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MT Witbier Version 2 : Batch 29 : All-Grain

As I’d mentioned a while back when brewing my MT Wit #1, I was fortunate to receive a big bucket of unmalted wheat from a friend whose family owns a farm here in MT.  The first round was riddled with mistakes, but ultimately turned out a decently quaffable product.  For round 2, I had a few changes I wanted to make that I felt would improve upon the original.  First off, I wanted to up the amount of wheat.  I felt that the wheat was a little lost in the first batch, and I wanted to raise the OG a bit.  Second, I had missed the orange flavor altogether in my first batch, which I would blame on using regular navel oranges and not a ‘bitter’ orange.  I’d also ended up with WAY too much chamomile flavor in the first batch, which needed to be addressed.

Ingredients:  MT Witbier Version 2

All-Grain Recipe

  • 5 lb Raw Wheat
  • 3 lb American 6-row
  • 10 oz Oatmeal
  • 3 lb American 2-row
  • 1 lb Munich malt
  • 1 oz Bitter Orange Peel (dried)
  • 1 oz Sweet Orange Peel (dried)
  • .3 oz Crushed Coriander
  • .3 oz Chamomile

Hop Additions

  • .5 Northern Brewer (7.5%) – added during boil, boiled 60 min
  • 1 oz Tettanger (5.1%) – added during boil, boiled 30 min
  • 1 oz Tettanger (5.1%) – added during boil, boiled 5 min

Yeast

  • Safbrew T-58 – A specialty yeast selected for its estery somewhat peppery and spicy flavor development

Additional Details / Notes

  • SG 1.062 / FG 1.014
  • 6.24% ABV
  • Brewed 06/18/11, Secondary 07/07/2011, Kegged 07/13/2011
  • Fermentation temps:  ~60° in Primary, ~75° Secondary

Brewing the MT Wit/Wheat

As with the original MT Wit, I did a cereal mash.  As I upped the wheat and 6-row, this was a much different undertaking than the first time.  5 lbs of wheat is a bit to run through a corona mill, and took some time.  Then my cereal mash was obviously a lot bigger with the extra 3 lbs of grain.  I’d neglected to purchase Oats for this batch, so I opted for Quaker Oatmeal out of my cupboard.  Maybe not perfect, but it worked on the fly.

I did the cereal mash with about 2.5 gallons of water (1 jug / 1.5 tap).  I held the temp at 122° for 15 min, then 150° for 15 min, then raised to +185° to biol and kept that going for 15min.  As the pot was boiling, I got the remaining grains to 122° in the mash tun and held that for 15 min, then added the contents of the boil pot together with them.  The first time around I had 3 lbs less, so I didn’t think about how much hotter this was going to make things… it took a bit of ice to get the temps down to 156°

The recipe I used has a 90 minute hop addition, so I added the hops pretty shortly after the boil got to rolling.  I added the wort chiller and Whirfloc at 10min, and the orange, coriander, and chamomile at 5min.

Cooling was interesting… I had the pot on the edge of my patio so the WC water would flow in to the lawn.  Timing is everything, and my sprinklers came on.  Probably added a bit of sprinkler water to the pot, but not a ton.  Eventually cooled, I filtered in to my fermentation bucket and ran the oxygen for about 40 seconds.  Sprinkled the yeast on top and let it soak in for a few minutes before stirring, capping, and placing in my 60° beer fridge.

Drinking the MT Wit 2

This one turned out interesting…  First off, the yeast has full control of this beer.  The character of this beer is highly defined by the yeast, which has a lot more of a German Wheat character than an American Wheat, which I think would generally have much less yeast character, and rely more on the ingredients used.  It’s not ‘bad’, it’s just something it helps to prepare people for.  My drinkers tend to be more aware of American Wheat beers than German ones.

The orange does contribute to the character of this beer, which was certainly my intention when added 2 oz of dried orange peels.  Is it what I wanted?  No.  I really wanted a bright orange flavor, like you’d find in a shock top.  I got some orange character, but it’s more of a sour, bitter orange, than sugary sweet.  I have yet to determine how to create those flavors.

Grains, after sparge.

This beer aged poorly.  A week after bottling, this beer was pretty great.  As it aged, the yeast mellowed a little bit, and gave way AGAIN to the chamomile.  As with my first batch, the wheat didn’t end up cloudy, but crystal clear.  That’s fine, but I would have liked better cloudiness and body on this beer.

This beer was okay, but had an awkward balance of flavors.  I think I’ll push the oats next time around, use an clean yeast (Wyeast 1056), and find better orange balance.  Or… I may try a Dunkelweizen next.  We’ll see!

