When the early summer strawberry season came on the horizon, my thoughts turned to Awkward Gingham and how badly I needed to re-attempt that beer. Given how much I’d learned since that clumsy 2015 attempt, and given the nostalgia I was feeling for that clumsy 2015 attempt… it seemed totally appropriate to once again try my hand at Awkward Gingham (Mk. II), my strawberry wheat beer:
If you haven’t been following along with these blog posts, here’s the short-short version of this beer’s backstory:
- I don’t — generally speaking, and most-recent-brew notwithstanding — like wheat-based beers, so this was (at least in part) to teach myself to “get past” that.
- I love strawberries, and got to thinking: “a strawberry shortcake beer…?”
- Like Strawberry Whale Cake? But… fruitier?
And so as early as the fall of 2016, I had started plotting this one out. Since the original 2015 brew, I’d moved from extract brewing to partial mash, and had significantly improved my knowledge of both process and ingredients. I revisited the first recipe a couple of time, tweaking it for balance and intensity. (Also: “Shall we dry hop this time?”) Come June 2017, I was ready to brew.
Having just kegged Codependent Droid, I had a big fresh crop of 3068 slurry ready for pitching. It was a change from the original recipe’s use of 1010 but (1) I had the 3068 on-hand and (2) I knew how to treat the 3068 to get some light banana esters to go along with the strawberries. Partly a choice of economy, partly a choice of convenience, and partly a choice of aesthetic change.
Regardless: no need for a starter here; ready to mash!
With the strike water going bright and early, I mashed in at 150.9°F, gave it the usual towel-wrap, and let it fall over 90 minutes to finish at 144.6°F. After squeezing the grains from my BIAB bag, I had 2.9 gallons at 1.049.
From there it was the usual run of boiling and hop additions, lactose, and the LME addition.
While chilling, I stopped once I reached 150°F and added 1 oz. of Nelson Sauvin for a 15 minute whirlpool/hop stand. After that, I finished chilling it down to 70° and commenced with the post-boil science: 2.75 gallons of wort at 1.098. I calculated my top-up water (erring on the side of volume instead of gravity) and took a hydrometer reading: 1.055 O.G.
I pitched my 250 ml of slurry and put that bucket into the fermentation chamber at 68±1°F.
Let’s back up a second: technically the day before brew day was the day that I prepped my strawberries. I’d picked up 6 lb. of them from a local farmstand and promptly washed them, hulled them, quartered them, bagged them, and put them in the freezer.
This was basically the same thing as what I’d done with the papaya for Doors Off! (the “Kauai Tropical Stout”) — and given my satisfactory results there, I decided a repeat seemed totally appropriate.
Anyway… They were super-fresh, super-juicy, and super-delicious, and now that was one less thing to worry about as the brew moved ahead.
Fermentation and Flavoring
Given the… logistics of getting the fruit into (and then back out of) the beer, I decided that a classic brew bucket was a totally appropriate vessel here. There was just one wrinkle: I don’t think that I managed to get a great seal with that lid. As in, I never really saw (nor heard) bubbly activity in the blow-off bucket. In retrospect, I don’t think that this was necessarily a fault of the bucket as much as it was a tiny gap of my own making. When I put the lid on, I also threaded the temperature probe for my controller through the airlock hole — then jammed the airlock into said hole. While the rubber grommet held both of them in place, there must have been just enough of a gap for the CO₂ to escape. Oh well!
Anyway, if ever there was a brew to have… “CO₂ leaky”, it was this one. Because pretty much right after I put two-and-two together, we went on vacation for a week.
Lucky for me, when we got back, the gravity was sitting at 1.017. More/less exactly where BeerSmith predicted it would finish.
So I defrosted the strawberries overnight, loaded them up in a couple of muslin bags, threw in 2 oz. of Nelson Sauvin for dry hopping, and stashed it away for another week. And/but/so… that kicked the yeast back up into some observable activity.
In any case, fast-forward a week or so and…
I pulled the bags, and put 48 × 12 oz. bottles into the closet to get good and carbonated. But not before taking another gravity reading: 1.012 — and not before taking a taste: very promising.
