Enjoying a Belgian style Witbier in the heat of summer…

It’s been scorching here in Toronto this summer, with temperatures reaching as high as 42°C/108°F in the shade one day! As a result, the Belgian Style Witbier I brewed a few weeks back is finding a very happy home in my pint glass. Don’t get me wrong, the heat is great, my garden is loving it and growing like crazy. Downside is, our central air conditioner is broken, and hot, uncomfortable nights don’t always make for restful sleeping. No A/C also means my Belgian Witbier was fermenting in the 73-75°F range, with it hitting 77°F one day!

The Yeast

Belgian yeast strains can usually handle, if not enjoy, higher fermentation temperatures. Stan Hieronymus describes many fermentation schedules for wheat beers in his book, “Brewing with Wheat” being in the 73°F range, so I was hopeful that things would still work out.

Man, did they really work out.

The White Labs – Belgian Wit (#WLP-400) yeast I used in this beer is rocking the classic fragrance that is such a signature in Belgian witbiers. Unlike some German wheat beers that can be heavy on the banana or clove, it’s very balanced. Primary fermentation was quite slow, taking a full 2 weeks for the krausen to finally drop. I did some research on White Labs’ site after noticing that it was taking its time, and many others noted the same thing. The consensus was to just sit tight and be patient, as it would be worth the wait. Worth the wait it was.

The Spices

The tricky part in these beers is getting the right mix of orange zest, coriander & chamomile (or whichever spices you chose to use). Although this one is not out of ‘balance’ per se, I am craving more of a citrus flavour. An added slice of fresh orange seems to hit the spot. I’d also like some more sourness to it, so a bit more acid malt should do the trick. Just for fun, I may also try dropping the chamomile altogether and lowering the coriander a touch. Overall though, it’s delicious!

The Adjunct Mash

The big factor that I was really curious to investigate, was what, if any, effect the adjunct mash had on the resulting beer. Some home brewers will say to you that decoctions and/or cereal mashes just aren’t worth the trouble. I completely disagree. There is a definite difference to this beer as compared to the single infusion I brewed last year. It has a very full, complex body to it, without being thick or heavy. It simply hits all the right notes. This is definitely something I will be incorporating as part of any Witbier that I brew in the future.

Looking to up your brew game?

If you’ve been toying with the idea of trying your hand at some of the more complex mash schedules, this one would be a great bridge into them. It’s very easy to do. Trust me, it looks way more daunting on paper than it actually is. The only thing to keep in mind for this schedule is the timing of your water addition to the main mash, which brings it to the initial protein rest. You don’t want it sitting there for more than say 30 mins. (Having said that, if any protein degradation did happen in the main mash as a result of resting too long, then it wasn’t noticeable, because the majority of protein would have been in the adjunct mash anyways.) Since I only have 1 burner, I had to heat the infusion water while I was resting the adjunct mash at the saccrification rest and it worked out fine.  If you have a second burner, then this wouldn’t be an issue as you could simply heat the infusion water without having to time it with your adjunct mash schedule.

Don’t be afraid, take the leap. If you enjoy Belgian Wit Beers, this is definitely the way to do it!


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