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Brewing the MT Witbier V.1

A friend of mine recently gave me a giant bucket of wheat that had been grown on his farm. He’d asked if I could find a way to make beer out of it. Seemed like a worthy challenge, right?  How hard could it be?  Turns out, it was a lot more complicated that I had ignorantly assumed.

We often take for granted that the grains at our local brew shop are malted.  Grains in a bucket from a friends far are NOT malted.  There are ways to malt your own grains, but it sounded like a heck of a lot of work.  Then I came across a Wit recipe in a book (Radical Brewing).  This Wit recipe uses a cereal mash to convert unmalted wheat — PERFECT!

Ingredients:  Wit Guy White Ale

All-Grain Recipe

  • 3 lb Raw Wheat
  • 2 lb American 6-row
  • 1 lb Flaked Oats
  • 3 lb American 2-row
  • 1 lb Munich malt
  • 4 oranges – Orange Zest
  • .5 oz Crushed Coriander
  • .3 oz Chamomile

Hop Additions

  • .5 Northern Brewer (7.5%) – added during boil, boiled 60 min
  • 1 oz Tettanger (5.1%) – added during boil, boiled 30 min
  • 1 oz Tettanger (5.1%) – added during boil, boiled 5 min

Yeast

Additional Details / Notes

  • SG ~1.051 / FG 1.013 — SG was not measured, just approximated with Beer Tools
  • 5.05% ABV
  • Brewed 04/02/11, Secondary 04/02/2011, Kegged 04/16/2011, Bottled 05/07/11
  • Fermentation temps:  ~60° in Primary, ~64° Secondary

 Brewing the MT Wit

I’d purchased a Corona Mill when I started All-Grain brewing.  Finally, all these months later, I found a use for it!  I purchased most of my grains at the brew store, and had them crushed there, as usual – keeping the 6-row separate.  On the morning of my brew day, I crushed 3 pounds of my raw wheat using the corona mill.  This went decently well, and it was time for the Cereal Mash.

The idea behind a Cereal Mash is that some brewing adjuncts don’t have the proper enzymes to convert starches to sugars.  These items need some help.  A cereal mash will help convert the starches to fermentable sugars in a way that the regular mash doesn’t succeed.  6-row malt is used because it has more enzymes than regular 2-row malt.  Using 2 gallons of water, I brought the 5lbs of grain to 122°, held it for 15 min, then raised the temp to 180° for 15min, finally the mixture was brought to a full boil for 15 minutes – stirring constantly through the entire process.

Once the cereal mash is complete, it’s time to add those grains to the dry grains in the mash tun.  Temperatures are tough at this point, but my book had suggested doing a rest in the mash tun at 122°, then adding the cereal mash from boiling temps would get you in the ballpark of your 150° temps.  As is always the case for me, this ended up too warm, and I cooled with 1/2 gallon of jug water.  My mash water was a ratio of 1g tap to 3g jug, and I also added 1/2 tsp. of 5.2 pH Stabilizer & 1/2 lb of rice hulls.

I mashed for an hour at about 155°.  After an hour I recirculated about a gallon of the first runnings, then sparged at 170°

While I was sparging, I started zesting my oranges.  I’d purchased dried orange peel, but the Radical Brewing author suggested using orange zest for better results.  I scraped the outsides of 3 oranges, and had a pretty good mound of wet zest ready to go.  Another ‘not fun’ part of this batch.

The actual boil was like a vacation after all the work with the cereal mash & orange zesting.  I raised to a boil and let that roll for about 30 min, then started my hop additions.  Northern Brewer at 60, then a couple of Tettnanger additions.  With 10 minutes to go I added some whirlfloc and the wort chiller.  Then at 5 minutes, I added in my orange zest, some crushed coriander, and the chamomile.  The boil kettle was crazy looking at this point, with green hops, orange zest, and dried flowers.  Smelled pretty good, though.

After the boil ended I cooled with my wort chiller.  At this same time, I racked my Amarillo Blonde to the secondary to open up a fermenting vessel, and some ready to go yeast.  I strained the Wit right in to the Blonde’s yeast cake, after wiping out the krausen with a sanitized rag.  I added about 45 seconds of oxygen, gave it all a good stir, and capped it up.  My fermentation was about 64° in a 60° fridge, and I raised the temp slightly at the end to about 68°.  Secondary temp was about 70°

Drinking the Wit Guy White Ale

Remember when I mentioned zesting the oranges?  Well the beer didn’t.  I’ve taken to calling this my Chamomile Wheat, as that’s by far the dominant flavor here.  The orange zest didn’t do ANYTHING to flavor the beer, and the chamomile completely took over.  Not to say it’s bad, but it’s really weird.  I found this beer to be best served with a shot of orange juice to balance things out.  Truth be told, with a little OJ, this was really dang tasty.

