Monday 17 June 2013

Brewing a Witbier, with Belma hops

Last July I brewed one of my favorite summer beer styles, a Belgian Witbier (recipe here). It was my second attempt at this style, and it turned out a lot better than my first try, which was, unfortunately, overly phenolic. I was happy with the recipe, which was taken (and altered slightly) from Jamil's Brewing Classic Styles. The beer was refreshing, creamy, and had a good amount of coriander presence without being TOO spicy, which is my main complaint about a lot of Witbiers available commercially.

So, with summer fast-approaching, I wanted to do a re-brew of this recipe to have in time for the warmer weather. From my tasting notes from last summer, the main issue I wanted to fix with this beer was to boost the amount of citrus (namely, orange) character. After a bit of research and thinking, I decided to make the following changes as well:
  • Use real, grated orange peel - I had used dried sweet orange peel for the last batch; this source is easier, in that you just have to weigh it out, as opposed to grating several oranges. However, I felt using the real thing would give a better-quality orange character, so I grated about 1 oz of navel orange zest, twice the amount of orange peel from the previous recipe.
  • Skip the protein rest - While some sources recommend a protein rest (at about 122 F) when using high amounts of unmalted grain, a lot of other brewers say that a single saccharification rest is sufficient. Since time was an issue, I decided to go with a single rest at 154 F and see how it worked out for me.
  • Increase the amount of acid malt - Just a slight bump to bring the mash pH down a bit more.
  • Change the water chemistry - Only slightly... 2 grams each of calcium chloride and Gypsum to the mash, mainly to bring the calcium into a better range for yeast health.
  • Add the orange zest and coriander later - You don't want to boil either for very long, as you don't want the aromatics boiled off. I added them with 5 minutes remaining in the boil for the last recipe; this time, I went even later, at 2 minutes.
  • Change the hop variety and schedule - Probably the biggest variation from the previous recipe. Bitterness and hop flavor/aroma are a very minor part of your classic Witbier, but I wanted to try a hop that I've never used before - Belma. I made three small additions, one at 60 minutes, and then again at 10 minutes and flameout.
Belma is a hop grown and offered exclusively by Hops Direct last fall. They describe it as being very clean, and having a "very orange, slight grapefruit, tropical pineapple, strawberry, and melon aroma". It was sold for a pretty cheap price, and those lucky enough to have snagged some are encouraged to send feedback. I've read reviews, blog posts, etc. since it has become available, and even got to try an American IPA single-hopped with it by a friend of mine, and it's definitely the strawberry that seems to stick out the most. I got to thinking that maybe this type of hop would work in a Witbier... maybe the strawberry will go nicely with the orange and coriander? Maybe not; maybe it'll ruin the beer. Well, only one way to find out! The additions I made were nothing large... just a small bittering addition, and then 1/2 ounce each for the other two.

On a side note, it's nice mixing up brew days between clones (which I seem to be brewing a lot lately), and beers whose recipes you've formulated/tweaked yourself. After this crowd-friendly Witbier, however, it's time to move back to something hoppy!

Note: While I've been getting slacker about taking pictures of my brew day, please excuse the more severe lack this time... my camera messed up early, so I only got in one!

Recipe targets: (5.5 gallons, 70% efficiency) OG 1.048, FG ~1.012, IBU 15, SRM 3.5, ABV ~4.7%

2.18 kg (46.2%) Pilsner malt
2 kg (42.3%) Flaked wheat
341 g (7.2%) Flaked oats
204 g (4.3%) Acid malt
227 g Rice hulls to help prevent a stuck sparge

Belma- 7 g (9.8% AA) @ 60 min
Belma - 14 g @ 10 min
Belma - 14 g @ flameout

Sweet Orange Peel - 30 g @ 2 min
Coriander seed, ground - 14 g @ 2 min

Yeast: Wyeast 3463 Forbidden Fruit (PD Apr 20/13, with a 1.7 L starter)

Water: Fredericton city water, carbon-filtered; 2 g Gypsum and 2 g calcium chloride, in the mash

- Brewed on June 2nd, 2013, by myself. 50-minute mash with 16.35 L of strike water, mashed in at target temp of 154 F. Mashed-out for 10 minutes with 6.5 L of boiling water, resulting temp 168 F. Sparged with ~4 gallons of 168 F water for final volume of ~7.4 gallons in the kettle.

- SG at target of 1.035. 90-minute boil. Chilled to 65 F in about 30 minutes with immersion chiller. Poured ~5 gallons into Better Bottle. OG low at 1.045, for some reason. Aerated wort with 60 seconds of pure O2. Pitched yeast and set BB in laundry room sink with cold water and a bit of ice.

2/6/13 - Already some activity in the airlock by the evening, temp at 66 F.

3/6/13 - Vigorous airlock activity in the morning, bubbling about twice per second, temp holding at 66 F. By evening, temp had risen slightly to 68 F, but activity already slowing to every 2 seconds or so.

4/6/13 - Airlock activity seems to be about complete already. Temp 68 F. Moved out of laundry sink.

23/6/13 - Just took a gravity reading... this bastard is stuck at 1.019! Let this be a lesson never to wait too long to check on your beer's progress. I roused the yeast a bit, but I think I'm way too late to save this one.

3/7/13 - FG 1.019, couldn't get it to drop. Temp 70 F. Bottled with 120 g of table sugar, aiming for 2.5 vol CO2 (would normally go to at least 3 vol, but want to minimize bottle bomb risk) with max temp of 70 F reached.

25/9/13 - Finally posted the tasting notes from July. A tasty, refreshing beer, but the Belma hops didn't add as much character as I'd like, and the beer is definitely overcarbed from the high FG.

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