In short? A delicious explosion of fruity flavors: tart strawberry, juicy melon, and ripe banana, with that soft malted wheat backbone to prop it up.
This is not the same beer that I made two summers ago; it’s decidedly superior. The lactose gives it some sweetness and body. It has a soft, silky mouthfeel. Aromas and flavors are replete with fruit sensations, contributed in part by hops, in part by esters, and (of course) in part by the actual fruit. This batch exceeded my expectations and after the first couple samples… I cannot find anything I would change about it unless I opt for a 100% all-grain batch.
The partial mash (BIAB) recipe for Awkward Gingham (Mk. II) is as follows.
- 4 lb. Briess White Wheat Malt
- 1 lb. 10 oz. PQM Provenance Pils
- 8 oz. flaked oats
- 4 oz. lactose
- 3.3 lb. Briess Bavarian Wheat LME (15 min. late addition)
- 1 oz. Centennial (60 min.)
- 1 oz. Nelson Sauvin (15 min. steep/whirlpool at 150°F)
- 2 oz. Nelson Sauvin (dry hop 7 days)
Wyeast 3068 Weihenstephan Weizen
6 lb. fresh strawberries
- Collect 13.21 qt. water and heat to 155.6°F. Mash in; hold at 147.9°F for 90 minutes. No mash-out.
- Remove filter bag from water. Squeeze filter bag to extract as much liquid as possible for wort. Pre-boil kettle volume should be approx. 2.85 gal.
- Bring to a boil. Boil for 60 minutes, following hop schedule described above. Add lactose at beginning of boil; add 3.3 lb. Bavarian Wheat LME with 15 minutes remaining.
- After knock-out, chill to 150°F as rapidly as possible. Add 1 oz. Nelson Sauvin hops and steep/whirlpool for 15 minutes.
- Cool to 70°F as rapidly as possible and top off the fermentor to reach 5 gal.
- Aerate wort and pitch Wyeast 3068 Weihenstephan Weizen yeast.
Beyond Brew Day
- Ferment at 68°F until complete (1-2 weeks).
- Prepare strawberries by hulling and quartering them. Freeze them for at least 48 hours.
- After reaching terminal gravity, thaw strawberries and allow them to come to the same temperature as the beer. Tie up strawberries and 2 oz. Nelson Sauvin in a muslin bag; add those to the fermentor for 7 days.
- After flavoring and dry hopping completes, consider cold crashing for 1-2 days before packaging. Also consider fining with gelatin.
- Use corn sugar to carbonate on bottling day. Rack beer into bottling bucket and bottle.
- Allow at least 2 weeks to carbonate.
Awkward Gingham (Mk. II), a Strawberry Wheat Beer by Tilde Gravitywerks
- Homebrew #10! [↩]
- To be fair to myself: I did a great job with that beer, given what I knew at the time. And if memory serves correctly, it was damn tasty, despite its flaws. [↩]
- And also the melon and gooseberry and white grape notes from the Nelson Sauvin. So now thinking less like “strawberry shortcake” and more like “fruit salad” or some kind of tart or banana split? [↩]
- +3°F over the original target, but still fine, and maybe better for the body I’m after. [↩]
- I say “more/less” here because in the default install, BeerSmith did not have the lactose properly configured as non-fermentable sugar. The long version of this story would have an aside about how the gravity was at 1.017 but I kept hand-wringing about how it should finish at 1.013. Luckily I had the presence of mind to double-check that before doing anything drastic like adding unnecessary yeast energizer or pitching additional yeast. [↩]
- Which, if I’m to believe this calculator, could mean that it added up to another 0.25% ABV. Which may or may not agree with Tonsmiere’s assertions. [↩]
- Technically non-fermentable. [↩]
- I re-pitched approximately 250 ml of slurry that had been harvested from Codependent Droid after fermentation had completed but before racking to dry hop. [↩]
- For what it’s worth: I neither cold-crashed nor fined this batch; I was very much afraid of losing any of that delicate and fleeting strawberry character. [↩]
- ±0.25%? [↩]
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