Brewing a Belgian Style Witbier using an adjunct mash…

With the onset of summer and the occasional 40°C weather up here in Toronto, it’s about time I get a nice cold keg filled with a summertime favourite: a Belgian Witbier. There’s nothing like the refreshing taste of that orange infused bubbly goodness on a hot summer day.

Witbiers normally contain a large amount of unmalted wheat, either raw or flaked. When using such a large amount, it’s a good idea to give your mash a short protein rest around 122F to help loosen things up. I’ve just finished reading Randy Mosher’s book “Radical Brewing: Recipes, Tales and World-Altering Meditations in a Glass” in which he talks about “white beer” as being one of his favourite styles. He also talks about how it can be a difficult beer to brew well and offers some insight from his trials and errors. He suggests an American style “adjunct mash” (or a ‘double mash’ as it’s called in Dave Miller’s Homebrewing Guide) as the best way to get that real creamy, lubricious body that is a famous characteristic of good witbiers. After researching some historical brewing texts, he claims that this was similar to how some brewers would have made these greatly varied beers in the past in order to deal with the large amount of raw wheat in the grist.

The recipe I chose uses the following grains:

  • Pilsner Malt
  • Acid Malt (optional)
  • Munich Malt
  • 6 Row Pale Malt
  • Flaked Wheat
  • Flaked Oats
  • Rice Hulls

As obvious by the name, an adjunct mash is used to break down the adjuncts (unmalted wheat and possibly oats, if you use them). A decent amount of American 6 Row barley is added to the mix to help convert the starches in the unmalted grain. It’s very similar to a decoction mash in that you dough in at room temp, then slowly heat things up to reach a protein rest at 122°F and let sit for 15mins. Then proceed to slowly heat the mash up to 155°F and let sit for another 15mins to convert. Be sure to check for conversion using an iodine test, I needed to let it rest an extra 15mins to get full conversion.

Keep your crushed Pilsner, Munich and acidulated malt (optional) separate and ready for your mash tun. What I did was during the saccharification rest of the adjunct mash, I heated up my infusion water and added it to my mash tun and brought the remaining grains up to a protein rest at 122°F. This way, they wouldn’t be sitting too long at this temperature. I figured, even it they did sit a little long, there will be such a huge amount of protein in the adjunct mash that it should provide more than enough for a think creamy head of foam.

At about the same time, after conversion is complete in your adjunct mash, heat it up to boiling and boil for 15mins. Then you can transfer the boiling adjunct mash to the main mash in stages, (so you don’t overshoot your target), until you bring the whole thing up to 155°F. (I only had an extra scoop or two of boiled mash left, so the amount was perfect! I just left the remaining amount to cool down to 155°F and then added it to the main mash)

Here’s what the overall mash schedule looks like:

After resting 45 mins at your saccharification step of 155°F, you can do your mashout by adding boiling water, or heating it up to 168°F if your system allows you to do so. It was at this point that I added the rice hulls. (I don’t think it would do any harm if you added the rice hulls earlier in the game, I just decided to add them here.) Sparge as normal, being mindful to keep the temperature of the grain bed above 160F. Otherwise there’s a very high risk of getting a stuck sparge with a recipe like this.

Now for the fun stuff; the spices!

A prominent hop bitterness or flavour is not usual for this style, but of course, you can do whatever you like. I made 1 addition at 60mins of 1oz of Tettnang. There’s no need to use whirlfloc or irish moss as the yeast and protein in suspension is part of what makes this beer special.

Coriander and orange peel are staples in witbiers. I used fresh zest from the oranges I had lying around in the fruit bowl. Try not to get too much of the white pithy stuff in there, because it’s very bitter. You want as much of the orange part as possible. I crushed some coriander seeds in a mortar & pestle to release the aroma.  Finding the right balance will require trial & error to get it to your own taste. I based my mix last year on a great article from Jamil Zainasheff in Brew Your Own titled: Witbier: Style Profile. It was a good starting point and I was then able to adjust the balance from there. In the article, Jamil suggests the addition of Chamomile to give an added level of smoothness. It’s very subtle, but it’s nice having it in there. Just toss all of the spices in at 5 minutes left in the boil and you’re all set. Be sure to get a good whiff of it when you drop them in, it’s quite a sensation!

The biggest signature of this style, like most Belgian beers, is the yeast. I used White Labs “Belgian Witbier” #WLP-400. As soon as I opened it, it had that signature aroma you would associate with a witbier.

