An Aussie Christmas ale

An Aussie Christmas ale

BY
Brew Day

Christmas in Australia is hot… really hot. I generally don’t feel like a dark, roasty, spicy Christmas Ale at this time of year. What I do feel like is a nice, cold, fresh hefeweizen or a dry IPA. This year, I wanted to brew something that was suitable to the weather but would still have that Christmas feel. So what did I do? Added gingerbread cookies to my mash of course!

Pfefferkuchen Hefeweizen

Grain Bill:

Mash:

* I added the gingerbread to the mash 10 minutes before the mash out.

Boil: (90min)

Fermentation:

I gotta say, this is the first time I’ve added cookies to my mash and I wasn’t entirely sure how it was going to go. As well as the gingerbread spices I wanted to capture the biscuit, brown sugar and golden syrup. I spoke to a couple of other brewers before jumping in and they all agreed the biggest risk the cookies posed to the beer would be decreased head retention from the butter. A risk I was willing to take.

When I actually added the cookies to the mash the smell was insane. Somehow it was even more delicious than when I was baking them!

The mash finished and the boil happened, I added a few hops and chilled the wort as normal and then left it to ferment at 17°C for a few days, before I had my first sniff of the airlock. And what a sniff it was! I was really starting to get excited about this beer. I left it for another week before taking my first hydrometer reading. The gravity was already down to 1.009 (which ended up being the FG) and it smelled just like Christmas.

I tasted the hydro sample and was a little disappointed. The aroma didn’t really translate into the flavour. There was a very distant hint of gingerbread but it was hidden behind masses of banana and clove. I was really digging the toffee/caramel sweetness, it reminded me of grilled bananas on pancakes.

When I planned this beer, I wanted the gingerbread to be subtle, but this was too subtle. I knew a bit more spice would really take the beer up a notch, so I steeped a small amount of cinnamon, nutmeg & ground ginger in some hot water and added that into the beer. Two days later and it was tasting just how I had imagined it - the spices were still secondary to the yeast flavours but much more pronounced than the initial sample. Just in time to get it in a keg before everyone came over for our Christmas eve BBQ.

Gingerbread hefeweizen - first pour

Once it was carbed up the beer poured a lovely golden caramel colour with a big fluffy white head. The head dissipated much quicker than I would have liked, but it didn’t seem to be a problem because people’s glasses were emptying faster than usual.

The aroma was just like a gingerbread cookie, so much so that I think people were a little freaked out at first. Once you took a sip though it was clearly a hefeweizen at heart with a layer of gingerbread lingering just below the surface.

The keg was almost emptied on that first night, with just enough to fill a growler to take to Christmas lunch the next day.

I would like to have another run at this recipe to gauge just how much was gained by adding the cookies to the mash. Next time rather than mashing with cookies I will add just the spices, golden syrup and brown sugar to the boil and see if I get a similar result. Overall though, I would call this experiment a success.

What’s the strangest thing you’ve added to a beer? Comment below, I’d love to hear your thoughts.

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