When we last talked, we talked of the differences between two similar styles of imported beer, German hefeweizen, and Belgian witbier. As northern Virginia’s importer of Belgian beer, it seemed only logical that we’d follow that up with this:
Everybody who’s anybody is trying their hand at the craft of beer-making these days, and why not? All the beer, for all the people; that’s my motto. But if you’re going to home-brew a Belgian-style beer, and you’re going to call it a witbier, you’ve got to make sure it’s done right.
So here, a few tips for home-brewing a better Belgian witbier:
Remember when we talked about how witbier translates literally to ‘white beer’? It’s the base malt to thank for that color. When you set out to home-brew a Belgian-style witbier, make sure to use base malt with color below 2.0° L. Anything darker, and your beer will come out the color of pond water.
Getting the malt right is only half the battle. Some might argue that selecting the right yeast for your Belgian-style witbier is the most crucial step in your homebrew process. It’s the yeast that provides the esters that make up the foundation of a quality Belgian wheat beer. Malt and spices alone are not enough.
Oats in your grain bill will really amp up the profile of your beer.
Get it? Spice. Ginger. Ahh, never mind.
Yes, spices are another crucial element in a true Belgian-style wheat beer, but bear in mind, you don’t spice a homebrew like you spice chili. When you select fresh, high-quality spices, such as coriander — use just one, or two grams per gallon of beer — cumin, cardamom, or even chamomile tea, you don’t need much: Just a taste.
Most yeast strains amenable to home-brewing a witbier require a rising temperature profile during fermentation. This is easily achievable in a controlled brewing environment, but may be more difficult for those who homebrew. Nevertheless, to achieve a quality Belgian-style wheat beer, you’ll want to start the fermentation process around 62 or 65 degrees Fahrenheit, and finish it out — rising slowly — around 70 or 75 degrees Fahrenheit.
It really is as complicated as it sounds, home-brewing your very own Belgian-style wheat beer. But if you put the time, and effort, and care into choosing the best ingredients, and fermenting well, before you know it, you’ll be: