Suggestions for a Blanche De Bruxelles Clone

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Richard Roehl

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Over the past year I've gone through 7 iterations of trying to clone Blanche De Bruxelles Witte Beer. I'm not a big fan of the wit style but I've always really liked BdB and now that I've gone through this exercise, I think the reason why I like it is due to how sweet and fruity it is compared to other wits. So much so that my taste buds respond to it more like a Shandy, or even an artificially flavored grapefruit soda beverage, and I'm thus perceiving it as a refreshing sugary beverage as opposed to a beer.

With each batch made I've gone out and purchased a 4-pack of 16 ounce cans for comparison. I live near San Francisco and the 4-packs have ranged from 3 months to 11 months old (I'm assuming that the "best by" date on the bottom of the can is one year from the canning date). The freshest examples have had a very strong grapefruit aroma and flavor, to the point that I want to say there is unfermented juice in the beer and some lemon-line soda (i.e. the Shandy taste). The older cans lose their grapefruitiness and morph into a sweet, artificial pineapple aroma that can best be described as pineapple Lifesavers candy. Cans that were in the middle had a combination of fresh orange peel and artificial pineapple aromas. I'm assuming that whatever creates the initial grapefruit sensation slowly dies over time, transitioning to orange and then artificial pineapple.

Regardless of the age, BdB seems to dial back the coriander, bitternes and any spicyness and instead plays up its shandy like sweetness.

The can states 4.5% ABV and lists its ingredients as: water, barley malt, wheat, hops, natural flavors, bitter orange peel, coriander, yeast. Hydrometer readings of the cans' contents have been in the 1.008 to 1.010 range, leading me to target a 1.045 O.G, and the website says wheat is 40% of the grist. So my recipe is pretty straight forward:

4.25 lbs Continental Pilsner
4.25 lbs Flaked Wheat
1.00 lbs Flaked Oats
0.75 lbs Acidulated Malt (required to get my mash at a 5.4 pH, I'm not sure how much sourness this adds to the beer)
0.75 lbs Munich Malt (used to match color, 7 gallon boil for one hour, leaving 6 gallons in kettle. Probably a 10L crystal would work just as well)
15 IBU Hallertauer Mittlefrueh (60 minutes)
1.00 oz citrus peel (5 minutes)
0.66 oz bitter orange peel (5 minutes)
0.50 oz coriander seed (5 minutes)

I'm doing a two stage infusion mash, 105F for 15 minutes to break down the beta-glucans in the flaked ingredients (to improve mash efficiency) and then straight to 150F for 60 minutes. For the citrus peel, I've tried lemon, orange and grapefruit, none of which comes close to the grapefruit perception that a fresh can of BdB expels. Oats is not on their list of ingredients but my body/mouthfeel is lacking comparatively if I don't include them.

I can tell you that Wyeast 3944 is not the yeast to use for this beer as its aroma is overpowering. I had more luck with Lallemand Belgian Wit Yeast (new for 2020) as it was far more neutral and I could perceive the orange peel and coriander seed flavors for more easily, allowing me to dial them in more accurately.

So my question is, where is the sweetness coming from? The wildcard in their ingredient list is the "natural flavors" which could be almost anything. I did try to harvest some yeast from the can, thinking that maybe some of the flavors were from their yeast, but was not successful. Perhaps it is pasteurized and there are unfermented sugars in the can?
I don't know that I want to mash at a higher temp as 1.010 is the target F.G.. I was thinking possibly honey malt, but I don't think that will get me a Shandy sweetness. Is there a Belgian candy/sugar that would leave a residual sweetness?

Thanks,

Richard
 
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