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Style of the week: Wit Beers!

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July 11, 2014 by fhsteinbart


wit beer

This is the most usual and customary glass of Wit beer, properly presented!

The notes of honey, vanilla, light grainy spicy wheat aromas, combined with a bit of citric tartness entices you to take your first sip. This pale straw to very light gold beer tastes zesty, with orange-citrusy fruitiness. Refreshingly crisp, this beer’s flavor evolves into a dry, often tart, finish. Hop bitterness is low, like a Hefeweizen, and doesn’t interfere with the refreshing flavors of fruit and spice. With its low to medium body, the smoothness and slight creaminess from unmalted wheat and the occasional use of oats combines to make this a refreshingly delicious beer. This beer almost died out after a 400 year run, and was revived back in the 1950s by Pierre Celis at Hoegaarden and has grown steadily in popularity over time. Usually and customarily 50% unmalted wheat and 50% Pils malt constitute the grist. In some beers of this style, up to 5~10% raw oats are often used. Spices like ground coriander and bitter or even sweet orange peel compliment the aroma and are usually found in most Wits these days. Other spices such as chamomile, cumin, cinnamon, ginger, and grains of paradise may be used for complexity but are used far less. An ale yeast that provides the production of mild, spicy flavors is very typical of this intriguing style. In some cases a limited lactic acid rest or fermentation, or sometimes the actual addition of lactic acid, is done to improve the thirst quenching capability that’s found in most examples. Below is a recipe of mine that follows the classic style of most Wit beers.

All Grain Ingredients:

  • 5 lbs. Pilsner malt

  • 1 lb. Munich malt

  • 5 lbs. Wheat flakes or White Wheat malt (use rice hulls if you have lautering problems)

  • 1 lb. Flaked Oats

  • 1 oz. Hallertau hops (Bittering, 60 minute boil)

  • ¼ oz. Calcium Chloride in the mash, ¼ oz. Calcium Chloride in the boil

  • Wyeast 3944 or Whitelabs WLP400 or Danstar Belle Saison Dry Yeast

  • Mash for 60 minutes at 150°F, boil for 90 minutes to reduce DMS, then chill to 75°F and ferment for one week before packaging

Extract Ingredients:

  • 6 lbs. Wheat DME

  • 1 lb. Flaked Wheat or White Wheat malt

  • 1 lb. Pilsner malt

  • ½ lb. Munich malt

  • 1 oz. Hallertau hops (Bittering, 60 minute boil)

  • ¼ oz. Calcium Chloride in the boil

  • Wyeast 3944 or Whitelabs WLP400 or Danstar Belle Saison Dry Yeast

Instructions:

  • Heat 2-5 gallons of water to 155°F

  • Turn off heat and add specialty grains in a grain bag, steeping for 30~45 minutes

  • Remove grain bag and rinse with 1 gallon of 168° F water, then add malt extract, stirring until fully dissolved.

  • Return to heat, bring to boil for 15 min. then add 1 oz. bittering hops. (Hallertau, 60 min boil)

  • After boil has finished, turn off heat and cool wort by placing kettle in an ice bath or using a wort chiller. (0 min)

  • Add mixture to fermenter, removing hops, and bring total volume to 5 gallons using non-distilled bottled water or filtered tap water.

  • Aerate unfermented wort (shaking works well)

  • Pitch yeast and ferment at 75° F until completed (about a week).

  • Carbonate to between 3 & 4 V/V of CO2 using 1 to 1½ cups of Dextrose, or force carbonate at 30 to 40 PSIG at 40°F. Allow to come into condition and serve in a wide mouth glass and enjoy!
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