Witbier Challenge

Soft, pillowy clouds of bliss

Look at that rocky head on Holy Mountain Brewing’s The White Lodge Witbier

A good friend of mine who enjoys my homebrew recently has been pushing for some beers that he can share with more folks that enjoy more mainstream styles. I really like focusing on funky, sour, dry beers as well as hoppy, juicy and dry IPAs.

His suggestion was to put together a Witbier. I wasn’t quite sure if I wanted to do that but decided that it was worth the effort to see if I could build a recipe that I enjoyed coming from the styles I prefer. In Brewing Like a Monk there is a chapter discussing Witbiers in which they interview Ron Jeffries from Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales. He describes his process where by he imagines how the beer should taste and then works backwards to arrive at a recipe that should deliver the experience.

I’m attempting to do the same here. I recently had a really fantastic Witbier while I was in Settle, WA, The White Lodge from Holy Mountain Brewing Company. When the glass arrived there was this rocky mountain of imperfect off-white head that looked to include some bits of yeast. The nose had a nice spicy, bready, citrus character that begged for me to take a sip. It had a super soft mouthfeel that was a wash of malt and bready flavors with just a bit of banana, lots of orange, and; surprise, surprise; a bit tart.  Maybe that’s what captured my attention.

All of that together in a beer was just amazing.  I’m attempting to capture much of that in this recipe. This beer will be compared to a local Witbier (which doesn’t look or taste like The White Lodge), however I’m interested in how it fares.

Recipe Details

Batch Size Boil Time IBU SRM Est. OG Est. FG ABV
15 gal 60 min 17.1 IBUs 3.6 SRM 1.051 1.012 5.2 %
Actuals 0 1.01 -75.8 %

Style Details

Name Cat. OG Range FG Range IBU SRM Carb ABV
Witbier 17 1 1.044 - 1.052 1.008 - 1.012 10 - 20 2 - 4 2.2 - 2.8 4.5 - 5.5 %


Name Amount %
Pilsen (BestMälz) 14 lbs 47.11
Wheat, Flaked 7 lbs 23.55
Wheat (BestMälz) 6 lbs 20.19
Acid Malt 1.22 lbs 4.1
Oats, Flaked 1 lbs 3.36
Sugar, Table (Sucrose) 8 oz 1.68


Name Amount Time Use Form Alpha %
Saaz 3.7 oz 60 min Boil Pellet 2.9
Summer (Summer Saaz) 3 oz 7 days Dry Hop Pellet 5.5


Name Amount Time Use Type
Phosphoric Acid 5.00 ml 60 min Mash Water Agent
Gypsum (Calcium Sulfate) 4.90 g 60 min Mash Water Agent
Calcium Chloride 4.00 g 60 min Mash Water Agent
Lemon Grass 15.00 g 5 min Boil Flavor
Coriander Seed 30.00 g 5 min Boil Spice
Orange Peel, Bitter 3.00 g 5 min Boil Spice


Name Lab Attenuation Temperature
Belgian Witbier (3944) Wyeast Labs 74% 62°F - 75°F


Step Temperature Time
Mash In 152°F 60 min
Mash Out 168°F 10 min


21.47 gallons *.85 = 18.25 gallons
Mash is 14.85 gallons *.85 = 12.62 gallons + 2.23
Spage is 6.62 gallons *.85 = 5.63 gallons + 1.0

Bottling and Blending Woxbic

Have barrel, will age beer

DIY Barrel Transfer tool from Milk the Funk Wiki

After four long years, it’s time to blend and package my first Woxbic beer.
I struggled quite a bit on the blending ratio. Too many variables to take
into account: the volume of beer I could produce to replace what goes into the
blend, the number and size of the barrels I already have, the volume to package,
and ultimately, how the blend would taste.

where did you get that shed? what have you got in your shed?

Transferring Year 1 Woxbic from barrel into a keg

In order to ensure I did have some of year 2 blend left, I needed to limit the
total volume I packaged. The result was that I was going to have quite a bit of
year 3 left over and that I’d need a new barrel to fill for going forward since
I was not also ready to package what would be left in year 3 barrel. Eventually
I settled on a 60/30/10 of Year1/Year2/Year3 ratio, similar to what Jester King
did with their recently released lambic-inspired, Méthode Gueuze beers. I
packaged approximately 10 gallons of blended beer. That works out direclty to 1
gallon of three year old, three gallons of two year and six gallons of one year.

Don't mind the fancy photos

Year 3 and Year 2 barrels transferring into keg for blending.

