Oat-y Belgian Wit (all-grain)

DSC_0504It’s hard to not brew a Belgian Wit in the summertime, so I decided to try some new things in this recipe. One of my favorite Belgian whites is Blanc de Bruxelles (the beer with the “mannequin pis” on the label). It’s super refreshing and it has some interesting qualities that, in my mind, set it apart from other wits. In addition to the traditional wheat beer traits, it’s got this extremely smooth, silky, almost doughy body which kinda makes you feel like you’re sipping on a cloud (?) and makes for a very delicious summer ale. I’ve used oats in a few beers before, but usually up to 1 pound just to create a smoother mouthfeel. I don’t know why, but I feel like adding a larger portion of oats may do the trick in getting close to the qualities of BdB that I admire. Also, I’m going to toss in some cardamom since I’ve never used it before, and people seem to think it meshes well with wits.

  • 6.5 lb Belgian Pale malt
  • 3 lb instant oats
  • 2 lb white wheat
  • 0.25 lb Biscuit malt
  • 1 oz Styrian Goldings (Celeia) (3.2 %aa) 60 min
  • 1 oz Styrian Goldings (3.2 %aa) 30 min
  • White Labs Belgian Wit yeast
  • 0.5 oz bitter orange peel (20 min)
  • 0.5 oz Coriander, crushed (5 min)
  • 0.5 oz Cardamom, crushed (5 min)

Yeast starter was a train wreck – overflowing probably 3 times in the course of 24 hrs. This has happened on a couple occasions (not just wits), and I think my problem is that my stir plate magnet and spinner are too small and, though they spin fine, lack enough force to create a good vortex – so the krausen just overflows rather than being re-inserted back into the mixture. Probably all the yeast that would have been reproduced went on the table, so I wound up pitching the whole starter with liquid and all to get all the yeast in the flask. Bummer!

// Mash in 2 qt/lb at 118 for 25 minutes, raise to 148 for 40 minutes, 158 for 20 minutes, 168 for 10 minutes. Collect 6.75 gal 1.042 pre-boil wort. Boiled down to 6.5 gal (I just collected too much to start), then added first hops and boiled 60 min.  Boiled a little too hard and was left with a little under 5 gal of 1.062 wort. Adding the full starter should have brought it to around 5.5 gal of 1.056. //

The mash was definitely oat-y alright; a crazy milky mixture of oatmeal and grain, but it smelled great. This’ll be interesting alright. The first runnings tasted amazing – bready, slightly wheaty, and a good smoothness from the oats. I was worried it was going taste like oatmeal based on the initial wiff of the mash, but it tasted great.

UPDATE (7/27/13): Tried a sample after 1 week in the primary. Fermentation was rigourous, then slowed to once per 15 seconds. While fermenting, the airlock had a HUGE citrusy smell to it (very cardamom-y) and smells oddly just like a summer shandy. The actual beer aroma is super citrusy – a combo of lemon/grapefruit/orange – not dominated by the cardamom like the airlock suggested. Still a tad bit sweet (1.019 gravity), but actually tastes really delicious. Almost like a lemony dessert beer (if that even exists) at this point. Soft bitterness from the lighter alpha hops, and really smooth body (those oats!). You can really pick out the orange peel and cardamom, but the coriander is a little more subtle. Color is a nice cloudy gold. Great flavor – honestly maybe a little too fruity – but overall very pleasant and drinkable. Honestly it really tastes like someone mixed a belgian wit with some orange juice and lemonade. Not what I was expecting, but really impressed with it so far!

UPDATE (8/2/13): Activity slowed to once per 2 minutes, so I racked straight to the keg. FG 1.012. Same aromas as before, but with a little sulfur/egg that creeped in towards the end of fermentation; almost fully covered up by the spices which dominate the aroma. Body is very smooth and delicious, and a tad sweet. The bitter orange peel provides a little “bitterness”, but its very faint. Very shandy-like still.


I think most of my tasting notes reflect how this beer turned out, but I’ll sum it up in one word: fruity. Really fruity.  When fresh, this was more like a shandy than a wit beer. The cardamom is a neat addition to a wit, but I’ll definitely scale it down to only a quarter ounce next time. It’s pretty forward. Boiling the orange peel for 20 minutes definitely yielded some herbal and floral flavors, but I think I’d also scale the boil time back next time, too.

Super smooth, creamy head that retains well. Nice and cloudy, gold appearance, and the body is great – light on the palate while retaining a a good amount of sweetness (I believe from 148-158-168 mash – I’ll probably increase the time at 148 next time, and decrease the 158 rest time.). As time went on (about 2 months), the spice aromas mellowed out a little and this became really really good. Still, I would go a bit easier on the spices next time, but that’s just me.




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Filed under All-grain, Belgian, Wheat beers

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