I don’t know if you’ve ever heard a brewer say “burn the BJCP guidelines”…

The way I see it, the guidelines are like sheet music… you use them to learn the skill, but when you become good at it, you let your mind take over…

You don’t see a rock star bust out sheet music while performing a concert…

I feel the same way about brewing software… the worst thing a brewer (or any person for that matter) can do is let something else do the thinking…

I’m okay with having it do my math… but not my thinking…

Here’s why…

I want to brew a Dunkelweizen… now I’m not fluent in German… but if I dust off the cobwebs to find what’s left of my German 101 knowledge, Dunkel means dark…

Which makes dunkelweizen a Dark wheat beer…

What happens if you let brewing software do the thinking for you?

Well, say you come up with a recipe… 60% wheat and play with different amounts of Munich malt and Vienna malt… 20% each? maybe 25% Vienna and 15% Munich?

See the common mistake I see brewers make when coming up with recipes is trying to accommodate for all numbers listed on the BJCP parameters…

A recipe like the one above will yield an SRM of about 6 or 7 if you do calculations using brewing software… while the BJCP guidelines call for an SRM of 14 to 23…

More Dunkel-like…

… and what do brewers do?

They try to figure out how to get the color just by looking at malts… Munich would be the darker malt, but adding more Munich malt could intensify the maltiness of the beer and could overpower the malt character over the yeast character…

In fact, to keep brewers from adding darker malts, the guidelines specifically state that a roasted malt character is inappropriate.

It’s almost like they knew you’d attempt to shortcut your brew day by adding roasted malts…

Which is why one of the concepts I teach in Mash Control is to focus on flavor and the overall character of the beer… not the numbers listed in the BJCP guidelines…

It’s a reason why I believe Decoction mashing does make a difference… not just in color, but flavor of the beer…

While the guidelines give you an option to give your beer a ‘richer caramel’ and/or ‘melanoidin’ character, I think the best examples will exhibit the melanoidin character coming from a properly done decoction mash…

To set the record straight, I believe the guidelines are a great tool, and I refer to them quite often… but know that you must be willing to let go of certainties to allow the beer artist within you to come out and brew better beer…

Here’s my Dunkelweizen recipe:

5 lbs German Wheat malt
2 lbs Vienna malt
1.5 lbs Dark Munich 10 °L

1 oz Czech Saaz 3.4 Beta Acid (aged 3 months)

WLP300 Hefeweizen Ale Yeast

RO Water
1/4 tsp Gypsum
1/2 tsp Calcium Chloride

Triple decoction mash

Collect 6.75 Gallons and boil 90 minutes

Ferment at 65 °F

If you want a slightly darker version, you may add about 1/4 lb of Special ‘B’, or special roast malt, but I’m shooting for the lighter version light copper color…

The way I like to think about color is that if you focus on getting the flavor and character of the beer right, the color will take care of itself…

Brewers didn’t wake up one day and decided they wanted to brew a black beer… instead, they saw the need to add roasted malt as a way to adjust for their water source, parti gyle brewing or perhaps flavor and the color of the beer just happened to turn out dark…

Similarly, a dunkelweizen wasn’t made just by ‘adding’ color to the beer… the way the beer is brewed makes the beer darker than its cousin hefeweizen…

… and this brings me to my next point…

One of the reasons why brewing software says this recipe will yield a lighter colored beer is because it makes calculations based on degrees lovibond…

In better home brew formula I talk about this in more detail on the malt color and flavor section, where beer is measured in SRM units… that means that it’s measured against light…

The best way to explain this is if you’ve ever poured a light colored beer and leave any yeast behind, then you’ll get a low SRM… light goes through and the beer is said to be light colored…

… but if this is the first beer coming out of the keg or you swirl up the yeast in the bottle and add that too, the beer will now be cloudy… this keeps light from shining through the beer which gives you a higher SRM… the color hasn’t exactly changed, but the beer looks opaque because of the yeast haze…

A dunkelweizen is very similar…

What makes it a darker SRM is the yeast haze and some color comes from a triple decoction… The main color actually comes from the very first decoction and yeast…

The key to a Dunkelweizen is that you get some melanodin and perhaps some caramelization in the first decoction… I cover this in better home brew formula in more detail…

Essentially, by having very little water and moisture in the grains, I boil hard to get the sugars near caramelization point… it takes a lot of heat to caramelize sugars, so more than likely that won’t happen if you have some water in your first decoction (another reason I added some water)…

Once you do that first decoction, you should be able to smell that ‘melanoidin’ aroma… that’s important to know because it helps you gauge if you are doing this right…

You could brew this beer with just a single decoction if you just want that little bit of flavor, but there are more benefits to a triple decoction mash…

In my case, notice I did a triple decoction and boiled 90 minutes on top of that… the main reason why I did that is because that will give my beer the maltiness I want… in hindsight, I should have skipped Munich malt altogether to do some comparisons, but I’m happy with this recipe…

I’ll know when the beer is ready in a few weeks…

Last, this beer will be kegged… over time, it will clear up and the SRM might go down, but I’m not concerned about that… what’s important is the flavor and character of the beer I get from a triple decoction and a 90 minute boil… but I want to point that out so you understand how I think when dealing with SRM and the BJCP guidelines…

Know that your beer’s SRM doesn’t come only from your malt color… it takes into account haze and anything else that would prevent light from shining right through the liquid

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