From reading “Brewing with Wheat” by Stan Hieronymus and “German Wheat Beer” by Eric Warner, it seems that fermenting a little higher than normal helps to bring out the flavours that this yeast produce. Most of the fermentation schedules these books list, pitch around 66F-68F and let the temperature rise to 74-75F by the end of primary. Luck would have it that our air conditioner is broken at the moment, and with the heat wave blasting through the city, it’s fermenting away at a comfortable 73F. So we’ll see what happens!

See the results here.

Here’s the recipe: NOTE: I’ve set the mash schedule here as a double step infusion because I was unable to split it up in BeerSmith. If you prefer not to do an adjunct mash, you can simply use this mash schedule instead.

Hoptomolgy’s Belgian Witbier

Witbier

Type: All Grain Brewer: Hoptomology
Equipment: 7.5 Gallon Stainless Steel Pot + 5 Gallon Coleman Cooler Mash Tun
Est Original Gravity: 1.050 SG Measured Original Gravity:
Est Final Gravity: 1.013 SG Measured Final Gravity:
Estimated Alcohol by Vol: 4.8 % Actual Alcohol by Vol:
Bitterness: 14.5 IBUs Bitterness Ratio: 0.292
Est Color: 3.9 SRM Calories: 0.0 kcal/12oz

Ingredients

Ingredients

Amt Name Type # %/IBU
14.0 oz Rice Hulls (0.0 SRM) Adjunct 1 9.0 %
2 lbs 11.0 oz Pilsner (2 Row) Ger (2.0 SRM) Grain 2 27.4 %
2 lbs 11.0 oz Wheat, Flaked (1.6 SRM) Grain 3 27.4 %
1 lbs 12.4 oz Pale Malt (6 Row) US (2.0 SRM) Grain 4 18.1 %
14.2 oz Oats, Flaked (1.0 SRM) Grain 5 9.1 %
10.0 oz Munich Malt – 10L (10.0 SRM) Grain 6 6.4 %
4.1 oz Acid Malt (3.0 SRM) Grain 7 2.6 %
1.000 oz Tettnang [3.10 %] – Boil 60.0 min Hop 8 14.5 IBUs
0.09 oz Chamomile (Boil 5.0 mins) Herb 9
1.36 oz Orange Peel, Sweet (Boil 5.0 mins) Spice 10
0.50 oz Coriander Seed (Boil 5.0 mins) Spice 11
1.0 pkg Belgian Wit Ale (White Labs #WLP400) [1.20 oz] Yeast 12
Total Grains Used: 9 lbs 12.7 oz Total Hops Used: 1.000 oz

Mash Profile

Mash Style: Double Infusion, Full Body
Brewhouse Efficiency: 78.00 %
Mash Steps

Name Description Step Temperature Step Time
Protein Rest Add 2.25 gal of water at 137.9 F 122.0 F 15 min
Saccharification Add 2.00 gal of water at 207.9 F 156.0 F 45 min
Mash Out Add 2.00 gal of water at 198.3 F 168.0 F 10 min
Sparging: Fly sparge with 1.68 gal water at 168.0 F to achieve 6.51 gal

Boil Profile

Boil Size: 6.51 gal Boil Time: 90 min
End of Boil Volume: 5.46 gal Estimated pre-boil gravity: 1.040 SG
Batch Size (into fermenter): 5.00 gal Measured pre-boil Gravity:
Final Bottling Volume: 4.80 gal

Fermentation Profile

Fermentation: Ale, Single Stage
Primary Fermentation: 10.00 days at 73.0 F
Secondary Fermentation: 0.00 days at 0.0 F

Carbonation and Storage

Carbonation Type: Keg Volumes of CO2: 2.5
Pressure/Weight: 10.23 PSI Age Beer for: 3.00 days
Keg/Bottling Temperature: 36.0 F Storage Temperature: 40.0 F

Notes

Taste Rating: 0.0 / 50
Taste Notes:
Other:  ** mill flaked wheat & oats in a Quisinart to a fine consistencyAdjunct mash schedule:
122F – 15 mins
150F – 15-30 mins (check for conversion)
boil – 15 minsDownload the recipe: Hoptomolgy’s Belgian Witbier
www.hoptomology.com – A little about life, a lot about beer.

Cheers!

2 Responses to Brewing a Belgian Style Witbier using an adjunct mash…

  1. When you say these rests at temps (eg. 155*F), is that initial temp then free fall after that? It looks like you’re mashing in a pot which would lose temp pretty quickly without a flame beneath it.

    • Hey Eric,
      I do have the pot on a burner, so if it were to drop significantly I could gently apply heat to keep it in the temperature range I’m shooting for.
      The rests are only for 15mins, so the drop shouldn’t be much, unless you’re outside on a particularly cold day.
      Cheers!

Leave a Reply to hoptomology Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

* Copy This Password *

* Type Or Paste Password Here *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>