The annual homebrew competition associated with the Big Beers, Belgians, and Barlewine festival was held earlier this year in Colorado. Homebrewer Fritz Schanz took home top honors for his Weizenbock Recipe.

Homebrewers continue to inspire the larger beer community. Through the hard and small batch work, they showcase the grit and attention to detail that helped build the American beer industry to where it is today.

As part of winning the best in show, Schanz agreed to answer some questions from All About Beer Editor John Holl. His recipe for the award-winning Weizenbock is below the interview.

The Conversation

John Holl: How Long Have you been homebrewing?

Fritz Schanz:  I’ve been homebrewing since 2018, and I started for the typical reasons. I was frustrated by the limited availability, the lack of variety, and the lack of freshness in beers, especially the imports from Europe and the United Kingdom.

I got involved in homebrewing one day while shopping for beer. I overhead a couple of people talking about the local beer club; we struck up a conversation, and they invited me to their meeting that very afternoon! Talk about serendipity.

The very next weekend, club members were at my home, and helped me with an extract kit. That was five years ago. I moved on to all-grain, and I have been brewing regularly ever since.  I’d like to say that the beer culture scene in our town is rather small, but between our club, our local brewery/pub, and two local stores, it is a really tight-knit and supportive community.

Over time, like all homebrewers, I’ve gone through some equipment upgrades. I am brewing on an electric/gas RIMS, and I’m comfortable with it.

John Holl: What prompted you enter this particular competition?

Fritz Schanz: This festival has been on my radar for a few years. It is one of the oldest and finest in the nation, and it receives unbelievable support from breweries, civic groups, and homebrewers. I really like the focus of the competition on big beers and Belgians (which are the hardest styles to master), the judging is superb, and the competition and festival are well managed and supported.

The whole emphasis on the breweries, activities, and homebrewers is not only a fun social and educational experience, but it really brings the community together. There has been some talk nationwide about the “decoupling” of homebrewers and breweries, but this festival counteracts that; it brings the professional brewers, homebrewers, and beer afficionados closer together.

John Holl: What do you like about homebrewing?

Fritz Schanz: I love the freedom that homebrewing allows: I can brew any beer style that I desire, I can explore any variation within that style, and I can enjoy a beer fresh, or I can enjoy a beer that has been properly kept and aged.

I love the science and art behind brewing, both go hand in hand, and one can spend a life-time pursuing either.

Last, I love the connection that homebrewing has with places. It’s pretty hard not to pick up a magazine that has an article, say, on a beer vacation in Czechoslovakia and not fall in love with beers in their native places and cultures.

John Holl: Tell us about your Weizenbock, which won Best of Show?

Fritz Schanz: Of all the high-gravity beers, I think that the Dark Weizenbock is the most difficult to brew well. That has been my experience. The reason for this is that the beer must achieve a broader range of balances than other high-gravity beers. I find the beer more complicated.

In the past, my versions have been either too light or too heavy, too sweet or too dry, or too alcoholic, or too much clove or banana, or not enough malt differentiation or, especially, too much caramel. Over about six attempts at this beer, it slowly improved, and I think this current beer strikes a nice  balance: there is the bready background, but it soon gives way to a range of caramel, dark-fruit, chocolate malts.

I think the alcohols bring lightness and an additional fruitiness to the beer, and then there is the backdrop of clove and banana. I like the way the initial sweetness eventually gives way to a pleasant dry finish, and I like the mouthfeel. There is so much going on in this style of beer; it is amazing when homebrewers pull off a nice example.

So, in considering this style, three main issues surface:  grist formulation, mashing regimen, and yeast management. From a grist standpoint, the difficulty in brewing this beer is getting the right malt complex, and this has been the area that I have struggled with the most. Because I don’t do decoctions, I’m having to rely on the grist to achieve the desired melanoidin-dark fruit-chocolate character without overwhelming the bready backbone and the mouthfeel. I now keep the caramel malts less than 6 percent of total grist, and the chocolate malt less than 3 percent. Also, I’ve found that this beer expresses itself best at an OG of about 1079 to 1082 OG and a FG of about 1018 to 1021 FG.

Regarding the mash regimen, well it is complicated, comprising five steps. You want to increase the amount of ferulic acid to enhance the clove flavor. So, I do a ferulic acid rest for 15 minutes at 113F. Then, you want to break down some of the smaller proteins to release more amino acids and peptides into the mash for yeast nutrition. So, I do a protein rest for 15 minutes at 127F. You also want to achieve good attenuation in your final beer, so I increase the mash to 145F and keep it there for 45 minutes. Finally, you want to break down further any heavier dextrins that remain.

So, I mash at 162F for an alpha-amylase rest, and I’ll typically do this for 30 minutes. Then I raise the temperature to 172F for 10 minutes.

The hop character isn’t too important in this style, so I use just enough high-alpha hops to give about 23 IBUs, and the hops go in with 60 min left in the boil. I boil for 90 min.

Regarding yeast, I use White Labs 300, and I target a pitch rate of 0.85 million cells/ml/degree Plato, which results in a cell density of 17.24 million cells/ml, or about 326.32 billion cells. I’ve gone with higher pitch rates, but I didn’t get the banana profile I was hoping, and I’ve gone with lower pitch rates, and yeast had a difficult time finishing.

I pitch at 64F, and maintain that temperature for 24 hours, after which I allow the temperature to free rise to 70 – 72F. When fermentation is complete, I cold crash to 32F for three days, and I re-yeast, add corn sugar, and bottle, aiming for a carbonation level of 3.2 vols of CO2.

Pull Up a Stool is a regular feature on All About Beer. Reach out to editor John Holl at with suggestions on brewing professionals that should be featured. And to support our journalism, please visit and donate via

Editor’s note: John Holl serves on the board of the Big Beers, Belgians, and Barleywine Festival.

Weizenbock Recipe


Original Gravity1.082
Final Gravity1.020
SRM (Morey)21.1
BU:OG Ratio0.289
SO4:Cl2 Ratio0.800

Grain Bill

White Wheat Malt 2.5L9.0050.00%
German Vienna Malt 3.5L4.5025.00%
German Dark Munich Malt 11L3.0016.67%
Dingeman Cara 45L0.502.78%
Dingeman Special B 150L0.502.78%
Briess Chocolate Malt 150L0.502.78%
Total Light Grain16.5091.67%
Total Crystal Malt1.005.56%
Total Dark Grain0.502.78%
Total Grain18.00100%

Water Chemistry

Mash pH 5.5