hist-brewing: oats and wheat

Jeff Renner nerenner at umich.edu
Wed Sep 9 06:58:51 PDT 1998

Al Korzonas <korz at xnet.com> wrote:
>Incidentally, I have not brewed with raw wheat yet, but Pierre Celis
>says that he uses raw wheat (rather than malt) in his Wit because the
>flavour is different.  Wheat malt would give the Wit a different
>flavour than raw wheat.  I therefore, think that, in the interest of
>historical accuracy, it would be very important to determine if the
>author of the recipe indeed meant raw or malted grains

And all wheat is not created equal.  Broadly, there is soft and hard wheat.
Soft wheat has weaker gluten and is softer and easier to mill.  It also is
typically lower in protein than hard, 9-10% vs. 12-14%.  Some wheat
varieties are planted in the spring and harvested in the fall (spring
wheat) or planted in the fall and harvested in the summer (winter wheat).
Spring wheats are generally grown in colder, drier areas and tend to have
higher protein levels and stronger gluten than winter varieties.
Furthermore, the bran can be red or white (not the husk, which wheat does
not have as a naked grain).  A single gene controls both color and the
level of tannin and phenolics in the bran. White wheat is lower in both of
these bitter compounds than red.  I like the softness this seems to give to

Pierre Celis brewed with the local soft (white, I think) winter wheat in
Belgium, but uses the local hard red winter wheat in Texas.  I prefer soft,
white winter wheat over hard red for wit beers.  I would chose soft red
winter wheat as a second choice for the protein characteristics.
Fortunately, Michigan is one of the top producers of soft, white, winter
wheat, as is NY.  Indiana, Illinois and Wisconsin also grow it.  A bit is
grown in the Pacific NW on contract for local maltsters, which should tell
you something about its brewing desirability.

The flavor difference between raw and malted grains that Al points out is
the reason that I chose to malt oats for my upcoming Domesday Ale.  The
smell alone of the malted oats would convince anyone of this, especially
important when oats will be making up 1/3 - 1/2 of the grain bill.

bjm10 at cornell.edu wrote:

>Raw wheat is also a vital component of lambic (says the man who has had a
>net bag of hops hanging up exposed in his kitchen for nearly a year...)

I suspect that Ithaca is in NY's soft white winter wheat growing area, so
it ought to be easy for you to get that best choice to go with your aged
hops.  I'd suggest the local food coop.


Jeff Renner in Ann Arbor, Michigan c/o nerenner at umich.edu
"One never knows, do one?"  Fats Waller, American Musician, 1904-1943. 

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