We should be thankful to Pierre Celis for still having Witbiers on the market. As if it was not enough to guarantee the preservation of a beer from the Monks that was in decline, by creating Hoegaarden, he still emigrated to the USA to found Celis Brewery, repeating the success formula on the other side of the Atlantic, inspiring brands like Blue Moon. If anyone wants to offer us the book above, we appreciate it.
Hommage done, a style defined, how could we screw this up? Well, by the title, I think you already realized how … But stay tuned, there are always a million ways this could go wrong …
Witbiers are supposed to have some lemon flavor, although they typically come from the addition of coriander seeds. Here at the Hotel, we like to explore different ways of approaching beer, so we opted for a twist. The first part of this beer started even before the actual brew day, placing some juicy lemons from the nearest Indian grocery store on the barbecue. After being smoked for a long time, on the same barbecue that in a few hours was going to take care of some meat, they were reserved to be added to the beer the next day. These are the ones that will add the desired lemon flavor and aroma to this beer.
But smoking this on normal charcoal would have not been challenging enough for us, so we chose to include a special wood to smoke these lemons with a piggy-like aroma. After all, if it was good for the meat, it will also be good for the lemons.
Taking advantage of the Covid confinement to catch up on some reading, it was time to dust off Randy Mosher’s Radical Brewing. Nowadays it may seem outdated, but in 2004 some of the ideas presented were in fact, pioneering.
Speaking of the process, using a sufficient amount of unmalted cereals, wheat and oats, it’s a good idea to conduct a cereal mash to ensure the conversion of starches into sugars available for yeast. Simple brews, or with ramps, are very easy nowadays, is there a homebrewer here without an electric pan?
As we have little love for our time, it was a good idea to follow the historical steps and produce a cereal mash. What does this translate into? Two electric pans, the first with a mash of malted cereals, pale ale and munich, with a first ramp at 55ºC, the second with unmalted cereals, wheat and oats, together with a small part of the malted cereal, so that there is some diastatic power.
After adding the unmalted cereals at 55ºC, for 15 minutes, we increased the temperature to 66ºC to promote the conversion of some of the starches into fermentable sugars. As not all starches are available to be converted by the enzymes, due to the unmalted cereals, we must guarantee gelatinization by boiling this wort.
With the wort boiled for 15 minutes, it was added to the initial mash, with the malted cereals. This addition raises the wort temperature to the desired conversion temperature of 69ºC. It seems easy so far, right? On the way to incorporate the two brews, we still had time to add the smoked lemons. Did you had already forgotten about the smoked lemons? We are not the only crazy persons to smoke citrus, we present you Rowley Farmhouse Ales.
Sometimes everything goes well, but sometimes… we added the lemons, we measured the pH and… of course, everything was wrong. The mash should have a pH between 5.2 and 5.7 (depends on the author), and we were uncomfortably at 4.85. With some tables and some math, we had to correct the pH with sodium bicarbonate to at least 5.2. Weigh, add, stir, wait, measure, 5.67. Someone selected the wrong line of the pH corrector table, made calculations for adding chalk instead of baking soda. You know, nothing ever goes wrong…
pH adventures aside, the rest of the day skimmed perfection, boiling for 90 minutes, while preparing spices, grains of paradise and caraway, in equal parts of 15 grams. Here, a homebrewer spends hundreds of euros on equipment, some of questionable utility, but then he doesn’t have a spice mill. Believe me, pestle and mortar are a therapeutic practice.
Here the lemon replaces the traditional orange, the caraway tries to compensate for the sweetness that the lemon does not have and the grains of paradise, which has a great connection with the lemon, unlike coriander seeds, does not have a citrus profile.
Boil completed, we gave this a modern twist, in honor of the Mr. Celis, who said: “adding spices to the boil, only serves to please the neighbor”, we cool the wort to 80ºC (still considered a safety temperature, we added the spices, to retain the maximum aromas of the spices. Thanks to all the hazeboys of this world for the tip.
Some wort was also taken to hydrate the yeast, Mangrove Jack’s M21 Belgian Witbier, which already showed activity before inoculation, during the hydration hour (!). Everything was neat and clean, night fell, time to attack the boar that was in the oven.
And your Easter, how was it?
Witbier Smoked Lemons
Total cereal: 5.52 kg.
Original Gravity: 1.052
Boil Time: 90 minutos
30.4% – 1.68 kg. Pale Ale malt
9.8% – 0.54 kg. Munich malt
30.4% – 1.68 kg. raw wheat
19.6% – 1.08 kg. pale ale malt
9.8% – 0.54 kg. raw oats
50 gr. Savinjski Goldings (pellet, 2.70% AA) @ 60 min.
Yeast Nutrient @ 5 min.
Mangrove Jack’s M21 Belgian Witbier
Cl to SO4 Ratio: 1.33
Main Mash – 15 min. @ 55ºC, 60min @ 69ºC, mashout 15min. @ 78ºC
Cereal Mash – 15min. @ 55ºC, 30min @ 66ºC, fervura 15min., mixed into main mash.