Brewing a Hoppy Hefeweizen with expired yeast

A Hefeweizen has to be one of the best styles to enjoy on a hot day. A good balance of clove and banana from the German yeast, silky mouth feel, yet still light and thirst quenching. Last summer I had a Hoppy Hefeweizen near the top of my list to brew.

I ordered a pack of Wyeast Weihenstephan Weizen 3068 ahead of time as special orders can take some time at my LHBS. I had my recipe written, yeast in hand and was comfortable with my hop choices. I was hoping for varieties that would compliment the German strain, not over power it. I decided on Cascade because of its citrus character, and I find it to be not overly punchy. I also wanted to use Mandarina Bavaria because it has peach and fruit character, and that sounded like it would all mesh well together. Again, I’ve used this hop before and found it to be mild to moderate in intensity.

The grain bill was fairly straight forward, the majority being Pilsner and wheat malt as well as some oats (not a traditional addition). The wheat  and oats tend to give the beer moderate to full mouth feel and allows the yeast to push into that silky character. It also helps to contribute to the hazy look the style is so well known for. Finally some acid malt for ph adjustment.

With all of that planned, life happened as it always seems to, and this recipe got pushed back for so long that it was well into the fall before I thought about it again. By then I wasn’t in the mood for the style anymore and I ended up moving onto other styles.

Fast forward to a little while ago. I noticed that pack of 3068 still in my beer fridge. I knew it would take a while to order a new pack and I had always been curious about reviving an old yeast pack. This one was 15 months past the manufactured date. So I decided to start with a small starter (250ml) and build the culture from there. Next I stepped it up to 500ml, 1L, and 2L over a two week period. Each step up resulted in noticeable activity so I knew I had grown something.

 

jurassic-park-meme

 

Now to be honest, I didn’t do a ton of research into what would happen using an old yeast pack if I was able to get it going. Most of what I read said that the original yeast should be nearly impossible to propagate at this point. So I was happy just to see activity as I built up the culture.

Looking back I definitely should have asked myself and read more into the possible pitfalls of this approach I was taking. I assumed the yeast would be impacted but I had no idea just how much until I tasted the final product. Not only did this beer not taste like a Hefe in the slightest, it didn’t taste good at all. It had a host of off flavours. Ranging from wet cardboard, grassy notes and an odd mouth feel. I let it sit in keg for about two weeks, sampling every few days to see if any of them were starting to subside. I tried, but failed, on every attempt to drink more than a couple of ounces.

Given the fact that the beer was treated properly in every way aside from the yeast, I had to conclude this was the culprit of all the off flavors. I decided to cut my losses and pour this down the drain. It was disheartening to say the least, I’m sure anyone that’s dumped a batch can attest to how that feels.

 

Recipe Targets: 4 Gallons, OG 1.048, FG 1.011, ABV 4.9%, IBU 24, SRM 3.5

Grain:

0.15 kg               Rice Hulls (0.0 SRM)           1        4.4 %         
1.90 kg               Pilsner (2 Row) Bel (2.0 SRM)          55.2 %        
1.00 kg               White Wheat Malt (2.4 SRM)             29.1 %        
0.20 kg               Oats, Flaked (Briess) (1.4 SRM)         5.8 %         
0.19 kg               Acid Malt (3.0 SRM)                     5.5 %

 

Hops:

14.00 g               Cascade [5.50 %] - Boil 10 min               4.6 IBUs      
14.00 g               Mandarina Bavaria [8.50 %] - Boil 10         7.1 IBUs      
28.00 g               Cascade [5.50 %] - Boil 5 min                5.1 IBUs      
28.00 g               Mandarina Bavaria [8.50 %] - Boil 5 min      7.8 IBUs      
28.00 g               Cascade [5.50 %] - Boil 0 min                0.0 IBUs      
28.00 g               Mandarina Bavaria [8.50 %] - Boil 0 min      0.0 IBUs      

Extras:

1.00 tsp              Yeast Nutrient (Boil 10 mins)

 

Yeast:

Weihenstephan Weizen (Wyeast Labs #3068)

 

No tasting notes, just what I mentioned earlier. I definitely want to try brewing this style next summer, with a fresh pack of yeast. Until then, this was yet another lesson learned. I do wonder if I had built the culture up a number of times over the winter if it would have behaved the same way. But the cost of DME alone would have out weighed that approach compared to simply ordering a fresh pack.

After this experience I can say without hesitation, use fresh yeast; always. When in doubt, buy a fresh pack, the relatively small cost is easily out weighed by the potential waste of grain and especially hops. Not to mention the hit your pride will take.

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