Tuesday, December 27, 2011

AHA Big Brew: ginger witbier

May 7 was the American Homebrewers Association's Big Brew celebration of the 2011 National Homebrew Day. The idea is to participate in a group brewing event with a local club using one of the suggested recipes. My brewing gear isn't mobile, so I had to brew at home and catch up with the North Seattle dudes later.

The witbier recipe caught my eye along with the suggestion that homebrewers "add local, seasonal adjuncts such as flowers, herbs, spices, or fruit." About the only thing growing in my local garden at this point was chives, though, and I was not willing to commit so robustly to the seasonality of the event. Instead, I purchased a couple of pounds of ginger root and decided to experiment with a ginger witbier.

The Cellar sells LME in six pound tubs and the recipe called for 7.25 pounds. Having been repeatedly annoyed by the darkness of my witbiers I decided to use rice extract to make up the difference.

The ingredients ended up being:
  • 6 pounds liquid wheat malt
  • 1 pound dry rice extract
  • 25 grams Mount Hood pellet hops at 5.5%
  • 780 grams ginger root
  • 30 grams orange zest
  • 120 grams coriander
  • Wyeast 3944, Belgian Witbier liquid yeast
I used a single smack pack of yeast. I've never used two and am not sure why this recipe called for two since the original gravity is a mere 1.051.

Based on some experimentation I figured I'd want about two teaspoons of ginger puree per eight ounces of beer. That amounted to 780 grams (28 ounces) of ginger for the batch. I used the Kitchenaid grinder attachment to produce that pretty quickly.

I savaged three oranges with a microplane to obtain the 30 grams of zest. 

It takes just a few seconds to bust up the coriander seeds in a grinder.

To the boiling water I added the rice extract and hops. Still in pursuit of a lighter color I went with the late malt addition at 40 minutes. In 15 minutes it was back to a boil. I waited five minutes, then added the separated ginger liquid and hops bags containing the zest, coriander, and ginger pulp. It took another five minutes to return to boiling. Five more minutes then flameout.

Cooled to 74 degrees and 5.5 gallons, with a gravity of 1.046. Without doing the computation, that seems about right for the original recipe's 5.3 gallons and slightly more malt.

And, I did achieve a significantly lighter color. Compare to the first witbier and second witbier.

The wort had an excellent ginger kick, and nice balance between citrus and ginger. At the pre-fermentation sweetness it was actually quite delicious!

The wort started bubbling within 5 hours. It was vigorous for about 24 hours, slowing down to nothing very noticeable after 48. I did not rack to a secondary.

At bottling on May 15 the final gravity was 1.013, exactly on target.

The flavors were of pronounced bitterness, strong ginger, and both grapefruit and orange citrus. It was very cloudy but I think that may be unavoidable with this much ginger.

I screwed up during bottling, forgetting to add corn sugar until I'd already filled several bottles. Had to pour those back and then try to blend dissolved sugar into the full bucket. This is the second time I've done that and it makes me concerned about oxygenation, infection, and uneven distribution. Well, checklists have been shown repeatedly to greatly reduce all sorts of mistakes even amongst expert practitioners of an art. Probably time to make one.

Carbonation of bottles did end up being hit-or-miss. I think it's due to uneven bottling sugar distribution. However, even the ones that are closest to still have a good ginger bite that seems to accentuate even the mild carbonation.

It has clarified beautifully, although this photo doesn't do it justice.

Of course that's not the proper way to serve a witbier. It's best with the settled yeast poured into the glass, improving both flavor and body. This was from a bottle that did not develop much carbonation, but the ones that did produce a lovely white head.

The color is supposed to be 5 SRM units. I haven't applied the correct methodology with the BJCP color guide but eyeballing it in a glass with a light background leads me to believe it's pretty close.

I've been enjoying this witbier for several months and it is one of my favorite homebrews so far. I love the ginger kick and I'm pleased to have obtained a more appropriate color. Proper management of bottling sugar is the only change I would certainly make for the second attempt. Additional coriander would be interesting as well.


Kevin said...

Interesting sounding... I like ginger, a lot, so that's a great start for a nice beer...

This weekend I cooked something and used coriander for the first time and after opening the jar I kept sniffing it again and again, thinking "wow, how did I not know of this stuff before?" (as for the overall dish... ick!)

Steve Poole said...

Surely you had coriander many times in India, though?

I've found that there's a wide range of quality, and it's pretty easy to overuse it. What did you make?

Kevin said...

I think Indian food uses coriander (or dhaniya in Hindi) a lot, but since I didn't really cook, or spend time with people while they were cooking, I never smelled it by itself, only after blended in with everything else.

I made murg keema, basically an Indian dish of ground chicken, from a recipe dictated to my wife by one of her family's servants, that she translated to English.

Unfortunately, it came out inedible. I suppose the first problem was the jalepenos I bought were much larger than the normal Indian chili peppers, so when the recipe called for four, four was way, way too much.

But rereading it afterwards I also see where I messed up part of it. I also didn't use a pressure cooker, like it calls for (pressure cookers are extremely popular in all but the lowest classes of India (living in an apartment building there, throughout the day you can hear pressure cookers from kitchens in all directions)).