Belgian Wit

I’ve brewed lots of fruit-based witbier recipes, and plenty of things with Belgian wit yeast, but I’ve only done a “real” witbier recipe once! BYO magazine recently featured the witbier style, so I brewed a slightly modified version recently.

Belgian Wit

  • 5.5 lb. Barke pilsner malt (Weyermann)
  • 5 lb. soft red flaked wheat (Briess)
  • 0.5 lb. flaked oats
  • 0.25 lb. Munich II malt (Weyermann)
  • 1 oz. Edelweiss hop pellets (5.1% alpha), 30 minute boil
  • 9 g chamomile flowers (dried), 5 minute boil
  • 1.5 oz. lemon zest (fresh), 5 minute boil
  • 0.4 oz. coriander seed, 5 minute boil
  • 1 pkg. wit Belgian wit-style ale yeast (Lallemand)

Target Parameters

  • 1.050 s.g., 1.009 f.g., 5.3% abv, 14 IBU, 4 SRM
  • Full-volume mash, no sparge, at 149° for 60 minutes
  • Claremont tap water, neutralized to remove carbonates.

Procedure

  • I heated 7.5 gallons of water to 155°, adding 6.25 mL of 88% lactic acid to remove the carbonates.
  • I mashed in to hit a mash temperature of 149°, adding 3.5 mL of 88% lactic acid to adjust pH. I held the mash here for 60 minutes with recirculation, before raising to 168° for a 10 minute mash out.
  • After removing the grains, I had a total of 6.25 gallons of runnings with a gravity of 1.041, for 63% mash efficiency.
  • I brought the kettle to a boil, boiling for an extra 15 minutes before adding hops and spices per the recipe, in order to raise the gravity. After 75 minutes total of the boil, I turned off the heat and chilled to 80°. I transferred the wort to a fermenter and chilled it the rest of the way down to 62° before pitching the yeast.
  • I brewed the beer on 17 September 2022. Starting gravity was 1.045.
  • I pitched the yeast at 62°, let it free rise to 64° and held there for the first three days of fermentation. I did all of this with open fermentation, putting a piece of foil over the hole in the fermenter lid rather than using an airlock or blowoff tube.
  • On 20 September 2022 (three days into fermentation), I added a blowoff tube and let the fermentation free rise to 72°.
  • I kegged the beer on 30 September 2022. It had a final gravity of 1.012, for 4.4% abv.

Tasting

  • Appearance
    • Straw colored, hazy beer with a fluffly and persistent white bead.
  • Aroma
    • Light chamomile and hay aroma; slightly tart character to it.
  • Flavor
    • Very refreshing! There is a bit of spice; the coriander is faintly present, and chamomile comes through on the back end of each taste, but is definitely more prominent. Coriander provides a pleasant sweetness. Medium-low bitterness; maybe even a bit too much? There is a hint of citrus flavor. The malt flavor is fairly low, with a doughy and slightly grainy character if anything.
  • Mouthfeel
    • Light body, highly carbonated, smooth finish, off-dry. It is almost a bit too dry.
  • Would I Brew This Again?
    • I like this recipe overall! It could use a bit more coriander, but the chamomile is delightful. It gives a fresh-mown hay quality that is quite interesting. The beer is a bit more dry than I like for this style; some more oats could help with that. The yeast character is okay, but not exceptional. I might like a bit more from the yeast, and suspect an increase in fermentation temperature could help. A little more haze would also be nice, and slightly less bitterness. The beer is quite refreshing, but not perfect. The beer clarified a bit after a few weeks from the initial tasting, and is still super interesting in flavor. The chamomile helps to make this a fall beer, rather than just something for a summer afternoon!
  • Overall
    • 6/10

Raspberry Belgian 2021

According to my records, this is the fifth time I’ve made Raspberry Belgian. It is one of my favorite recipes, without a doubt. The process is a fair bit of work, and it’s not the cheapest thing to brew, but WOW, are the results worth it!

