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Old 01-17-2009, 01:41 PM   #1
tagz
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Default Refining the Belgian Wit

For me the distance between a Blue Moon and a Blanche de Chambly is huge. Blue Moon tastes harsh and has flavors I associate with exhaust. Chambly on the other hand is smooth, slightly tart and clean tasting. What could be the difference in terms of ingredients or techniques?

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Old 01-17-2009, 02:30 PM   #2
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For me the distance between a Blue Moon and a Blanche de Chambly is huge. Blue Moon tastes harsh and has flavors I associate with exhaust. Chambly on the other hand is smooth, slightly tart and clean tasting. What could be the difference in terms of ingredients or techniques?
I only brewed one witbeir and it turned out too harsh as I was aiming for a hoeggarden or blanche de Chambly.

I don't have much experience brewing, however I found the Brewing Network's Jamil Show on the Witbeir style to be very informative.

The show pointed out a lot of thing that I could have done better.

If I recall correctly, the guy hosting the show in Jamil's place that precise week (who won awards for his witbeir) warns about using Bitter Orange Peel.

Instead he says to use as much fresh orange zest as possible and to drop them at flame-out. In fact he says to drop all the spices and zest at flame-out or else the flavor will pretty much be lost.

I think he also uses some wheat flour and talks about using both flaked wheat and oats along with Pilsner 2-Row.


Anyway, just downland and listen to the show... very informative.
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Old 01-18-2009, 11:31 AM   #3
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That next-to-last sentence is crucial to the whole affair:

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I think he also uses some wheat flour and talks about using both flaked wheat and oats along with Pilsner 2-Row.
Witbier grists are more complicated than many homebrewers suspect - it ain't just a Hefeweizen grist with different yeast and orange peel. The award-winning Witbier I used to brew professionally used Pils malt, raw wheat, wheat malt, torrefied wheat, and flaked oats. Oh, and lots of rice hulls.

That's what homebrewers should look at, not spices.

Spices don't have anything to do with the flavors you find objectionable. I defy you to find any packaging brewery which has the time or manpower to zest the hundreds of pounds of oranges needed to equal the weight of dried peel. I brewed professional Wit with dried peel, I recommend dried peel to professionals in my consultancy, and also recommend them to homebrewers because it's what the benchmark examples of the style use. If you're aiming for Hoegaarden or Blanche de Chambly, dig out the bitter Curacao peel, guys, 'cos that's what they use.

There are other things in play here, too, like technique and other odd ingredients. For example, a touch of lactic acid in the mash goes a long way. So does a bit of star anise in the spice mix, or using both sweet and bitter dried Curacao peel.

Homebrewers as a rule tend to use too much hops in Wit. When I brewed mine by the 5 or 10bbl batch, it never got much above an hour-long simmer, and I only simmered a touch of noble hops for 30 minutes. We're talking 6-7IBU here. Most of the balancing bitterness and all of the spicy flavor came from where it should come from - the spices. Hops do not mix well with that spice profile, and will impart an objectionable flavor, guaranteed.

I am a bit passionate about traditional Witbier; can you tell?

Cheers!

Bob
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Old 01-18-2009, 12:06 PM   #4
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I did an AHS Blanche de Chambly, I think it came out pretty close. I'll have to dig up the recipe.

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Old 01-18-2009, 02:08 PM   #5
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I agree that most homebrewed attempts are too hoppy. I would say that more of the perceived bitterness should come from the orange and lactic. I plan on souring a a 1/2lb mash of pils the night before brew day on my next try. I've also used bitter peel and don't find it to be a problem. The problem I've found is that BJCP judges tend to get the judging wrong on wits because they've adjusted to the constant overhop they've been tasting.

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Old 01-18-2009, 02:15 PM   #6
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The recipe in my dropdown turned out great.

Some variations I plan to try on it:
- sub wheat malt for half of the raw wheat
- red (winter) vs white wheat
- Wyeast Forbidden Fruit yeast strain in place of the standard Hoegaarden Wit strain

As Bob says watch your IBUs. I think my last one was around 13-17 IBUs. It could be dropped down even more depending on your preference, less is definitely more.

Re: the orange peel, if you use the dried peel the key seems to be to steep for 5 minutes rather than boil it. You don't want more than a simmer with the orange peel or you can get off flavors from the pith. Rather than peel, I use the Seville orange marmalade as suggested by Randy Mosher in Radial Brewing with great results. A jar is like $3 at the megamart and I just toss the whole thing in.

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Old 01-18-2009, 04:38 PM   #7
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My last wit came out too orangy.

I blended it with a batch of Hefe Weizen and now have 10 gals of a great tasting wit!

Sampling some as I type too...yeah, I know it's still morning...so what???

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Old 01-19-2009, 03:14 PM   #8
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The recipe in my dropdown turned out great.

Some variations I plan to try on it:
- sub wheat malt for half of the raw wheat
- red (winter) vs white wheat
- Wyeast Forbidden Fruit yeast strain in place of the standard Hoegaarden Wit strain

As Bob says watch your IBUs. I think my last one was around 13-17 IBUs. It could be dropped down even more depending on your preference, less is definitely more.

Re: the orange peel, if you use the dried peel the key seems to be to steep for 5 minutes rather than boil it. You don't want more than a simmer with the orange peel or you can get off flavors from the pith. Rather than peel, I use the Seville orange marmalade as suggested by Randy Mosher in Radial Brewing with great results. A jar is like $3 at the megamart and I just toss the whole thing in.
When do you add the marmalade to it? And does is have to be organic? Also, how much coriander seed do you guys recommend?

Ben
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Old 01-19-2009, 03:22 PM   #9
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Sampling some as I type too...yeah, I know it's still morning...so what???
Thank you MLK
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Old 01-19-2009, 05:24 PM   #10
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Also, how much coriander seed do you guys recommend?
I use 0.75 oz, cracked in a mortar but not ground.

The strength of flavor largely comes down to how finely you grind it. Anything finer than very lightly cracked seeds, and you would want a much smaller quantity.
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