As I write this, yesterday was National Homebrew Day (in America), and I celebrated by brewing one of my favorite beers, Witty Kitty Witbier. This was batch #6 of 2015 and the third time I’ve brewed this recipe, first time at 5 gallons. It was a beautiful morning here in Tampa. It was cool, a slight breeze, birds chirping. I couldn’t ask for anything more.
Witty Kitty Witbier (5 gallon BIAB)
43.3% Weyermann Light Wheat
43.3% Castle Pilsen
13.5% Flaked Oats
Strike: 5.1 gallons @ 127 F
Step Mash: 20 min @ 122 F, 60 min @ 152 F
Sparge: 2 gallons @ 170 F
Boil: 60 min
Hops: Hersbrucker 2% AA ( 1.5 oz @ 60 min, 1.5 oz @ 15 min)
Other: 1 oz Coriander seeds (crushed) @ 10 min, 1 oz Bitter Orange Peel @ 1 min
Yeast: Wyeast Belgian Witbier 3944
Original Gravity: 1.047 (target), 1.050 (actual)
Estimated IBUs: 18.86
Estimated SRM: 3.46
Target Final Gravity: 1.011
Target ABV: 4.6%
Brew day was one of the smoothest ones I’ve had to date. Including clean up, my day clocked in at 4 hours. There are a couple of things to note about this brew day though. I hit my strike temp, but after mashing in the grain, the wort only went down to 126 instead of the 122 I was aiming for on the first mash step. But I just let it ride. As for my second mash step, I overshot by a degree but by the end of the 60 minutes, temperature was down to 144 F despite wrapping the kettle in a blanket. But I noticed this on the last brew day, and I assume it’s been happening on every brew day before when I haven’t been measuring the temp at the end of the mash. This is probably why my finished gravities always end up lower than expected and my beers are stronger than expected. I’ve also read that majority of sugar conversion occurs in the first 20 minutes of the mash anyway. I don’t have any complaints about how my beer has turned out despite this, so not a big deal. No?
One thing I did do different this time is intentionally pour the whole contents of the kettle into my fermentor, crap and all. Usually I’ll autosiphon and leave as much trub behind as possible. But more times than not, I suffer from “Fluffy Trub Syndrome” where it’s impossible to leave most of the trub without sacrificing a good amount of yield. WordPress blogger Brulosophy did a “Great Trub exBEERiment” where blind tasters could tell the difference between a beer fermented with little trub vs the same beer fermented with a whole lot of trub, but that the trub beer didn’t necessarily have any flaws per se. Just that it had different characteristics that some would deem desirable, such has more hop aroma and more crispness. So I decided to trub it up so that I could maximize yield and betting that it wouldn’t impair the beer that much at all. As a side note, it is actually a running theme with Brulosophy’s experiments that changing one variable that you’d think would make a difference usually doesn’t make a discernable, statistical difference at all when blind taste testing.
One other thing I want to mention is that, as a matter of routine, I pitch yeast at a high temp, like the 90’s and sometimes upper 80s. It’s because my groundwater here in Florida, plus my wimpy chiller, only enable me to cool that low. I could let the fermentor sit overnight and pitch the next morning. But I don’t want to risk any critters in the wort growing and taking hold before the yeast have a chance to outcompete. Plus I’ve been pitching high for years and, again, I’ve never had an issue with my beers, so……..
I guess the bottom line I’m trying to get at here is, if you are happy with the beer you make, your process is fine. Tinker with it if you want, but sometimes don’t be afraid to break some of the rules that have been laid out in the homebrew dogma that has been established through the years. They say pitch low, I don’t. They say use a starter, I don’t. They say do your water chemistry, I don’t. Personally I think the two most critical parameters to making good beer is to sanitize properly and to not ferment too warm. The latter is different than pitching too high, because by the time primary fermentation starts to take off, the wort temp has settled down.
I woke up this morning and checked on my fermentor. I had a minor blow out of my airlock. I cleaned it up and replaced the airlock. Happy yeast. Nice.