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Witbier

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Witbier, also known as Wit or White Beer (not to be confused with Devon White Ale), is a refreshing style of Belgian ale brewed with wheat and spices.

Contents

[edit] History of Witbier

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[edit] Brewing Witbier

[edit] Malt

Traditional witbier was brewed with wind malt, which is not usually available to home brewers. Most modern commercial versions use a more conventional pale two-row base malt.

[edit] Unmalted versus malted wheat

Witbier is traditionally brewed with a quarter to a half of the grist being unmalted wheat, which has a distinct, strong wheat flavor, but can be difficult to handle in the mash. If using wheat malt instead, up to three-quarters the amount may be required to get the same wheat flavor.

[edit] Oats

A small amount of oats in the grist helps give witbier a smooth mouthfeel. However, using too high a proportion of oats can hurt head retention and reduce the witbier's distinctive haze.

[edit] Lactic acid

Most witbiers have a slight lactic flavor; this can be achieved by using a small proportion (1-3%) of acidulated malt in the grist or by adding a small amount of pure lactic acid.

[edit] Spices

Spices should be added at the end of the boil or at flameout; boiling them will quickly evaporate their essential oils. They can also be added in a hop bag in a hopback or added to secondary fermentation in the same way as dry hopping.

Witbier is traditionally spiced with coriander and orange peel. However, each of these spices come in multiple varieties and should be chosen carefully.

[edit] Coriander

Most coriander sold in the United States is Moroccan coriander, which will give a slight vegetal flavor to the finished beer. Indian coriander, which has slightly larger seeds and a different flavor,

The best way to extract flavor from coriander is to grind it finely in a spice grinder or a clean low acid coffee grinder.

[edit] Orange peel

The orange peel traditionally used in witbier is dried Curacao bitter orange, available from many home brew shops. However, the dried peel found in the United States often has lost a significant amount of its flavor already.

Another option is to zest your own fruit; this will give more of a fresh citrus flavor which is refreshing if not exactly authentic.

[edit] Other spices

Some brewers use other spices, such as chamomile, cumin, or grains of paradise in small amounts to integrate the flavors of the beer. They should not contribute distinctive flavors of their own.

[edit] Flour

Some brewers add a small amount of wheat flour (one tablespoon per five gallons) to the end of the boil to ensure a consistent haze at any temperature. Competition judges will mark down a witbier if it is not hazy enough. Too much flour will begin to affect the beer's mouthfeel, however.

[edit] Yeast

For witbier, a witbier-specific yeast is the best choice, but other Belgian yeast strains can be used in a pinch.

[edit] Competition Styles

Both the BJCP and the GABF style guidelines recognize witbier as a competition beer style.

[edit] BJCP Style Guidelines

[edit] Witbier

16A. Witbier Vital Statistics
BJCP Style Guideline Definition (2004)
IBUs: 10-20 SRM: 2-4 OG: 1.044-1.052 FG: 1.008-1.012 ABV: 4.5-5.5% (An ABV of 5% is most typical)
Aroma: Moderate sweetness (often with light notes of honey and/or vanilla) with light, grainy, spicy wheat aromatics, often with a bit of tartness. Moderate perfumy coriander, often with a complex herbal, spicy, or peppery note in the background. Moderate zesty, orangey fruitiness. A low spicy-herbal hop aroma is optional, but should never overpower the other characteristics. No diacetyl. Vegetal, celery-like, or ham-like aromas from certain types of spices are inappropriate. Spices should blend in with fruity, floral and sweet aromas and should not be overly strong.
Appearance: Very pale straw to very light gold in color. The beer will be very cloudy from starch haze and/or yeast, which gives it a milky, whitish-yellow appearance. Dense, white, moussy head. Head retention should be quite good.
Flavor: Moderate sweetness (often with light notes of honey and/or vanilla) with light, grainy, spicy wheat aromatics, often with a bit of tartness. Moderate perfumy coriander, often with a complex herbal, spicy, or peppery note in the background. Moderate zesty, orangey fruitiness. A low spicy-herbal hop aroma is optional, but should never overpower the other characteristics. No diacetyl. Vegetal, celery-like, or ham-like aromas from certain types of spices are inappropriate. Spices should blend in with fruity, floral and sweet aromas and should not be overly strong.
Mouthfeel: Medium-light to medium body, often having a smoothness and light creaminess from unmalted wheat and the occasional oats. Despite body and creaminess, finishes dry and often a bit tart. Effervescent character from high carbonation. Refreshing, from carbonation, light acidity, and lack of bitterness in finish. No harshness or astringency from orange pith. Should not be overly dry and thin, nor should it be thick and heavy.
Overall Impression: Moderate sweetness (often with light notes of honey and/or vanilla) with light, grainy, spicy wheat aromatics, often with a bit of tartness. Moderate perfumy coriander, often with a complex herbal, spicy, or peppery note in the background. Moderate zesty, orangey fruitiness. A low spicy-herbal hop aroma is optional, but should never overpower the other characteristics. No diacetyl. Vegetal, celery-like, or ham-like aromas from certain types of spices are inappropriate. Spices should blend in with fruity, floral and sweet aromas and should not be overly strong.
History: A 400-year-old beer style that died out in the 1950s; it was later revived by Pierre Celis at Hoegaarden, and has grown steadily in popularity over time.
Comments: The presence, character and degree of spicing and lactic sourness varies. Overly spiced and/or sour beers are not good examples of the style. The beer tends to be fragile and does not age well, so younger, fresher, properly handled examples are most desirable.
Ingredients: About 50% unmalted wheat (traditionally soft white winter wheat) and 50% pale barley malt (usually pils malt) constitute the grist. In some versions, up to 5-10% raw oats may be used. Spices of freshly-ground coriander and Cura̤ao or sometimes sweet orange peel complement the sweet aroma and are quite characteristic. Other spices (e.g., chamomile, cumin, cinnamon, Grains of Paradise) may be used for complexity but are much less prominent. Ale yeast prone to the production of mild, spicy flavors is very characteristic. In some instances a very limited lactic fermentation, or the actual addition of lactic acid, is done.
Commercial Examples: Hoegaarden Wit, Vuuve 5, Blanche de Bruges, Blanche de Bruxelles, Brugs Tarwebier, Sterkens White Ale, Celis White (now made in Michigan), Blanche de Brooklyn, Great Lakes Holy Moses, Unibroue Blanche de Chambly, Blue Moon Belgian White

[edit] GABF Style Listings

[edit] Belgian Style White (or Wit)/Belgian Style Wheat

57. Belgian Style White (or Wit)/Belgian Style Wheat
GABF Style Listing (2007)
Belgian white ales are very pale in color and are brewed using unmalted wheat and malted barley and are spiced with coriander and orange peel. Coriander and light orange peel aroma should be perceived. Phenolic spiciness and yeast flavors may be evident at mild levels. These beers are traditionally bottle conditioned and served cloudy. An unfiltered nearly opaque haze should be part of the appearance. The style is further characterized by the use of noble-type hops to achieve a low hop bitterness and little to no apparent hop flavor. This beer has low to medium body, no diacetyl, and a low to medium fruity-ester level. Mild acidity is appropriate.
Original Gravity (ºPlato): 1.044-1.050 (11-12.5 ºPlato)
Apparent Extract/Final Gravity (ºPlato): 1.006-1.010 (1.5-2.5 ºPlato)
Alcohol by Weight (Volume): 3.8-4.4% (4.8-5.2%)
Bitterness (IBU): 10-17
Color SRM (EBC): 2-4 (4-8 EBC)

[edit] External Links