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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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