Cherry Witbier

Cherry Witbier

(5 gallons/19 L, partial mash)
OG = 1.043  FG = 1.010
IBU = 11  SRM = 4  ABV = 4.4%

3.3 lbs. (1.5 kg) unhopped wheat liquid malt extract
1 lb. (0.45 kg) unhopped extra-light dried malt extract
1 lb. (0.45 kg) pale malt
0.5 lb. (227 g) Carapils malt
1/3 lb. (151 g) flaked wheat
1/3 lb. (151 g) flaked barley
1/3 lb. (151 g) flaked oats
2 AAU Saaz hop pellets (45 min.) (0.5 oz./14 g at 4% alpha acids)
2 AAU Saaz hop pellets (15 min.) (0.5 oz./14 g at 4% alpha acids)
Belgian witbier yeast culture (such as Wyeast 3944)
2 lbs. (0.91 kg) sweet cherries, pureed
7/8 cup corn sugar (if priming)

Step by Step
In 3 gals. (11 L) cold water, steep, pale malt, wheat, barley, oats, and Carapils. Slowly raise gradually to about 170 °F (77 °C) and remove grains. Wash grains with 1 gallon (4 L) hot water. Add extracts to kettle. Bring to a boil, add first hop addition. Boil 30 minutes, add second round of hops, then boil 15 more minutes. Remove from heat and cool. Top off in primary fermenter to 5.25 gals. (20 L) and, when cooled to 70 °F (21 °C) or so, pitch yeast.

Ferment at 65 °F (18 °C) for seven to 10 days, then rack onto cherries in your secondary fermenter. Condition on fruit 10 to 14 days then bottle, priming with corn sugar or keg and force carbonate. Cherry extract or liqueur can be used at packaging if more cherry flavor is desired.

Alternatives and Notes
All-grain brewers should mash 4 lbs. (1.8 kg) wheat malt and an additional 3 lbs. (1.4 kg) pale malt, in place of the extract. Mash in 12 qts. (11.4 L) of water at 151 to 153 °F (66 to 67 °C) for 90 minutes. Sparge with 4.25 gallons (16 L) at 170 °F (77 °C). Follow the recipe, except boil long enough to reduce to 5.25 gals (20 L).

Yeast: This is a brew that requires a special yeast. The Wyeast 3944 or White Labs WLP400 are both ideal. I also like to try to use recultured “classic” yeasts, such as Hoegaarden and Blanche de Bruges, whenever possible. I don’t recommend using dry yeast, but Safale T-58 could be used if in a pinch.

Fruit: Naturally, the whole idea here is that you can tailor any recipe to your own tastes, so please don’t feel limited to cherries. Raspberries, strawberries, mangos, peaches, anything you like might work well. The method I’ve outlined here and elsewhere for using fresh fruit is the best for my brewing system. Other possibilities include steeping the fruit in the cooling wort for 15 minutes or so and then putting the fruit (in a mesh bag) into the primary; adding fruit juice or flavoring essence to the secondary; and adding fruit essence with priming sugar, or a fruit-flavored liqueur instead of priming sugar, when you bottle.

Spices: The “original” witbiers have a combination of fruit (bitter orange) and spices, usually coriander. My recipe above does not call for spices, but it could. What spices go well with cherries? They’d probably need to be of the pungent/peppery variety, such as cardamom, black pepper, or grains of paradise. Try what you like.

Issue: May 1997

Add a nice twist to a classic witbier recipe by adding a fruit like cherries instead of orange peel. This recipe is a great starting place to build your own unique witbier recipe.