Otherwise known as the scratching of chickens in the barnyard dirt.

Belgian Putterz Wit

2013-12-15 11.20.18

My first attempt at home brewing. I decided on a Belgian Witbier recipe, similar to Blue Moon, as that’s what Michele likes. She bought most of the equipment as a gift for my 45th birthday, so I thought I’d make the first batch for her. Although, I have a bad feeling that this recipe is not going to come out the way I intended. I expected lots of trial and error, but it seems like I’m off to more error than trial. We’ll see in a few weeks.

I made what may be a massive mistake by adding all of the ingredients directly to the boil. I did this because Larry at Brewers World says that’s what he does… but I think he may have only been referring to the specialty grains. I did it with everything… the grains, both hops, the orange peel, coriander, etc. And, then I found out the hard way that straining that much out of your wort is incredibly difficult. I even had a nice wort explosion go off in my face when I accidentally released the bungie holding the nylon mesh granny pants over my bottling bucket, sending a heavily soaked load of spent grains down into the wort. This, of course, sent a torrent of hot wort straight back up into my face, on the ceiling… everywhere. I quickly sanitized a kitchen strainer to get the bulk of the grains and hops out of the wort, aerating as I went from kettle to bucket and back. Although, there’s nothing like hot wort dripping off your stunned face to make you realize how much of a rank amateur you really are.

Assistant Brewer Kyra, adding Coriander, Orange Peel & Whirlfoc tablet.

Once I was satisfied that the wort was properly strained, I funneled into the primary fermenter, and topped it off to approximately 5 gallons (there’s no marking on the carboy – need to make marks), took a gravity reading (which appears to be way off), then pitched the yeast. I went with an airlock while I went out for a bit, then switched to a blow off tube and pail of Star-San. I’ve read too many horror stories about the tops of carboys blowing off to not go with a blow off tube until I learn more about this whole process. The primary is resting quietly under my desk now.

Description – In the style of Hoegaarden, Cellis White. Half the grain bill is wheat, adding specialty malt, hops, coriander and orange peel.

  • Starting Gravity – 1.041 (Measured at 1.070… way off)
  • Terminal Gravity – 1.007-1.012 (Measured at 1.008, right on target)
  • ABV – 4.0% (my calculations put this one at 8.2% ABV… yowza)
  • Color Rating – 6
  • IBU – 15/18
  • Fermentation Temps –  Liquid 64ºF-74ºF, Dry 64ºF-70ºF

Ingredients

  • 5 lbs. Wheat DME
  • 1 bag of Belgian specialty malts (Belgian Biscuit Malt & Belgian Caramel Pils Malt)
  • 1 oz. Styrian Golding, bittering pellet hops
  • 1 tablet Whirlfloc (adds clarity)
  • 1 oz. Coriander seed (should be crushed before use)
  • .5 oz. Bitter Orange Peel
  • 1 oz. Saaz, finishing raw Hops
  • 1 cup priming sugar
  • Safbrew S-33 Dry Yeast
2013-12-15 23.33.48

