Breaking the rules: Grodziskie, a Polish smoked wheat beer

Of all the beers I’ve tried over my life, for better or worse, none is more indelibly stamped into my brain than the Kosciuszko Polish Smoked Wheat from Yards Brewing in Philadelphia. Nearly ten years later I still remember its intense smokiness.

Brewed alongside their popular Ales of the Revolution series honoring Washington, Jefferson, and Franklin, it was named after Tadeus Kosciusko, a Polish general who volunteered in the American Revolution.

In taste, Yards’ smoked wheat was akin to an American wheat. In aroma, it resembled a large crispy plate of bacon. Unfortunately, it was never served outside the brewery. Regardless of its historical accuracy, Yards’ beer served as my introduction to Grodziskie, the style from which this beer was inspired.

Grodziskie is described by BJCP as having a gentle oak smoke flavor, a light body, pale yellow to medium gold, and crisp finish with high carbonation. Notably, “a bacon/ham smoke flavor is inappropriate”, as are murkiness or sourness.

Vital Statistics (BJCP)

OG: 1.028-1.032
FG: 1.006-1.012
IBUs: 20-35
SRM: 3-6
ABV: 2.5-3.3%

Recipe Research

Luckily, stumbling through Google and Wikipedia led me to a historical research paper by a Polish brewing association which described everything from water chemistry, to grain selection, to step mash procedure gleaned from the original brewery records, as Ron Pattinson does on his blog Shut Up About Barclay Perkins.

Much like Mr. Pattinson’s recipes, Grodziskie breaks a lot of rules for what we consider “standard”, starting with the grist. According to their research, the most popular version of the beer was made from 100% smoked wheat malt and surprisingly low in alcohol for a Central European beer, only 3.1%.

Next, the mash. Strangely, the prime saccharification rests are skipped, heading straight from a protein rest at 126F up to 158F by infusion, presumably to promote body despite its low alcohol content. The high mineral content of the wort water adds further to the beer’s unique flavor.

Next, it combines both lager and ale yeasts in an open fermentation. Yet, unlike open-fermented German Hefeweizen, an ale, brewers sought to minimize phenols and esters by fermenting cool and adding finings to reach a crystal-clear final product.

Historical Statistics

IBUs: 22
EBC: 9-9.6
ABV: 3.1%

Step mash: 30 min at 100F, 30-60 min at 126F, 30 min at 158F, 168F

Fermentation: ale and lager yeast for three days at 57-61F

Bottling: fined using isinglass, high carbonation, bottle conditioned for 3-5 weeks.

My Recipe

Grain: 3.7 lb Oak smoked wheat malt, 1.1 oz Midnight wheat (oops!)

Mash schedule: 30 min at 126F, 30 min at 158F, 10 min at 168F

Boil: 2 hours

Hops: 0.85 oz Hallertauer (2.5% AA) at 105 min, 0.36 oz Hallertauer (2.5% AA) at 30 min, roughly 22 IBUs total

Yeast: Nottingham

Chill to 65F. Ferment in low 60s for at least 3 days. Carbonate to 3.5 vols.

Brewing My Recipe

Since the Polish research was from the original brewery in Grodzisk, I figured I’d let their exact estimates guide my recipe. However, with no gravity estimates, I used BeerSmith to calculate roughly how much malt I would need.

I misread EBC as SRM, so the beer will be a bit darker than expected from my accidental corrective addition of Midnight wheat. In the future, the recipe would be fine without any additional color, 9.6 EBC is rougly 4-5 SRM, nearly identical to the color of the smoked wheat malt alone.

For my mash, I decided to use water additions of gypsum and calcium chloride to achieve the right pH balance, similar to the reported values from the brewery’s well. After starting with New York’s neutral tap water, this called for adding roughly 1.1 g/gal of gypsum and 0.44 g/gal of calcium chloride. These were impossible to measure with my hops scale which is only accurate down to the gram, so I eyeballed it. Next time I’ll have a 0.1 gram scale for better precision.

Starting the mash, I skipped the acid rest suggested in the literature and went right to the protein rest, followed by saccharification and mash-out. What a gooey oatmeal-like mess an all-wheat mash makes with brew-in-a-bag! After a while, it’s impossible to squeeze any extra liquid out, next time I’ll have to compensate by adding more grain.

Historically, this beer had a boil of 2-2.5 hours. I was in no rush, and using infusion instead of direct heat sped up my mash, so I boiled for the full 2 hours.

It was called for 80% of the hops to be added after 15 minutes and the remaining 20% at 30 minutes from the end of the boil, a rule which I roughly followed.

Lastly, a mix of clean and attenuative lager and ale yeasts was used historically to ensure complete fermentation. I split the difference and went with the most lager-like and attenuative ale yeast that was in-stock, Nottingham.

After chilling the wort to 65-70F and adding it to the fermenter, I set my temperature control at 63F and called it a night.

Conclusion

Fermentation was nearly complete after three days, going from OG 1.031 to 1.010. This put me right in the middle of the BJCP range. My first impression was the subtle smokiness, which has only a slight “bacon” smell and its impressive body despite the low ABV.

Hoping to get up to 3.1% ABV suggested in the aforementioned historical recipe, I gave it a little extra shake, raised the temperature, and let it sit for another few days, a week in total, and then it’ll be kegged. I’ll post an update once it has lagered and is fully ready to serve.

Featured image by Kpalion (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

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