My approach to this has morphed considerably over the years, and there are inevitably some variations in ingredients and process. So, every time is different, even if they’re all more or less in the same flavor space.

As before, the key to this recipe is using fresh/frozen raspberries. Tons and tons of raspberries–4.5 pounds, to be precise. I used just frozen ones this time, which I thawed and pureed before adding to the fermenter. Canned purees just don’t “pop” in the same way. For souring, I tried out the Lactobacillus Blend from Omega Labs, which is what the local shop had on-hand. Past versions of the recipe used acidulated malt in the grist, which was a hold-over from the original “bacteria-free” version, and I decided to just ditch that because it was unnecessary.

Raspberry Belgian 2021

  • 6.5 lb. Viking Pilsner Zero Malt
  • 2.5 lb. white wheat malt (Great Western)
  • 1 lb. flaked wheat
  • 0.5 lb. Carapils malt (Briess)
  • 0.5 lb. rice hulls
  • 0.5 oz. Magnum hop pellets (10.1% alpha), 60 minute boil
  • 1 tsp. WLN1000 yeast nutrient (White Labs), 10 minute boil
  • 1 pkg. Belgian Wit Ale Yeast (WLP400), prepared in 1L vitality starter
  • 1 pkg. Lactobacillus Blend (Omega Labs OYL-605)
  • 72 oz. frozen raspberries, pureed

Target Parameters

  • 1.048 o.g., 1.012 f.g., 18 IBU, 4 SRM, 4.8% abv
  • 154° full-volume mash, 60 minutes
  • Overnight kettle sour
  • Claremont tap water, no adjustment

Procedure

  • Way back in May, I made a starter for Pannotia White IPA using WLP400, but it was suuuuper slow to kick off. Worrying that it was dead, I got some Whiteout (Imperial Yeast), but kept the WLP400 starter going just in case. After a day or two, it was off to the races, and so I harvested the results to save for a later brew–which turned out to be the raspberry brew!
  • I mashed in with 7.25 gallons of water at 160°, and held the mash at 154° for 60 minutes with recirculation. I added 7 mL of 88% lactic acid to adjust the mash pH. I raised the temperature to 168° for a 10 minute mash-out, and then removed the grain basket.
  • In total, I collected 6.25 gallons of runnings with a gravity of 1.038, for 61% mash efficiency. This is a bit low, but that seems to be the case for these adjunct-heavy beers (and my mill seems to be not quite tight enough, after inspection of equipment).
  • Next, I boiled the runnings for 5 minutes, before chilling down to 95°. I added 25 mL of 88% lactic acid, to get the pH down to 4.4, and then added the lacto culture. Because I’m using the Foundry, I just let the runnings in the kettle, and set it to maintain temperature at 90°. I did this step on 14 August 2021.
  • After 25 hours, the pH was down to 3.5, right in my target range. I called this perfect!
  • While getting the soured runnings ready, I made a SNS (shaken-not-stirred) starter for the harvested yeast culture.
  • I boiled the runnings, adding hops and yeast nutrients per the recipe. After 60 minutes, I chilled the wort, transferred to the fermenter, and then chilled down to 66° before pitching the yeast starter.
  • I started primary fermentation on 15 August 2021, holding at 66°.
  • On 19 August 2021, I added 72 oz. of pureed frozen raspberries, and raised the temperature to 68°.
  • On 22 August 2021, I brought the beer out to ambient, around 75° or so, to finish up.
  • I kegged the beer on 28 August 2021. At this point, it had a final gravity of 1.013, which works out to 4.0% abv. With the extra sugars from the fruit, actual abv might be a touch higher.

