After only three years of brewing and three homebrew competitions, I finally had a real winner. Yes, I did win a gold medal in this year’s Peach State Brew Off. But that’s not the real winner. Sure, it’s a good beer, I enjoyed it, plus some judges thought it was good enough. But the real winner came one early spring. After trying to clone Sam Adam’s Summer Ale the first year I brewed and going ape shit with Grains of Paradise, Sarah asked for another stab at a beer with lemons in it. The first beer wasn’t bad, a little too boozy, spicy from the previous ape shit reference and a nice lemon hint from front to back.
This time around I’d go true German Hefeweizen, although while I can’t pin point it exactly, I think there might have been one ingredient (besides the lemons) that were not German origin. I ran out to Kroger the morning before brewing to grab some fresh lemons and stumbled upon a bag of Meyer lemons. According to the description they are slightly tart with an almost sweetness to the meat of the fruit. Perfect! I come home and check on the two-day fermenting yeast start. I don’t know why, it looks alive and active to me. I’ve had trouble in the past with the house being too cold for beers to ferment. To prevent this with my yeast starters I put them in the linen room with the HVAC running around 66-68. The room is small with the large washer and dryer in their. It works nicely for a fermentation room in the winter months when I need some added warmth. Brewing goes well with no hiccups. I get zest three of the lemons and add it in with the Grains of Paradise around 15 minutes before end of boil. Unfortunately I don’t get any of the the flavor from the grains in the finished beer.
Going into secondary I intend to zest the last four lemons, but only after soaking them in post-boiled water to sanitize them. I drop them in and turn my head for two minutes, only to look again and see the natural wax starting to float in the pot. I immediately rinse them with cold water to try to stop it. When I try to zest them the entire peels begin to tear off. Okay, I guess we’re adding lemon peel instead of lemon zest. Zest has a more intense flavor than the peel, plus it’s more surface area for the beer to play footsy with. There’s a huge yeast cake when I rack it and remember I wanted to save and wash this yeast, but forgot to buy Mason jars. Oh well. The White Labs German Hefeweizen WLP-300 yeast is such a killer I believe it will work great and not over power the beer after being reused once and slightly tired.
When I bottled the beer I almost thought I went over board with the lemons. Huge lemon taste and aroma, almost too much. But knowing that it will fade slightly in the bottled I wasn’t too worried. Now back to the day of winning. Sarah and I are sitting outside on the patio one Saturday afternoon after cutting grass for the first time and putting the umbrella up for the year. Her favorite ‘go to’ beer might be Sam Adam’s Cherry Wheat. I start her with a brewed on premise “The Lemon’s In It” hefeweizen. Then she has a cherry wheat. Shockingly she asks for another, and at 4% from either of these beers, it’s not like she’s getting tanked. She wants me to surprise her, and knowing she loves cherry wheat I pull one from the fridge. Just before popping the top she sticks her head and insists she wants another homebrew. I almost came to tears. My entire intent of starting to brew was to make good beer that we BOTH would enjoy. Finally after three years and three competitions I have a winner!