Thursday, May 9, 2013

Hibiscus Wit Tasting

A glass of Hibiscus Wit on a sunny day!Always fun to get three different beers from a single brew day. I took a batch of Belgian wit, bottled some straight-up, kegged half after dry hopping with Galaxy, and infused the rest with hibiscus. Guess which one I’m drinking today?

Hibiscus Wit

Appearance – Neon-cherry-red body (almost glowing), with a modest white head. A couple months in the fridge before going on tap left it clearer than I intended, but it’s hard to complain too much about such a vibrant appearance!

Smell – The smell retains much of the base “wit” character, with orange zest leading the way. Citrus is followed by a combination of yeast spice, cranberries, and fruity coriander. The aromatics are well blended and balanced, making it difficult to precisely distinguish the yeast character from the spices.

Taste – The hibiscus lends a pleasant tartness to the finish, very refreshing. The flavor is fruitier than the nose, citrus and restrained tropical fruit. It might taste like a soda, but the sweetness is minimal and it comes with a slightly bready maltiness. Bitterness is all but non-existent. Otherwise a clean fermentation (I heard that the portion that Jacob and I bottled went funky... I'm ready to give up on the counter-pressure filler, too difficult to sanitize completely)!

Mouthfeel – Moderate body, seems slightly fuller than the dry hopped portion. Maybe the acidity? There is a hint of astringency, not sure where that is coming from. Carbonation could be slightly more prickly.

Drinkability & Notes – Close to a perfect summertime beer for me: tart, dry, lively, and complex. It is always a good sign when I finish my first pour before I’m done reviewing. Sadly with the way Audrey and I have been hitting this tap since I put it on, it probably won’t last into the real heat of the summer. Hopefully a variation on this recipe will be brewed on the big system at Modern Times eventually (which may not be that far off)!


  1. Thanks for the review! I tried a sweet drink made with hibiscus many years back and it was fantastic. It was sort of like fruit punch but without a big citric acid bite.

    I'm not a huge witbier fan, but I've recently become a big fan of WY3711 and I bet hibiscus would be killer in a saison.

  2. How much hibiscus in your "tea" did you add to this batch?

  3. I started out adding half of the tea (3 oz of hibiscus in 3 cups of water), but ended up adding just about the entire thing to get the color/flavor I wanted.

    For process reasons when/if we brew this at Modern Times we'll probably do a flame-out addition. It is good to get the amount dialed in with a tea first though.

  4. Dieu Du Ciel! in Montreal makes a great hibiscus Wit called rosee de hibiscus. Looks like pink grapefruit juice.

  5. You may be able to ask 2nd Shift Brewing how they add their hibiscus for their Hibiscus Wit.

  6. Were you using fresh or dry hibiscus flowers? Also, are all hibiscus flowers created equal? Just wondering if you know if certain varieties were better than others or not. Thanks!

  7. They were dried hibiscus. I'd suggest smelling any ingredient you are going to add to your beer. You could even make teas with each if you had several to evaluate.

  8. FYI - I recently brewed a test batch of Hibiscus Saison with WY3711, and I'm kicking myself for not brewing a bigger batch.

    I used 2/3 of an ounce of dried hibiscus in one gallon of my house table saison recipe. It was in secondary for about 2 weeks (wanted to bottle it sooner, but life got in the way). My end result was deep pink, as opposed to cherry red.

    Flavor was spot-on. It really matched the dry, spicy white wine character of the 3711 quite well. next time I might try using a bit more to see if I can amp up the color without overpowering the flavor.

    You can find good-quality dried hibiscus pretty easily online. I got a pound from a seller on Amazon.

  9. I think the astringent flavor you're getting comes from brewing the hibiscus tea with water that is too hot. I'm currently in the process of making one except I am going to cold brew the tea and dry hop it with nelson sauvin.

  10. I'm thinking of using a hibiscus addition of about the same size in 5 gallons of an American wheat (or a three way rye/wheat/2-row blend). My base beer will be a lot cleaner than a wit, with just a bittering charge and maybe a small late noble hop addition. Do you think using 3 oz hibiscus/3 cups of water would be a good fit, or do you think it might overpower? Thanks!

  11. It is always best to add teas and tinctures to taste. No reason to guess! Make the tea and dose into a sample to get the ratio right, and then scale up to flavor the whole batch. Best of luck!

  12. Hello, old thread but I just came across this and am thinking of brewing it. Was wondering if you thought the sweetness of this was ok considering the fact that a Saison yeast was used. Was it too dry? Would an addition of crystal malt improve the flavour by balancing the tartness of the hibiscus?

  13. You certainly could add a light crystal or honey malt, but I don't think it needed it. One of the nice things about French Saison is that it leaves a nice body despite the low final gravity. Best of luck!