Tasting

  • Appearance
    • The beer is gorgeous! I pours with a pink, frothy, and somewhat persistent head. The beer itself is dark pink, and moderately (but not overly) hazy. I think it’s looking clearer than might be usual, because I’m using a floating dip tube. I wouldn’t mind a little extra haze, if it helped augment the mouthfeel and flavor.
  • Aroma
    • Raspberry is prominent, with a bit of tartness also.
  • Flavor
    • The beer is moderately sour, but not over the top. The sour character is clean (one person who tasted it described it as a sour patch kid–that’s a high compliment in my book!). Bitterness is perceived as low. The raspberry comes through very nicely. There might be a slight wheat flavor, but in general I don’t think the malt is terribly perceptible. I’m a bit surprised that the Belgian yeast character doesn’t come through more, either.
  • Mouthfeel
    • This beer has a light body and effervescent quality, with a tart, modestly sour, and dry finish.
  • Would I Brew This Again?
    • This is a wonderful beer! It’s incredibly drinkable, especially during warm weather. I wouldn’t mind a touch more malt character and a little bit more prominent Belgian yeast character…I would be curious to see if it’s genuinely no Belgian character, or if that is just being covered up by the raspberries. Perhaps I’ll try fermenting at a higher temperature next time, to bring out the phenols more prominently. Those are truly minor issues, and really just in the category of optional tweaks to consider.
  • Overall
    • 9/10

Raspberry Belgian 2020

I’ve brewed this beer at least three or four times, and I keep coming back to it as one of my very favorite recipes. It’s crisp, it’s low alcohol, it’s flavorful, and it’s well out of my usual brewing styles. I wouldn’t want this year-round, but it sure is a nice treat every once in awhile!

deep pink beer in Belgian wit glass, held aloft against green tree leaves

My personal take on this recipe–which started out as a clone of Funkwerks Raspberry Provincial–has evolved since I first brewed it in 2017. Every batch is a bit different, especially in the souring strain and the type of raspberry puree added. It never fails to be a great beer.

Raspberry Belgian 2020

  • 4.75 lb. pilsner malt (Weyermann)
  • 2.5 lb. pale wheat malt (Weyermann)
  • 1.75 lb. acidulated malt (BestMalz)
  • 0.5 lb. Carapils malt
  • 0.5 lb. flaked oats
  • 0.5 lb. flaked wheat
  • 6 oz. rice hulls
  • 0.35 oz. Magnum hop pellets (13.2% alpha), 60 minute boil
  • 0.5 pkg. (~5 g) of Wildbrew Sour Pitch (Lallemand)
  • 1 pkg. Whiteout Belgian Wit Yeast (Imperial #B44)
  • 36 oz. raspberry puree

Target Parameters

  • 1.048 o.g., 1.013 f.g., 15 IBU, 3 SRM, 4.5% abv
  • 155° full-volume mash, 60 minutes
  • Overnight kettle sour
  • Claremont tap water, no adjustment