Aside from the chamomile flaw, the body of the beer was decent.  Hops didn’t come through, as hoped, and the base was quite neutral.  Oddly enough, the beer is crystal clear, and doesn’t have much of a wheat look – which would make sense using an Ale yeast and performing the cereal mash.  The body leaves a little to be desired, as it comes across a little thin.

I didn’t get a starting gravity on this batch, as I was late to be someplace and my hydrometer sample ended up fermenting on the counter while I was gone… oops.  I can’t say for sure how well the cereal mash worked, or what my alcohol content is.  At the time of the writing of this blog, I’ve actually brewed a second MT Wit where I changed up the orange contribution and upped the wheat to 5lbs.  But you can read about that later!

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Mr Beer Pilsner Witbier : One Time Only

It came down to two final Mr. Beer kits left.  I’d recently brewed the IPA, and it was so awful most of that needed to go down the drain, so I wasn’t looking forward to wasting my time.  I think my processes made the IPA less than awesome, so I wanted to find a way to scale up the size of the batch so that I could use my normal brewing equipment.  Then it hit me… combine the Pilsner and the Witbier!  Sure the two styles aren’t exactly made to be combined, but they’re both light beers.  How bad could it be?  I also made the decision to do a 30 minute boil and add some hops, using some leftover Chinook hops that I had around.

Ingredients:  One Time Only Ale

Recipe Products

  • 2 Cans of Mr. Beer “Witty Monk” Witbier
  • 2 Cans of Mr. Beer “Pilothouse” Pilsner

Hop Additions

  • .3 oz Chinook (11.4%) – added during boil, boiled 30 min
  • .3 oz Chinook (11.4%) – added during boil, boiled 15 min
  • .3 oz Chinook (11.4%) – added during boil, boiled 0 min

Yeast

  • Safale S-05 – Reused from Black IPA & Blonde Ale
  • Generic Mr. Beer Yeast packet (after slow start from the 05)

Additional Details / Notes

  • SG 1.042 / FG 1.010
  • 4.22% ABV
  • Brewed 03/26/11, Kegged & Bottled 04/16/2011
  • Fermentation temps:  ~60° in Primary, ~64° Secondary

The Extended Mr. Beer Boil

This key to this batch of beer was to use Mr. Beer elements in a way contrary to their usual instructions.  Generally you boil water, then dissolve the cans of hopped extract in to the hot water.  I wanted to add my own hops, so I decided to change up the processes quite a bit.  I started by bringing the 2.5 gallons of water to a boil (2 gal filtered, .5 gal tap water).  Once the water was boiling, I added one can of the Pilsner extract, and one of the Witbier.  I then returned the wort to a boil and started my hop additions.  I added .3 ounces of Chinook hops at 30min, 15min, and 0min.  At the 0 minute mark, I added the remaining 2 cans of LME, stirring until dissolved.

With all the hops and LME added, it was time to cool the 2.5 gallons of wort.  I used a simple ice bath in the kitchen sink.  While the wort was cooling, I filled my fermenting bucket with about 3 gallons of cool water.  Once I got the wort down to a decent temp, I strained it in to the bucket of cool water.  Using cool water allows me to transfer the wort at a little warmer temperature.

For fermentation, I had saved about 2 cups of yeast slurry from my Blonde Ale.  I poured this yeast in to my fermenting bucket and gave it a good stir.  At this point I capped the bucket and placed it in my temperature controlled fridge.  After about a day, I wasn’t happy with the speed of the fermentation, so I broke down and added one of the generic yeast packets from the original Mr. Beer kit.  A day later, my fermentation was rolling perfectly!

Drinking the Mr. Beer Pilsner Witbier

I ended up calling this beer “One Time Only”, as there’s no way I’d ever be able to match it, even if I wanted to.  In all honesty, after dumping most of the Mr. Beer IPA, I didn’t expect much better results from this batch, especially after combining two very different styles.  This beer was crystal clear out of the primary, so I opted to skip the secondary and just get this in the bottle.  That meant I was drinking it a little sooner than usual, but even with that said, this beer wasn’t bad at all!

Not only did this beer turn out okay, it was actually pretty great.  When it was all said and done, the beer came out to be a slightly sweet, orange flavored, Pilsner.  Not exactly something I would try to emulate, but people really took to it.  This was introduced to my test drinkers (aka friends & family) at the same time as my recent Blonde Ale, and for the first couple of months, the OTO was the preferred beer of the two.  Go figure.

I should also mention my hop additions.  While the Chinook didn’t exactly make it’s presence known, I think it did a nice job of tying everything together, and combining the flavors of the Pilsner and Wit.

The downside of this batch was that it didn’t age well.  It was decent at first, but got a little stale with age.  In contrast, the Blonde Ale improved over time, and eventually became the better beer.

