Friday, January 13, 2012

Gumballhead: It's Triple-Hopped!

You probably heard some time ago that Miller Lite is "triple hopped." Triple-Hopped sounds pretty good if you don't consider that Miller isn't even halfway to the max on hop addition possibilities. Aside from dancing around the kettle and randomly throwing in hop flowers, I can think of at least seven possible hop additions, but that's a blog for another day.

I haven't confirmed this the folks at SAB Miller, but it sounds like their lite beer has the standard three hop additions; the first for bittering, the second for flavor and the third for aroma. Last time I heard, Miller was using hop extract rather than "real" hops, so it's probably more correct to say that Miller Lite is "triple hop-extract dosed." All in all it looks like they're brewing a pale lager more or less the way large breweries brew pale lagers. And in their spare time they're making adds that really outshine the completion on the annoyance factor.

All that being said, the subject of hop additions can be interesting, and thoughtful use of hops can add great character to beer. One great example is Gumballhead, brewed by Three Floyds Brewing Company in Munster, Indiana. According to the brewer, Gumballhead is...
"An American Wheat Ale, Gumballhead is named in honor of the underground comic book cat created by Rob Syers. Initially a seasonal summer beer, now brewed year round due to demand. This beer helped redefine American Wheat Beers. Brewed with Amarillo Hops and a generous portion of American red wheat, Gumballhead has a complex hop aroma with notes of grapefruit, lemon zest, marmalade and peach. These flavors combined with low bitterness make Gumballhead a refreshing American Wheat Beer that doesn’t suck."
For me, American Wheat is one of the gateway beverages like lite lagers. Not much in the way of hops, or beer character in general. To make their beer non-sucky, Three Floyds is doing something interesting with the hops, while staying inside the style guidelines. Just barely...

BCP American Wheat Vital Statistics: IBUs: 15 – 30 ABV: 4 – 5.5%
Gumballhead Vital Statistics: IBUs: 28 5.5%

Let's go back to the idea of the standard three hop additions for bittering, flavor and aroma. No hop addition does only one thing - the results vary according to when the addition is done. There is some flavor and a little aroma in the bittering addition. There is some bittering and aroma in the flavor addition. Finally, there is s touch of bittering and some flavor in the aroma addition. The trick in Gumballhead is that there is so much in the aroma addition that it has significant impact on the flavor and some good impact on the bittering. The results are pretty fabulous.

Gumballhead Clone Recipe

Batch Size:5.0 gallons
Original Gravity:1.055 / 13.6° Plato
Final Gravity:1.015 / 3.8° Plato
Color: 4° SRM / 8° EBC   (Yellow)
Mash Efficiency:74% used for O.G. estimate
Bitterness: 27.4 IBU / 5 HBU ƒ: Tinseth
BU:GU Ratio:0.50
Alcohol:5.3% ABV / 4% ABW
Calories:182 per 12 oz.

Malt & Fermentables
% Lbs. Oz. Malt/Fermentable PPG °L
45% 4 8 Pilsner (Germany) 37 2
45% 4 8 Wheat Malt 37 2
10% 1 0 Vienna Malt 36 3

Use Time Oz. Variety Form AA
Boil 60 mins 0.5 Amarillo pellet 10.7
Boil 0 mins 4.0 Amarillo pellet 10.7
Dry Hop 7 Days 1.5 Amarillo pellet 10.7

Type Strain Description
Safale US-05 Dry Ale Yeast in dry form with low to medium flocculation and 73% attenuation

NOTE: Add the four ounces of Amarillo at flameout. Whirlpool, and let it stand for ten minutes. This will probably push the IBUs into the high twenties, which is still fine for the style. Back the recipe off half a pound on both the Pilsner and Wheat malts if you want to brew a 'lighter' version.


  1. Hey Bob, a couple of questions about this recipe:
    1. The description specifies "Red Wheat" whereas you just use American Wheat malt. Is there a difference?
    2. When you do the flameout addition and whirlpool, you leave the wort hot, correct? In other words, you add the hops, whirlpool for ten min, and THEN start chilling. (I know that the new wisdom is that you can do this and not worry about hot-side aeration, but this part still sounds a little fishy to me. Maybe I'm old school...)

    Three cats brewery blog:

    1. 1. I can buy red wheat malt. It is slightly reddish. Regular wheat malt will be just fine.
      2. Yes, I do leave the wort hot, because I have a counterflow chiller. If I was using an immersion chiller things would be getting gradually cooler as the whirlpool spins down.

      It's tough to get HSA as a homebrewer unless you're splashing a lot. I'm not stirring for 10 minutes, I'm getting a whirlpool started and letting it spin for 10. (Sorry it took so long to reply, I overlooked the comments on this post.)

  2. Hi Bob, good blog some interesting stuff! Can you tell me what is meant by 'whirlpool for ten minutes'? Does it mean to keep stirring in circular motion for 10 mins?

    1. For me, 'whirlpool for ten minutes' means that stir it up in a circular motion until you get whirlpool effect, then let it spin for 10 minutes. That should give it time for some solids to drop out and form a cone in the middle. You can get the whirlpool going with a long-handled spoon or paddle, or with a pump. I like the pump idea best.