Procedure

  • I mashed in with ~8.5 gallons of water at 160°, to hit a 155° mash temperature target. After 60 minutes, I vorlaufed and collected the full volume of runnings.
  • In total, I collected 6.7 gallons of runnings with a gravity of 1.033. This was way below my target (and only 57% mash efficiency), so I added 0.75 lb. of extra light DME to bring the gravity up to 1.038.
  • I boiled the runnings for 10 minutes and then chilled to 115°. I added 1 tbs. of 88% lactic acid, to bring the pH down to ~4.4.
  • Once the kettle temp was down to 105°, I added 5 g of the Wildbrew Sour Pitch, stirred gently, and left it on a heating pad in a warm garage.
  • I started the souring process at around 10:30 am on 18 July 2020, and it was down to ~3.35 by the next morning. The sour level was right where I wanted it, when I sampled a little.
  • I boiled the beer for an hour, adding hops per the schedule as well as some yeast nutrient.
  • I chilled the wort and put it into my fermenter, bringing the temperature down the rest of the way in my fermentation chamber. I pitched the yeast, and let it ferment at 66°. The starting gravity was 1.046.
  • I pitched the yeast on 19 July 2020, and added fruit puree on 23 July 2020.
    • To make the puree, I took frozen raspberries (purchased fresh a few weeks prior, sorted, and frozen) and thawed them out. I had 72 ounces by mass, which was around 130 ounces by volume of whole raspberries. 12 ounces by weight should make around 6 ounces of puree by volume, so I ended up with around 36 ounces (a quart) of puree. To make the puree, I heated the raspberries in a double boiler, mashing them up. I heated the mixture to between 150° and 170°, with the bowl sitting in near-boiling water. I let it sit for 15 minutes and then chilled in an ice bath, before adding the puree to the fermenter.
  • I kegged the beer on 1 August 2020. Final gravity at that time was 1.020, for 3.3% abv; I wonder if the yeast hadn’t completely fermented out? I usually agitate the fermenter when I’m using the various Belgian wit strains, because they do tend to stall out without babysitting. Oh well…I figure that any final fermentation will hopefully wrap up in the keg.
  • I added 3.2 oz. of corn sugar boiled for ~2 minutes in 1 cup of water, and then sealed up the keg (adding a touch of pressure to make sure the lid was seated).
  • Carbonation level maxed out at around 24 psi at 72°, which is not terribly great as a level of carbonation for this style. That’s only 2.2 or so volumes of CO2, and I was aiming for 3.0 at least. I used my CO2 talk to top things up.
  • On 9 August 2020 (the same day as the tasting), I decarbonated a sample and measured gravity with both hydrometer and refractometer, getting a final gravity of 1.017. This works out to ~3.8% abv, and if I were to guess, around 4% abv when you factor in the sugars from the raspberry.

Tasting

deep pink beer in Belgian wit glass
  • Appearance
    • Right now (second day on tap for the keg), this beer has a gorgeous deep pink color, with a prominent haze. It pours with a frothy white head that subsides to a relatively continuous thin blanket.
  • Aroma
    • This beer smells like fresh raspberry. I get maybe a little bit of the citrusy Belgian wit yeast character behind that, but the raspberry is front and center here.
  • Flavor
    • What else? Raspberry! More seriously, the beer has a pleasant (but not over-the-top) tartness, with a berry and citrus character. The malt is pretty subdued, and largely overwhelmed by the fruit and sour notes. But, raspberry definitely dominates.
  • Mouthfeel
    • Crisp and light bodied, with a nice smooth finish. Carbonation is high, which gives a pleasant and spritzy character to the beer, but the heavy amount of suspended yeast and the malt bill keep it from being too thin.
  • Would I brew this again?
    • This is one of my very favorite summer beer recipes. It has evolved considerably from the original clone recipe, and it has further evolved from my initial few attempts. It’s such an interesting beer, and is a good reward for the above-average amount of effort and above-average ingredient cost. The only minor change I might make would be to ditch the acidulated malt–it’s a holdover from the original recipe, which used this malt alone to get the desired sour character.
  • Overall
    • 9/10

Cerveza de Jamaica

I’m feeling experimental, and I’m feeling summer-y, and I need some good homebrew to sip on the porch on a warm Saturday afternoon. I discovered agua de Jamaica (a hibiscus tea often just sold as Jamaica) when I moved to California, and finally made my own last summer. This hibiscus-based tea is tart, tasty, and refreshing…which is a perfect accompaniment for a witbier! [For those who aren’t familiar, it’s pronounced roughly as “huh-MY-kuh”, not “juh-MAY-kuh”.]

My base recipe is a pretty standard witbier, with a grist of 50% pilsner malt and 50% flaked wheat. I’m using WLP400 as the yeast, and a small dose of Hallertauer Mittelfrueh for the bittering hops. Because I want to highlight the hibiscus flavor and avoid any clash with coriander, I’m just using some fresh navel orange peel for steeping. I decided to add the dried hibiscus flowers at flameout, basically the same as if I were making tea. I kept hopping levels towards the lower end of the witbier style, because I expect that the flameout additions may add some bitterness.