 

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Brewer’s Best Witbier Kit

I’m always a season behind, so why wouldn’t I brew a Witbier just in time for Winter?

In broad terms, a Witbier (from “White Beer”) is a Belgian Style ale that’s usually pale and cloudy in appearance due to it being unfiltered and the high level of wheat, and sometimes oats, used in the mash. Witbiers are usually spiced with coriander, orange, and bitter orange peel, sometimes with additional spices.

Extract Kit Information

Ingredients

  • 3.3 lb. – Bavarian Wheat Briess LME
  • 1 lb. – Wheat DME
  • 8 0z. – Flaked Wheat
  • 8 oz. – Flaked Oats
  • 1 lb. – Crushed 2 Row Pale Malt
  • 1oz. – Willamette Bittering Hops
  • 1 oz. – Sterling Flavoring Hops
  • 1oz. – Spice Pack  -Bitter Orange Peel & Coriander Seed
  • Safbrew WB-06 Yeast

Misc. Details

Brew date: June 27th, 2010    –   Original Gravity – 1.028 (should be 1.045)
Secondary: July 20th, 2010
Kegged: August 28th, 2010  –  Forgot to measure Final Gravity….

Steep-to-Convert & the Boil

This Brewer’s Best kit is the first I had used with what they call the “Steep-to-convert” process.  They call the process a simplified version of mashing.  You rely on the DME and LME for most of the sugars, but you steep-to-convert some malt and oats in order to give the beer the proper character, even for extract brewing.

I steeped the flaked wheat & oats and crushed 2 row pale malt in a grain bag for 45 minutes.  I didn’t watch the temperature very well and was a little cool for part of the process (140°-145°).  Better than being too hot, but I think I could have pulled more sugars if I’d been more careful.

The boil length for this Wit was a little shorter than some, clocking in at 55 minutes.  40 minute boil on the bittering hops, then the DME and Spice Pack were added.  5 minutes later, the flavoring hops were added.  These were allowed to boil 10 minutes, then the boil was complete.  The Spice Pack contained Bitter Orange Peel and Coriander Seed, 1/2 oz of each.  I’m not sure why the DME was added with the spice pack.  I’ll have to look in to that.

Yeast and Fermentation

Coriander and Bitter Oraange Peel

I pitched the yeast at 80° after cooling the wort in a sink ice bath, then combining it with cool water in the fermenting bucket.  After having bad luck about a year ago with yeast, I’ve had much better luck this year keeping it super simple.  I wait for the wort to cool, then I pour the yeast on top of the wort in the fermenting bucket.  I let the yeast sit on top for about 5 minutes, then I give it a pretty vigorous stir for a few minutes to air in some air.  Maybe not the ‘best’ way, but it’s been working well for me.

Due to a lack of time, I let this brew sit in the primary for almost a month.  Oh well… didn’t hurt anything.

Kegging the Witbier

I invested in a kegging setup!  Instead of trying to squeeze that in with this write up, I’ve decided to post it separately so I can spend more time talking about my new kegging toys.   Will link to that as soon as it’s posted!

Drinking & Evaluating the Witbier

As I’d mentioned, this was my first beer to go to the keg instead of a bottle.  There may be some flavor changes that come along with the process, but I’ll know more about that over time.

Anyways, I’m slow to writing this, and the Witbier is practically gone, but I can say it was GREAT.  I’m pretty sure I mucked up parts of the process on this one, especially the steep-to-convert, but it still made for great beer.  My Wit is crystal clear, light, and crisp.  It’s got the slightest tinge or orange and coriander to it, but it’s very slight.  I’m pretty sure this beer is supposed to be cloudy, but mine isn’t.  Still tastes great, and it’s easily one of the best beers I’ve made so far.

The Wit is a great crowd pleaser.  It’s mild, light, and crisp with that tinge of orange.  Even people who aren’t very adventurous with their beer drinking are okay with this one.

Random Info

Strained Hops and Spices from Wort

Hops

This kit called for Willamette Bittering hops and Sterling Flavoring Hops.  Here’s some info I grabbed from Wikipedia.

Willamette: Popular American development in 1976 of the English Fuggle. Named for the Willamette Valley, an important hop-growing area. It has a character similar to Fuggle, but is more fruity and has some floral notes. Used in British and American ales. Substitutes: Fuggles. 4 – 6%

Sterling: American floral hop released in 1998. A cross between Saaz and Mount Hood in character but easier to grow. 6 – 9%

Yeast

The kit came with a Safbrew WB-06 yeast.  Described as a specialty yeast for wheat beer fermentation.  Produces subtle ester (fruity) and phenol (clover) flavor notes typical of wheat beers.

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