Year two and year one blends will remain in-barrel (without a top off) for next
year’s blend, and year 3 will have 9 gallons left to package separately. I’m
planning on blending that with some fruits for a cuvee style release as well.

For the actual transfer of the beer, I was excited to use a constructed barrel
transfer tool fashioned after the industry tools, like a Bulldog or
Rack-It-Teer, this was put together by some homebrewers on Milk-the-Funk

The transfers from barrel to keg went flawlessly. A bit of CO2 to push and the
beer flowed quickly into the keg. After collecting all of the volumes, each was
pushed via CO2 into the Chronical where it was recirculated with some bottling


Recirculating the blend in the Chronical

Bottling with the Last Straw was nice. The ergonomics of holding the Last Straw
are very nice in comparision to the Blichmann Beergun. I do wish the Last Straw
had a larger diameter for beer. It was designed for already carbonated beer, so
I can understand why the line is small. But for uncarbonated beer, it would be
nice to fill faster.

Gonna need a new table son!

The weight of the line let the bottle fit itself slowly; that was handy for a single person operation.

With the bottling complete, I now have 6 to 9 months to wait to see how the beer
changes in the bottle. I’ll post some pictures and tasting notes later this

And some fantastic beer to celebrate the occasion.


Dat Crooked Stave!

Woxbic Time


It’s Texas winter time again; well sort of.  Texas has the strangest winters;  it was 85F on December 25th, and then had a high of 28F for 3 days in early January.  Today is 72F. Despite these wild swings in temperatures, it’s time again to brew my annual Lambic-style, or Methode Gueuze, as the newly introduced mark for a process has been released alongside a huge accomplishment from Jester King when they released SPON late last year.  Note, I won’t be performing a turbid mash.  Yet.


In preparation for my first year of blending, I’m doing my largest single batch.  22 Gallons of wort to be split between a 15 gallon Rye Whiskey barrel, and a 5 gallon Whiskey barrel.  The 15 gallon barrel will get a fresh pitch of ECY 20, my favorite blend for long barrel aging lambic-style beers.  The 5 gallon will get wild yeast I captured under a peach tree from my yard.  I brewed a 1L starter a year ago which produced Belgian-like characteristics by not  much in the way of sour.  After aging for nearly 9 months, the pH dropped from 4.2 to 2.8.  Slow bugs work magic.  I just refreshed this mixed culture to pitch into the 5 gallon barrel to see how that turns out.


These two barrels are the newest in my collection and need to be parafin waxed.  Using Gulf wax in a glass bowl, heat gun set at 1000F and a thermal glove one can drip and blend hot wax on the whole barrel (outside and both heads) in about 20 to 30 minutes.  I’ve done this for all 3 of my Woxbic barrels and it’s done amazingly well at keeping any acetic character out of even the 3 year old beer which has been stored at approx 75F for the entire time.

After this brewday, the next big challenge is blending the 3, 2 and 1 year old blends, and then how to plan for next years’ blends.  I find it incredibly difficult to determine how to keep a consistent amount of 3, 2 and 1 year old lambic beer around considering the blending ratios may change.  One can always brew more each year but it becomes challenge to use up the remaining beer that’s beyond the 3 year mark.  I plan to take what I need out of the 3 year old barrel and anything that remains will get bottled as straight unblended lambic-style; sort of a Grand Cru or Cuvee.  Maybe I’ll blend with fruits as well.

Recipe Details

Batch Size Boil Time IBU SRM Est. OG Est. FG ABV
20 gal 60 min 8.7 IBUs 3.7 SRM 1.054 1.018 4.7 %
Actuals 1.046 1.01 4.7 %

Style Details

Name Cat. OG Range FG Range IBU SRM Carb ABV
Straight (Unblended) Lambic 17 D 1.04 - 1.054 1.001 - 1.01 0 - 10 3 - 7 1.8 - 2.6 5 - 6.5 %


Name Amount %
Pilsner (Weyermann) 24.306 lbs 60
Wheat (BestMälz) 14.583 lbs 36
Acidulated (Weyermann) 1.62 lbs 4


Name Amount Time Use Form Alpha %
Northern Brewer 2.46 oz 60 min Boil Leaf 3.2


Name Amount Time Use Type
Phosphoric Acid 32.40 ml 60 min Mash Water Agent
Epsom Salt (MgSO4) 2.60 g 60 min Mash Water Agent
Calcium Chloride 1.30 g 60 min Mash Water Agent
Gypsum (Calcium Sulfate) 1.30 g 60 min Mash Water Agent
Wheat Flour 5.00 oz 5 min Boil Other


Name Lab Attenuation Temperature
Bug Country (20) East Coast Yeast 70% 63°F - 75°F


Step Temperature Time
Protein Rest 122°F 30 min
Saccharification 156°F 30 min
Mash Out 168°F 10 min


After mash-out, drain all liquid into boil kettle, raise temp to 190, pump back to mash for second rinse through grain bed.

