Thursday, May 24, 2012

Brewday - Witbier

I had never really been into witbiers, but after a recent taste of a great homebrewed example and a couple bottles of Hoegaarden and Blanche de Chambly, I decided to brew one. For the grain bill I wanted to go local, using red winter wheat grown in Metchosin and combining it with organic oats and what was almost the last of my Belgian pilsner malt (If anyone knows where I can get more I will pay/trade handsomely) The yeast was something I spent a lot of time on, propagating the lees in a blend from bottles of Blanche de Chambly and Cheval Blanc. I added this into about 100 mls of well aerated wort and then the next day into another litre of wort. Looking back, I should have waited longer before stepping it up, and after several days there was still no airlock activity. Just when I thought the experiment was in vain the airlock began to bubble, and after it slowed I put it into the fridge to flocculate the yeast before pitching into 3 more litres of fresh wort. On brewday, I poured off the wort and tasted some of it to ensure a clean fermentation in the starter. I tasted potent vinegar... an acetobacter infection. God damn it. Moodily pondering a certain Robbie Burns poem concerning a mouse I drove to the brew shop and was lucky to find a wit yeast, fresh from the newest shipment. The brew day was back on.

I was a little confused as I approached this beer, as I had never brewed with raw grains in any quantity before. It seemed there were numerous ways to approach using larger quantities of these grains, as is required for a traditional witbier. The most important thing seemed to be to make sure the raw grains were sufficiently broken down to prevent a stuck sparge. After much reading and discussion with other homebrewers I decided on doing two separate mashes, a cereal mash and a malt mash. In the cereal mash I added a small portion of malted barley and brought it up to around 50C on the stove for 15 minutes for a beta-glucanese/protein rest to break down the gums for lautering and to ensure enough FAN in the wort. I then increased it to 65C for 30 minutes for saccharification and then brought it up to a light boil for 15 minutes to help break apart the grains to make the conversion easier. After the boil I cooled the wort and mixed it with the malt mash in my mash tun for a 60 minute main saccharification rest at 68C then mashed it out at 77C. For the sparge I mixed in some rice hulls for insurance against a stuck sparge and did my best to keep the temp in the 70s. I kept it slow and it went off without a hitch.

I had spent a fair bit of time before this brewday reading about and listening to podcasts about brewing wits, and it seems safe to say that spices and their use is one of the most critical and contentious aspects of brewing this style. I read about using cumin - I didn't - and heard one fellow talk about using softball-sized amounts of citrus zest - nope - and read about using Indian coriander as opposed to the regular run of the mill stuff - this I did. In the end I settled on a blend of tangelo and tangerine zest, Indian coriander, and chamomile, with a dash of something special. I kept the spicing on the consevative side as I would prefer to up it in future batches than end up with the "coriander soup" that witbier purists complain about.

Ingredients: Belgian pilsner malt, locally grown hard red winter wheat, organic flaked oats, rice hulls, tettnang hops, Indian coriander, chamomile, tangelo and tangerine zest, Wyeast 3942 Belgian Wheat

**Tasting Notes** Just got a chance to try this one (It carbed in an amazing 5 days). Cloudy, pale gold with an aroma heavy with wheat with light notes of lemon and sweet fruits. A medium/low bitterness with flavours of citrus and wheat and highly refreshing. Bitterness could perhaps come down a touch, but overall very positive for a first attempt. Should be a winner this summer.

No comments:

Post a Comment