Process

  • December 15th, 2013
    • 10:00am – Started heating 2 gallons on kettle
    • Kettle jumps around like mad in certain positions on the electric stove. Need to get a burner and do this outside.
    • Added grains directly to water once at 155ºF, steeped for 17min.
    • Strained grains from wort into bottling bucket, and then put wort back into kettle. (Mistake #1 – Use a grain bag for steeping. Straining is too difficult with this set up.)
    • Brought to boil, and added Styrian Golding hops for 35 min. (Mistake #2 – Use a hop bag next time. Straining that much leafy hops is tough.)
    • Brought large burner down to 8, which kept a nice rolling boil throughout.
    • Massive Foam up after adding hops. House now permanently smells like Styrian Golding hops. I like it. Wife does not.
    • Lightly crushed the coriander, dried orange peel and Whirlfloc tablet, added after 35 minutes boil.
    • Adding the Saaz finishing hops after ten more minutes, boiled for another two minutes, and removed from heat.
    • 11:55am – Into the ice bath, approximately 20 minutes to get down to 85ºF. Not bad, but more ice would be better next time. Ice machine in fridge does not make enough. Dropping the kettle into a cooler full of ice water outside would chill it in no time. May not need a wort chiller until going all-grain.
    • 1:00pm – Into the primary fermenter (after wortsplosion, and subsequent HazMat clean up completed, detailed above). (Mistake #3 – I didn’t measure the top-off water properly, and guessed by filling the primary. I’ve since marked gallons on the primary and secondary, plus, bottling bucket has measuring marks. )
    • 12:00am – Bubbling steadily from the blow off tube. Lots of action going on in there.
    • Going to let this one go in the primary for approximately two weeks, then rack to secondary. We’ll see.
  • December 16th, 2013
    • 10:00am – Bubbling has picked up a bit, getting bubbles twice per second now. Color has lightened significantly.
  • December 19th, 2013
    • 9:45am – Nearly 4 days in the primary. Bubbling from the blow-off tube has slowed to a crawl, but continues still. This is the first day I’ve noticed significant clearing of the color. I can actually see a good inch or so into the beer before the clouds. Flocculation seems to have ceased, at least with the large, easily visible chunks. The bottom of the primary is thick with a very light colored trub.
  • December 24, 2013
    • Day 9 – I need the bottling bucket to brine the turkey, so I’m switching to an air-lock! The smell! Oofa! Strong, but not unpleasant beer odor coming from the primary as I made the switch. I’m feeling pretty comfortable at this point that I haven’t suffered an infection, with the smell and color being good. Kräusen has thinned to a covering layer at the top, and the bottom is two distinct layers of what I presume is trub, with spent yeast cells on top. There’s still flocculation, I think, but I just moved the primary a little in order to get the blow-off hose removed and replaced with an air lock. I may have just disturbed some of the contents above & below. There’s definitely still pressure coming through the air lock, though. It bubbled immediately, with a slow and steady pressure pushing the Star-San through. The bung threatens to push it’s way out, but I’ve pushed it back in several times as far as I can, and it appears to be holding now. Will have to keep checking it to make sure it’s not going to pop out.
  • December 29th, 2013
    • Racked to the secondary without incident. Smells good, color looks great. We’ve got exactly 4 gallons in the secondary, still bubbling away slowly. I took a gravity reading, and was surprised to find that the gravity has dropped (risen?) to 1.012 already, from the original gravity of 1.070. I probably need to re-read that section of the Papazian book again to understand these numbers, but I wasn’t expecting that drastic of a change. And, I haven’t done the math yet to understand what this means in terms of ABV, but I will do that shortly. Update: According to the math, and depending largely on the Final Gravity reading, this beer may wind up being 8.2% ABV. Definitely higher than I expected. We’ll see.
  • Ryan, my Bottling Assistant
    January 16th, 2014
    • Bottling Day. I racked to the bottling bucket, and mixed with 7oz. of priming sugar (corn sugar), which was boiled in 1.25 cups of water first and then brought to 70ºF before adding to the beer. We had enough to fill twenty-three 22oz bomber bottles. A quick taste, it was a lot like what I imagine a flat warm Blue Moon to be. Final Gravity before bottling was 1.008, which is a far bigger drop than I expected. It went a total of two weeks (exactly) in the primary, and 18 days in the secondary. I’ll plan to condition the bottles for four weeks, then test. Fingers crossed we get a decent beer.
  • February 13th, 2014
    • 2014-02-13 20.34.57-1
      Success! Four weeks into bottle conditioning, and I had the first tasting. Some friends were over, so we cracked open the first bottles. I was a bit scared at first, because, at room temperature, the beer looked extremely clear in the bottle. Almost like water. But, I threw them in the fridge for a few hours, and then poured. I was happy to see a nice little fog in the neck of the bottle, and there was a nice chill haze to the beer in the glass. The color, was amazing. A beautiful golden amber color. The smell, almost exactly like Blue Moon. The taste, very similar to Blue Moon, but with three notable exceptions: the coriander had a much better bite to it, nice and spicy… the orange flavor of the desiccated orange peel was much more noticeable than in a Blue Moon, which I like. I didn’t feel like I wanted to put a slice of real orange in this beer to liven it up. It was already good without it. And, the ABV… my gravity measurements tell me it should have been about 8.7%, which… is probably right. It’s stronger than I intended, but not too bad.
      2014-02-13 20.34.57-1
      So, all in all, a raging success. The flavor, the color, the smell… all excellent. I’m actually a bit stunned at the quality of this beer. From all the research I did and the careful preparation, I expected a decent beer, perhaps even a good beer if I was lucky… what I wasn’t prepared for, was a beer I truly love. Belgian Putterz Wit, is… awesome. If this is a sign of things to come, I may eventually become quite a decent brewer. I will happily make this exact recipe again in the future.

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