Pitching ECY20 Bugcountry in 15G barrel, 5G

Sparge acidification:
Gypsum: 1.9 Grams
Epsom Salt: 2.6 Grams
Calcium Chloride: 1.3 Grams
Phosphoric Acid: 61.9 mL

That was quick

Sun butt shadow cast on my boil

Risky boil, ~19 gallon boil in a 20 gallon pot + 6 oz of hops. Defoamer to the rescue!

The session IPA I brewed earlier this year was a resounding success.  Exactly what I wanted and the kegs floated way faster than I imagined.  I also had a chance to share some with Joe Mohrfeld.  He was very kind with his response and even gave me a few tips on tuning it even closer.  In particular, switching out the El Dorado hops for Azzacca to swing the flavors back toward a grapefruit citrus.  And of course, *more* dry-hop!  Here’s v3 now with more PHP power!

Recipe Details

Batch Size Boil Time IBU SRM Est. OG Est. FG ABV
16 gal 60 min 50.4 IBUs 3.2 SRM 1.041 1.005 4.7 %
Actuals 1.041 1.01 4.1 %

Style Details

Name Cat. OG Range FG Range IBU SRM Carb ABV
American-Style Pale Ale 50 1.044 - 1.05 1.008 - 1.014 30 - 50 6 - 14 2.2 - 2.8 4.4 - 5.4 %


Name Amount %
Organic Brewers Malt 2-Row (Briess) 20 lbs 80.81
Barley, Flaked 3 lbs 12.12
Caramel/Crystal Malt - 10L 1 lbs 4.04
Cane (Beet) Sugar 12 oz 3.03


Name Amount Time Use Form Alpha %
Calypso 1 oz 60 min First Wort Pellet 15.1
Azacca 1 oz 25 min Boil Pellet 15
Cascade 2 oz 10 min Boil Pellet 5.9
Meridian 5 oz 20 min Aroma Pellet 6.5
Cascade 3 oz 7 days Dry Hop Pellet 5.9
Meridian 3 oz 7 days Dry Hop Pellet 6.5
Azacca 2 oz 7 days Dry Hop Pellet 15
Calypso 2 oz 7 days Dry Hop Pellet 15.1


Name Amount Time Use Type
Phosphoric Acid 10% 4.70 ml 60 min Mash Water Agent
Gypsum (Calcium Sulfate) 3.30 g 60 min Mash Water Agent
Epsom Salt (MgSO4) 3.00 g 60 min Mash Water Agent
Calcium Chloride 2.20 g 60 min Mash Water Agent
Whirlfloc Tablet 3.00 Items 15 min Boil Fining
Yeast Nutrient 3.00 tsp 3 days Primary Other


Name Lab Attenuation Temperature
San Diego Super Yeast (WLP090) White Labs 80% 65°F - 68°F


Step Temperature Time
Protein Rest 131°F 20 min
Saccharification 148°F 45 min
Mash Out 168°F 10 min


Calma Muerta Attempt #1

WLP090 Recommendations:
"Make sure you make a proper sized starter, pitch cool at 65˚F then set your
regulator to 66˚F, let it rock for 3 days, then raise the temp to 70˚F for a
couple days to encourage complete attenuation and reabsorption of
fermentation byproducts. At this point, I usually crash the beer to 32˚F for
a couple days then keg per my typical method, pouring the first pint a
couple days later."
-- http://brulosophy.com/2014/10/06/is-san-diego-really-all-that-super-a-yeast-comparison/

Bottling from the Chronical

15 gallons is a lot of bottles for one person

Bottling from the conical setup including rinsing and capping equipment.

I bottled for the first time using the Chronical last night.  It was quite a bit of work; roughly as long as a brew session including clean-up time. A lot of the extra time can be eliminated after applying the fixes I’ll list below. But for now, let’s walk through the process and I’ll describe The Good, The Bad and The Ugly.

Recirculating – The Good

The first step of the evening was to dump the existing yeast that had collected at the bottom of the conical during fermentation and aging.  I picked up two 48 oz Nalgene water bottles with graduated markings.   After sanitizing them, I connected a tri-clover 1.5″ to 3/8″ barb fitting, opened up the bottle, next the dump butterfly valve.  A slow stream of yeast soup pushed out and then much faster some amount of beer.  I quickly closed the valve and had about 40 oz of yeast sludge which has gone to the fridge.  I may or may not reuse it.  That ended up being really painless.  I like the bottom dump!


