When we wrote about our blackberry beer a week or so back, we mentioned that we made it using a witbier base. We thought we’d also share how we made the witbier.
We owe most of the recipe to Randy Mosher’s Radical Brewing — a truly inspirational homebrewing book, although not really one for beginners as it is rather erratically laid out at times. But we’re constantly using it for new ideas and it has been worth every penny.
We’ve had a couple of goes at this, refining the second recipe to make a beer that’s a little tarter and more to our tastes. We’re extremely pleased with the final result, which as you can see from the picture looks reasonably authentic. It’s very refreshing and drinkable, and wonderfully weak too — our second version was a mere 3.5% (more by accident than design).
You will need:
- 6lb of pilsner malt (you can use pale ale, but it will come out golden rather than yellow-white)
- 3lb unmalted wheat (we used reddish-brown wheat flakes from a hippy shop, ground into smaller lumps)
- 1 lb oats
- Wyeast 3944 (Belgian Wit) — you’ll need to start this a couple of days before. We do think it’s worth using this, as it’s a key contributor to that wit flavour. We’ve used it in other, totally different beers, and the underlying yeast flavour still comes through.
Hops & spices schedule
- 60 minutes: Saaz (2.7% AAU), 1.6oz
- 20 minutes: Saaz 1oz
- 5 minutes: Saaz 1oz, plus 25g orange peel, 10g lemon peel (both from unwaxed fruit), 0.5oz crushed coriander seeds and 7g chamomile flowers (from hippy shop).
(Basically, use a whole 100g foil pack of weak but noble hops. I’ve written before about my constant mixing of metric and imperial measures.)
Water and other equipment for the adjunct mash:
This procedure calls for an adjunct mash, which is not too much hassle providing you have a huge saucepan and the means to heat it at the same time as keeping a normal mash going. Your saucepan (or alternative vessel) needs to be big enough to cope with 3lb of wheat malt, 2lb of pilsner malt, 1lb of oats and 8.5 litres of water — probably about 15 litres capacity in total to avoid spillages — and you need to be able to heat it in stages.
You also need 3.5litres of water for the rest of the mash, and a further 20 litres for sparging. We filtered the water but didn’t treat it in any other way.
Target volume and gravity:
This should make 19-20 litres. Our original gravity the first time we made this was 1046, whereas we only got 1041 the second time. Final gravity in both cases was 1015. Please bear in mind that we are generally pretty inefficient, and only hit around 70% on normal brews, so you’re likely to end up with something stronger.
- Heat up the mash water (3.5l + 8.5l = 12l) to 60 deg C, then split as follows:
- for the “main mash” combine 4lb of pilsener malt and 3.5litres of water. Your mash temperature target is 50 deg C — get it there and leave it
- Put the remaining water with the remaining grain into your adjunct mash vessel. Target here is also 50 degrees. Keep it there for 15 minutes.
- Raise the adjunct mash to 65 degrees, and hold it for 15 minutes.
- Then boil it for 15 minutes.
- You then bring both parts of the mash together. Your target temperature is about 68 degrees (i.e. a hot mash). NB, you will not need to add all of the boiled mash, as this will make the mash temperature way too high.
- Mash for 45 minutes, then add the rest of your boiled mash and “mash out” at 75 degrees for about 15-20 minutes.
- The amount of sparge water specified should give you a pre-boil volume of around 23 litres.
- 1 hour boil, with hop / spice additions as specified above. Don’t add any Irish moss or other finings, as you want the final product to be a bit hazy.
- Primary fermentation will take about 2-3 weeks. We didn’t bother with a secondary, on the grounds that the yeast flavour is a vitally important part of this beer.
- For bottling, you want medium carbonation, a little more than an ale but not as much as a lager. We added around 90g sugar to the 15 litres we had left (once we’d taken off 5 litres to make the blackberry version) — this worked well.