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Brewing with Strawberries is Tricky!

Sweet Pete's Strawberry Wheat Ale is an American Hefeweizen flavored with fresh, local strawberries from right down the street. Seriously, the berries we use are from the little stand right on the corner of 18th and Iona - right across the street from the 10th hole at the Lemoore Country Club. The berries are so red, sweet and juicy that we had to capture their exquisite taste in a beer. Unfortunately, after going through fermentation and aging, the subtle flavor of the berries was lost in most of the sample batches we tried - the beer just overpowered the strawberry flavor and aroma. Additionally, strawberries are notorious for adding off-flavors to the beer in the form of bacteria and wild yeast that hitch a ride. We found it very tricky to incorporate the taste of the berries without losing the flavor or contaminating our sterile wort/beer with undesirables. After much agonizing and experimentation, we came up with a way to make it work (we won't bore you with the details), and Sweet Pete's is the final result.
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A hefeweizen, for those unfamiliar, is an ale made with wheat comprising a large portion of the grain bill, up to 50% in some cases. Because wheat is a "huskless" grain, meaning there is not an outer husk on the grain itself, brewing with wheat can also be a challenge as the husks (for instance on malted barley) tend to act as a natural filter bed during the mashing/lautering process. Because of this, it is more likely that the mash bed will clog and a stuck sparge will occur. This brings all kinds of complications that we brewers just don't want to deal with. Additionally, a specialty yeast is used that is much less flocculant (the ability for yeast to clump and fall out of suspension) than many of it's ale cousins, and the resulting beer is never filtered. This leaves some amount of yeast in suspension, resulting in the classic cloudy appearance of the hefeweizen style. The yeast also imparts some banana, clove and butterscotch flavors not normally desirable in other ales.
We, and many others, find plain hefeweizens to be bland, dull, and uninteresting. With so many choices of excellent and flavorful craft brews these days, you won't ever find us "chasing the wheat". This is, perhaps, why you find so many folks "fruiting the beer" by sticking orange slices or lemon wedges in their Hefs - they need a little jazzing up. Because we had such a tough time trying to get the strawberry flavor and aroma to come through in a more aggressive and hoppy ale, we thought that the Hefeweizen would provide the perfect bland backdrop that we needed to emphasize, and retain, the delicate strawberry essence we desired. We were right, and we have had to tweak our previous stereotyping of Hefs since we brewed ours. It's fantastic (if we do say so ourselves) and if you are one of those folks, like us, who just can't get a charge out of wheat beers, give this one a try - you might just be surprised. Sweet Pete's is only brewed in the Spring when the berries ripen - once it's gone, it's gone - until next year, of course!
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Shire Station Brewing Company

Lemoore, CA 93245
Contact Us
Email: Tony@Shirestation.com


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The easiest way to spot a wanker in a pub is to look around and find who's drinking a Corona with a slice of lemon in the neck.
Warwick Franks
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