Next, I needed to mix in the priming sugar (approx 13 oz of table sugar) and yeast (.5 Liter starter stepped up).  I mixed the yeast into a second Nalgene bottle, opened the top port and dumped it in.  I replaced the bottom barb tri-clover fitting with a hose to connect the bottom port to the input-side of the diaphragm pump from Morebeer.  The output side of the pump has a host connecting it to a 90 degree 1.5″ tri-clover elbow into to top of the conical.  As a pre-caution around pressure build-up, I loosened all of the lid clamps; the were over the lip of the top but not locked down.  I then opened the bottom butterfly valve and then started the pump.  This ran flawlessly for about 15 minutes, then there was some foaming and the pump lost prime and stopped.  I’ll save the explanation for the Ugly section.

Recirculating – The Bad

I had planned to do both recirculation and pressurized transfer from the conical and had purchased additional fittings to make this easier.  However, none of the vendors have exactly what is needed.  The blow-off accessory includes a built-in pressure relief valve in the 3″ fitting and then an open 17mm hole which is filled with a 1/2″ NPT to 1/2″ Barb fitting to allow you to connect a blow-off tube.  The SSBrew Tech store will sell you a 3″ fitting with a 90 degree elbow barb, but if you want to use different connections, then you really want a 3″ fitting with 1.5″ tri-clover adapter *plus* the pressure relief valve.  I didn’t end up having any pressure issues, however, I do plan on creating my own by modifying the current fittings with a small change.  Instead if having the barb on the outside, I’ll reverse it and expose the 1/2″ threads through the top and connect that to a 1/2″ FPT to 1.5″ Tri-clover adapter.  This allows me to connect any other tri-clover fittings (like a 90 degree elbow barb), but I can also put something different on it since it ends in a tri-clover fitting.

Recirculating – The Ugly (my fault)

The recipe had been dry-hopped. I put the hops into a stainless steel mesh container and let it float in the conical for about two weeks. It was still floating when I started recirculating. After about 15 minutes, it started to appear foamy in the site-glass at the bottom of the conical. Then the pump struggled for prime and stopped. It slowly filled up and I restarted the pump. Same thing happened again; I thought something must be blocking it … oh NO! Yes, the mesh had been pulled down to the bottom of the conical and was blocking the flow. With some long sanitized gloves and a stainless spoon the hops were recovered with no issue. This did not help reduce oxygen exposure though. Note to self: Remove dry-hop container before recirculating.

Bottling from the Conical – The Good

The good news is that I got things working and 5 gallons of beer ended up in 49 750mL bottles, 10 gallons into kegs. That’s about it.


Bottling from the Conical – The Bad

The biggest issue I faced was that the conical does not have any easy way to apply CO2 pressure. All of the connections are tri-clamp (save the sampling port) and the recommended way requires one to build an adapter. It would be very nice if the Chronical came with it, or SSBrewTech sold it as a kit. Most of my hair-pulling this evening was related to this as all of my gas lines have female Flare fittings for easy attachment to check-valves and ball-lock quick disconnects. The Last Straw bottling equipment I purchased to compare to my Blichmann Beergun did not come with a 3-way flare tee for splitting the CO2 gas between the filler and the source (though NB lists them as a required part). I had to build one which was rather leaky and quite a bit of CO2 was lost while in use. The liquid line from the Chronical to the where I was filling and capping was probably 12 feet. This extra length is useful for when your filling with already carbonated beer as it slows the flow down. For uncarbonated beer, this just slowed down each bottle fill. The Last Straw itself appears designed specifically for filling already carbonated beer as the diameter of the liquid tube is very small, certainly smaller than the Blichmann.

Bottling from the Conical – The Ugly (my fault)

I have a 3-way flare tee but I couldn’t find it.
I have a 1/2″ barb to ball-lock post adapter, but I couldn’t find it.

The Fix!

First, I’m building the 3″ pressure relief tri-clover adapter to 1.5″ tri-clover. From there, I can switch between elbows and other things. Second, the fancy folks at brewershardware make tri-clover to ball-lock posts, both gas and liquid which allows instant connection to any of my current kegging and bottling equipment. Third, reducing the length of line used to as short as possible since I want to maximize fill-speed for bottling uncarbonated beer. Last, I’ll likely switch to the Beergun as it has a faster flow. I’m really torn as the single-handed orientation of the Last Straw was much more comfortable than how you have to hold the BeerGun.

New parts I’m ordering (Updated 2016-10-07):