Dried hibiscus flowers

Cerveza de Jamaica

  • 5 lbs. pilsen malt (Briess)
  • 5 lbs. flaked wheat
  • 4 oz. rice hulls
  • 0.75 oz. Hallertauer Mittelfrueh hop pellets (4.0% alpha), 60 minute boil
  • 1 tsp. Fermax yeast nutrient, 10 minute boil
  • Peel of two medium navel oranges, 10 minute steep after flameout
  • 3 oz. dried hibiscus flowers, 10 minute steep after flameout
  • 1 pkg. Belgian Wit Ale yeast (WLP400), prepared in 1L vitality starter

Target Parameters

  • Infusion mash to hit target of 152°, 60 minutes, batch sparge.
  • 1.050 o.g., 1.011 f.g., 5.1% abv, 11 IBU, 3 SRM
  • Water built from RO to hit target of 48 ppm Ca, 85 ppm Cl, -34 ppm RA.

Procedure

  • I built my mash water with 3.5 gallons of reverse osmosis water and 6 g of CaCl. I mashed in at 164°, adding 7.5 mL of 88% lactic acid, and hit a mash temperature of 150°.
  • After a 60 minute mash, I added 1.5 gallons of RO water at 185°, let sit for 10 minutes, vorlaufed, and collected the first runnings. I then added 3.5 gallons of water at 185°, let it wait for 10 minutes, vorlaufed, and collected the second runnings.
  • In total, I collected 6.8 gallons of runnings, with a gravity of 1.039, for 73% efficiency. I’ve learned that adding an extra half gallon of sparge or mash water is important for these beers that have lots of flaked grains, both to keep up volume under the extra absorption and to ensure I get better efficiency.
  • I boiled for 60 minutes, adding the various ingredients per the schedule.
  • At flame-out, I added the fresh orange peel and dried hibiscus, and let them steep for 10 minutes. They stayed in while I chilled the wort, to extend the flavor extraction.
  • The wort is really awesome in appearance and flavor; it has a deep purple hue, a slightly tart flavor, and an aroma that mixes all of the additions in a tasty way. I can’t wait to try this after fermentation!
  • While mashing, I made a 1L vitality starter for the yeast. It ran on the stir plate for about 3 hours, and it showed signs of fermentation by then. After I pitched the yeast, solid signs of fermentation were visible within 18 hours.
  • I brewed this on 28 April 2018, and starting gravity was 1.048. Initial fermentation is happening at 68°; I’ll let it free-rise after 3 or 4 days.

Beer Tasting: Citra Wit

Citra WitMy Citra Wit has come and gone, but luckily I was able to squeeze in an “official” tasting in before the keg kicked!

  • The Basics
    • Original gravity = 1.043; final gravity = 1.010; abv = 4.3%; estimated IBU = 13
  • Aroma
    • Light citrus aroma (reflecting the Citra hops) with a slight bready character. There is surprisingly little obvious yeast character (in terms of a spice note).
  • Appearance
    • Thick, white head with fine bubbles, that pours high and settles down to a broad blanket across the top of the beer. It leaves some lacing across the side of the glass. The beer itself is light yellow and beautifully cloudy.
  • Flavor
    • A definite bready character to the malt, with only the lightest of bitterness and a smooth finish. A gentle coriander comes through across the taste, but the grapefruit is surprisingly absent. This is a marked contrast to when I first brewed and transferred the beer.
  • Mouthfeel
    • This is probably more lightly carbonated than is true to style, but I’m OK with that. This beer has a really nice, light body and a fairly smooth finish that tends towards the delicate malt side rather than the hoppy side. The finish feels a little “flabby,” though, and I wonder if that might be resolved with some water adjustments.
  • Would I brew this again?
    • This is a nice, refreshing beer, which hits most of the notes I am aiming for. I might try dry-hopping with fresh grapefruit peel on the next round, if I wanted a bigger grapefruit character (which I do). The appearance of the beer is dead-on for what I had in mind, and stayed that way until the end of the keg. I might play with the water profile a bit, to perk up the mouthfeel.
  • Rating
    • 7/10