Spelt (or Dinkel wheat) is an heirloom species of wheat that has been cultivated for thousands of years. Its genetic history is complicated but it has been shown that spelt probably originated as a natural hybrid of emmer wheat (an even older variety of wheat) and the wild goat-grass, Aegilops tauschii.

 

Spelt has been used by humans since at least 2500 BCE according to archaeological findings in Central Europe, and there is some evidence to suggest it was consumed as far back as 5000 BCE. By the year 750 BCE, spelt had become the main wheat grown and used in many European countries, specifically Germany. St. Hildegard von Bingen lived during the 12th century in the part of the Holy Roman Empire that is now Germany. She is considered by some to be the founder of scientific natural history in Germany, and was a well known proponent of spelt, even publishing several works extolling the grain.

 

It was finally introduced to the Americas in the late 19th century, but by the 20th century most spelt production worldwide had been changed to bread wheat (or Common wheat). While spelt has fallen out of favor during the past century, it is still used today. Some breweries, mostly in Germany, still make spelt based beers called Dinkelbiers, after the German word for the grain, Dinkel. It also has seen a recent surge in popularity among organic grain producers as spelt wheat is said to require less fertilizer to grow than bread wheat. A quick internet search of spelt will lead to many health food websites that claim the proteins in spelt are more fragile and will break down easier in water, but I couldn’t find any sources confirming this that weren’t behind paywalls. Weyermann Malting out of Bamberg, Germany still produces a Malted Spelt and this is the malt we will be using in our recipes here at Texas Brewing.

 

Spelt has a much higher protein content than wheat or barley, and thus requires some additional attention. This higher protein content also increases the foam formation of the head in a finished beer. Spelt can have up to 17% protein while typical malted wheat tops out around 13%. That might not sound like a big difference but keep in mind that most malted base grains contain around 11.5%. A little spelt can go a long way in beer head promotion. The taste of spelt is very similar to that of wheat, but with a more rounded nutty character.

 

We have two recipes based off the use of spelt. The first is a traditional version of the Dinkelbier, which is very similar to a typical German Hefeweizen. In fact the grain bills are almost identical with the main difference being the substitution of spelt in place of wheat. As with any high adjunct beer, you will want to use rice hulls to ensure a clean easy lauter. The second beer is the personal recipe of our in-house Saison Master, Matt Westlake. His spelt saison recipe uses 33% spelt to add some nice complexity in the malt bill forming a nice base for the blend of French and Belgian saison yeast strains used in fermentation.

 
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Das Dinkelbier:

5 gallon All-grain
OG 1.050/FG 1.012
IBU: 13 ABV: 5%
50% German Pilsen Malt
50% German Spelt Malt
Rice hulls
Follow your typical mash schedule for wheat beer or single infusion at 152F
German Hallertau to 13 IBU at 60 min
90 minute boil.
Ferment with Wyeast 3068 or Safale WB-06
 
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Hildegard Spelt Saison:

66% Belgian Pilsen
33% German Spelt
Rice hulls
Styrian Goldings to 21 IBU - 50% at 60 min, 25% at 20 min, 25% at 5 min
90 minute boil.
Ferment with a blend of Wyeast 3711 and Wyeast 3724. Pitch at 70ºF and then raise to 75ºF over the course of 2 days. Then let free raise, making sure not to go over 85ºF. Hold for two weeks.
 

-Austin

Austin has been brewing beer commercially and at home for the past decade. Feel free to contact him with any questions or comments at austin@texasbrewinginc.com.