber of this beer, and it was many years ago, but it was an eye opener and it made me think about that style from a whole other angle.

Fast forward to 2009, spring was rolling into Virginia and that was the time that I usually brewed a nice, refreshing hefewiezen. Since it was a yearly brew, I had tweaked my hefe recipe down to the point where it was a perfect summer brew. I kept the fermentation cool, to keep out the bubblegum flavors, and the balance of cloves and bananas was a teetering wonder.  But a six pack of that sounded great, but I wasn’t in the mood for 5 gallons this time.

Long story short: Gumballhead was the answer. A cool, wheat beer with the floral and citrus bite of late- and dry-hopping sounded perfect. I did some research on the web and looked at what some other brewers had done. I tweaked a recipe for my system, and I was ready to go. I even had a name for it: Fritz the Cat. Gumballhead is named after an underground comic book character that I had never heard of, but I had to make a small tribute to an artist I knew and loved: R. Crumb.



The added bonus was that a friend of mine rolled back into town from a roadtrip and brought me back a few beers from Michigan and Indiana. One of them was a Gumballhead, and so it seemed like a good idea to compare the two.

Right from the first pour, the carbonation was clearly different. GBH had a thick bubbly head, while my FTC had a thinner, but creamier, head.


Gumballhead Clone close
Fritz the Cat (clone)

Once you get past the bubbles, these two beers are amazing similar looking. Both were deep oranges with straw highlights. My FTC might have been a hint darker, but not in a way that was glaringly obvious. I’m painfully impressed with myself.

Gumballhead Clone -

Aroma: The GBH had a dump truck of grapefruit aroma with a hint of orange in the median. Mine was reversed in that the orange was in front and the grapefruit was in the backseat.  (Yeah, I’ll mix my metaphors.  Wait, do dump trucks have backseats?)

Taste: This is where the two beers clearly separated, but remained similar. The GBH gave me a slight wheat flavor with a hint of cloves. The more it warmed, the more fruity it became as it reclaimed the grapefruit and slid into apricots. My FTC had more wheat character and a bit more bitterness. It had a deeper and thicker mouthfeel, and it rolled to the side of a tangerine sweetness.

The biggest difference between them seemed to be the carbonation. The GBH, as you could tell by the head, was more bubbly and refreshing. Downright sessionable. My was good for a hot summer day, but the density made it more replenishing than refreshing.

Next time? I’d up the carbonation a hair and I’d probably try to mash it at a higher tempature in order to lower the final gravity.  As I mentioned in my note to friends about FTC, but before this tasting, I would not bitter it with amarillo just for the minor cost savings and I’m just not a fan of that hop for bittering.  Also, I’ve been playing around a lot with Golden Promise, and this one might be closer to style with an American 2-row, or lighter base malt.

Is this one clone?  No, but it is a nice, kissing-cousin to the Gumballhead.  My Fritz the Cat is a light and clean brew…..until you put it up against the work of some professional brewers, but I’m happy with it all the same.


The stripped down recipe:

Golden Promise 2-row 48%
Wheat Malt 48%
CaraVienne Malt 4%

0.25 oz Amarillo Pellets (8.0 AA) – First Wort
0.25 oz Amarillo Pellets (8.0 AA) – 60 min
0.50 oz Amarillo Pellets (8.0 AA) – 15 min
0.50 oz Amarillo Pellets (8.0 AA) – 5 min
0.25 oz Amarillo Pellets (8.0 AA) – 0 min
2.00 oz Amarillo Pellets (8.0 AA) – Dry

S.G. – 1.046
F.G. – 1.010

Yeast- Safale-05 fermented at 68°F

Primary – 2 weeks (dry-hopped the last 7 days)


May 19 2009

Upcoming Homebrews 5-19-09 Update

What the heck am I brewing?

The west coast IPA that christened my new keggle is cold crashing in secondary, and I just need to find the time to bottle that.

The Coconut Curry Hefeweizen is bottled and will be fully carbonated sometime this week.  Frankly, that one still scares me.  It should you, too.

The next two I’m going to tackle are a big Flanders Red/American Wild ale and a Gumball Head clone of my own design.

The Flanders was inspired by the Avery Brabant and I will age that on wood I’ve soaked in pinot noir.  I want to get that going ASAP, because it’ll need to age for 2 freaking years.  When did I get all this patience?  This doesn’t sound like me….

The second one is an American wheat beer with a ton of Amarillo hops.  Three Floyds beers were available in Virginia for a short time before they figured out that they couldn’t meet demand and pulled out.  That was long enough for me to get painfully addicted to Alpha King (which they call a pale ale, but it is an amazing IPA).  While they were around, I also grew fond of their Gumball Head that shook up what I thought about the category of an American wheat.

After that?  I don’t know.  I’ll gladly take suggestions. 

I want to try to do a light summer lager.  Not because I love the style, but because it’ll be real hard to do right.

Then, when it gets really hot, it’ll be saison time.