Jun 22 2009

Homebrewed Coconut Curry Hefeweizen Review

I like to occasionally brew beers with usual ingredients.  I’ve done ancho pepper ambers, chai milk stouts and I’ve done an oyster stout, with raw oysters added during the last 10 minutes of the boil, to name a few.  They’ve all been interesting and one batch away from being tweaked into something very good.  Even with that track record, I think I scared a few people when I announced that I was going to make a Coconut Curry Hefeweizen. 

In my defense, it wasn’t my original idea.  Charlie Papazain had a recipe for this in The Homebrewer’s Companion, which I bought back in 1997.  I saw that recipe, with those absurd ingredients, and it has been isomerizing in the back of my head for 12 years.  Finally, I was crazy enough to try to make it, and the ingredients came together in a way that made it feel like a beer of destiny.  I had friend in Thailand who sent me Kaffir leaves, and I hit up the Indian supermarket for the stranger spices.  The recipe was scaled down from a 5 gallon to a 3 gallon batch, and I divided the spice into a quarter of what it should have been.  (If there is anything I’ve learned from spiced beers, divide what you think you need in half and then only use half of that.  You are better off with ¼ of what you think you need and then making a spiced tea at bottling than having a beer that tastes like potpourri.)

The brew day went well, but the taste and aroma of the spices were overwhelming at the end of fermentation.  That left me with a decision: dump it or brew an unspiced batch and blend the two.   I did another 3 gallons of hefe and then blended the two.   A previous blog post covers the scheming up of the Coconut Curry Hefeweizen.

Well, how did it turn out?  I have to man up and take the good brews with the bad, right?

Coconut Curry Hefe -

The head on the Coconut Curry Hefeweizen is big and airy.  Not dense or creamy at all, and it dissipates quickly.  The color is that of aged oranges with patches of brown in the deeper parts of the glass.  Despite the amount of floating junk that went into the wort (lime leaves, unsweetened coconut flakes, etc.), it remains as clear as a normal hefeweizen.  Perhaps a bit clearer, but that is faint praise.

The nose is a big fist of ginger and fenugreek.  The lime leaves creep into the background with gentle citrus and herbal notes, but they are completely overshadowed by the ginger.  The body is thin as a result of the honey I add to the boil.

The taste of this beer is pleasant.  At first.  There is an obvious curry flavor that is interesting, but not multi-dimensional.  There are earthy notes with a subdued maltiness and well-balanced bitterness.  But then the cayenne pepper kicks in and seizes around your neck with a slight burning.  That is where this one surprises and overwhelms you a little.  That heat greatly reduces the drinkability of the brew and doesn’t give you a reprieve if you are matching it with spicy foods.  The coconut, which you would think would balance this, is non-existant.

All and all, it is not as bad as I expected after brewing the first 3 gallons, but it still has some balance issues.  If I brewed this again, and I don’t have plans to do so anytime soon, I would greatly reduce the amount of fresh grated ginger and I might omit the cayenne completely.  I would use more coconut, too, and add it a little later in the boil. 

When I took this to a homebrew club meeting the other night, it faired pretty well.  There were a few brewers who hated it and thought it was undrinkable (which I completely get), but the majority thought it was not bad and really interesting.  But I think we homebrewers also award each other points for originality and ballsiness.  This one might have skated by on those alone.

The Coconut Curry Hefeweizen was a failed experiment, but not a bad beer.  If you have a question about the recipe, send me a note.  (I won’t post it to the site since, although I made some tweaks, it is still Charlie’s recipe and in one of his books.)  After tasing the final product, this one has been named “Bombay the Hard Way.”

Bombay the Hard Way

What is the next weird beer?  I don’t know.  I’ve been threatening an Old Bay Lager, but that is just a joke among friends.

Or is it?


Apr 15 2009

Coconut Curry Hefeweizen 4/15/09 Update

So this is the strangest beer I’ve schemed up this year. It will either be pretty remarkable or completely undrinkable.” – me, talking about my Coconut Curry Hefeweizen



Well, I was wrong in the above statement because, right now it, is both. Nine days into this beer’s life, and it is very cool and interesting AND impossible to drink.  This one shouldn’t be served in a pint glass or a brandy snifter, but it might be wonderful in a deep bowl over a heaping scoop of rice and some tofu.


I’ve worked with spices enough to know that this will fade but not to the degree it needs to.  This was a small 2.5 gallon batch, like all my crazy experiments are, and that is good for two reasons:  1) If things doesn’t work out, it is not as painful to dump out and it didn’t cost as much as a full batch.  2) If it needs to be diluted, I can brew a second 2.5 gallon batch without spices and blend the two. 


I will be doing #2, but #1 is still a option down the road


The silver lining on this is that the batch might be fine after blending, and oak-aged English pale I brewed on the same day tastes amazing so far.


Apr 3 2009

Coconut Curry Hefeweizen

So this is the strangest beer I’ve schemed up this year. It will either be pretty remarkable or completely undrinkable.

I’ve been slightly obsessed with Indian and Thai cuisine for a while. I’ve made my share of curries and kormas in the last year, but I definitely would not say that I have mad skillz at this type of food.

Beer, usually a good IPA, is a nice complement to these types of dishes. So, since I have brewed an oyster stout (with raw oysters) and a milk stout spiced with chai, it was only a matter of time before I took this to the next absurd level. A coconut curry hefeweizen.

I remembered a reference to a curry beer in Papazian’s The Homebrewer’s Companion and I used that as the basis for recipe formulation. The interesting part was tracking down the curry ingredients. I already had cinnamon sticks, coriander, and cayenne. I could get ginger root from almost any grocery store, and it was simply a matter of stopping by Whole Foods for the hippyfied unsweetened coconut.

The fenugreek required me stopping by the local Indian Bazar (yep, just two As) in town, but that was easy. The hardest part was the kaffir leaves. I might have had hit up a local restaurant for some, but a friend of mine, in an act that will be rewarded, is over in Thailand right now and he sent me the leaves in the mail. These things smell amazing and walk the sensory line between lime and basil.

Coconut Curry Ingrediants

Coconut Curry Ingredients

I’m going to put all that goodness into a pot this weekend and turn a hefeweizen (which is a German Wheat beer) recipe into a coconut curry hefeweizen. Since it is one of my experimental batches, it will only be ~3 gallons just in case things go insanely awry, or limit the riots in the streets when it becomes the most amazing beer ever. Updates will follow.

So this is the strangest beer I’ve schemed up this year. But the year is still young.