Let’s Brew: All Grain Wit Beer!

Smooth, subtle, white and hazy. Something to be drunk by the pint or liter. A nice counterpoint to the winter’s lineup of stout and porter. That pretty much sums up my feelings about wits. I have enjoyed many, but brewed none. It’s about time.

welcome to the Hoegardd region

Overview

Tons of protein from unmalted wheat give this beer its signature haziness. Pale wheat, flaked oats, and some light pale ale malt keep this beer nice a light color. Wit implies a white brew, but it’s more like a hazy straw color.

We want just enough bitterness to balance the sweetness here; we shouldn’t notice any hopiness when drinking. We’ll go for some Northern Brewer at the beginning of the boil, and finish up with Tettenang for a touch of floral spiciness. Again, hops are not the focus, but we’ll want to match the orange peel, coriander and chamomile.

Recipe

For the grain bill, a modest 10lbs will do. You might have noticed we have 40% unlmalted cereal grain (the Flaked Oats and Flaked Wheat). This will require a separate mash for these grains, because they need a little help to achieve a decent extraction.

The hops are subtle, and of course there are some stylized goodies to add along with the last hop addition.

Grist

TypeAmountPercent
Flaked Red Wheat3lbs30%
Flaked Oats1lbs10%
6-Row Malt2lbs20%
2-Row Malt3lbs30%
Munich Malt1lbs10%

Hops/Spices

ItemAmountWhen to add
Northern Brewer (12.3%).35oz90min
Tettnang (4.5%).5oz30min
Tettnang (4.5%).75oz5min
Orange Peel, fresh2oz5min
Indian Coriander.5oz5min
Chamomile.25oz5min

Yeast: White Labs WLP400 (Belgian Wit Ale)

some flaked wheat Some flaked (unmalted) wheat and oats

some 2row and munich Some of our 2-row and Munich malt

Mashing

This post mostly covers the mashing process, because it’s the bulk of the work. Once the wort is procured, it’ll be just like any other batch of brew.

The malted mash

We’ll start off the process by bringing our 2-row and Munich malts to protein rest temperatures. Typically a protein rest is not needed for these types of malts, but we are going to rest at this temperature so we can add in the boiling cereal mash later to bring the entire mash up to our saccharification temperature of 155F.

Let’s get to work: Combine 1 gallon of water at 183F to the 2-row and Munich malt. This should level out at about 133F. During the hour the cereal mash is taking place, it should drop down to about 122F (at least in my tun).

The cereal mash

Grab your kettle and heat up 1.5 gallons to about 140F. Mix in the unmalted grains and the 6-row malt and the temp should level off at the protein rest temperature of around 122F. Hold here for 15 minutes. By the way, we add some 6-row malted barley to this mash because the unlmalted wheat and oats do not contain enough enzymes to fully convert their complex sugars into the small fermentable sugar molecules that yeast can consume. However, 6-row barley has more than enough of these enzymes to convert itself, and will effectively donate it’s surplus to cause of the unmalted stuff.

doughing in the cereal grains

After the protein rest, heat the mixture up to 150F for saccharification and hold for another 15 mins. You might start to notice the grains getting a little darker.

ceral mash @ 150F

Finally, let’s bring this stuff up to boil. The boiling will allow us to get the most fermentable sugar our of the unlmalted grains. Keep boiling for another 15 minutes.

whew, it's getting hot in here

it's darkened up quite a bit

Combining the mashes

After the boiling is complete, add the hot cereal mash back into the malted mash to bring the whole mixture up to our target temperature of 155F. I recommend scooping the hot stuff into the warm and stirring the combination well after each scoop. This will avoid shocking the malted mash by just dumping in a large amount of boiling hot grains.

add it back slowly and evenly

Let the unified mash rest for about 45 minutes. Feel free to do an iodine test to ensure full sacrification when you are ready to mash out.

The mash out and sparge

Welcome to crux. If all goes well, this will take you about 45 mins or so. If things go poorly, you will be weeping and gnashing your teeth for a longn time as you try to unstick this protein soaked goo.

Since I like to err on the side of safety (and brevity), I decided to dump the entire mash back into my kettle and heat it up to about 180F – the hotter the mash, the thinner the wort and the smoother the sparging shall go.

the whole mash - up to 180F

After getting the mash nice and hot, I dumped it back into the mash tun, and added a liberal dose of rice hulls. Rice hulls are flavorless and odorless husks that act as micro-spacers in your mash. They can keep the grain bed from collapsing upon itself halting the sparge.

If you have rice hulls (you should for this beer) add them into the mash and stir them up proper before starting the vorlof (read: wort recycling) process.

rice hulls are your friends

For me, vorlofing is more a force of habit then a necessity for this brew, because we want a nice haze in our beer. However, this mash has sooo much protein, that we can spare the really thick stuff. Also, we don’t want any grain husks getting into our boil.

So sparge into a bowl or small vessel, and as it gets close to being full, dump it back onto the top of the mash. Repeat until the sparge starts running husk free. Once you are satisfied with the quality of the sparged wort stop recycling and pray the sparge continues to flow!

We want to get as much wort as possible here because the boiling schedule is 90 mins. Since its cold and wintery out here in Boston, the 90min boil outside is really going to result is some volume loss. That’s ok, we can always add back in water after the boil. I still want to start with a nice buffer in the kettle though.

I managed 7 gallons of wort, which took about an hour. At the end, I have never seen so much protein left in the mash tun, and there is a nasty film of sticky protein on top of the wort!

the bed of protein

The protein layer on top of spent grains, post sparge.

yummm!

A sticky protein film on the drawn off wort! I hope that is normal!

That’s it for the mash… now just get to boiling and add in the hops and spices as appropriate.

Boiling

The boiling is pretty standard procedure. I have some photos of the spices though, so I though I’d share:

coriander, pre rolling pin

The coriander…

coriander, post rolling pin

… crushed

The final addition to the boil, with a cheesy glow-y looking orange peel. No photoshop, I swear. I wouldn’t add that in by choice :)

the final addition

The final Tettnag addition, orange peel, coriander and camomile ready to boil.

This was a fun beer to make. Given the effort involved, it will be hard to see this one go, but I eagerly await it’s completion. Cheers!

2 Responses to 'Let’s Brew: All Grain Wit Beer!'

  1. LD says:

    Your thoughtfully written and nicely photographed beer posts are really great for those of us new to homebrewing. I really enjoyed the series you did a couple years back, and am glad to see a new post on the subject!

    Thanks

  2. HB says:

    I know this was a while ago, but it would be nice to amend with a picture of the finished product. Maybe if you make it again you can add a picture so we can see how it turned out?

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