Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Berliner Weiss

I've got another sour beer going, a Berliner Weiss. Wyeast has a limited edition Berliner Weiss blend out from January until March 2008. After the great results I got from the Roeselare Blend (FYI its supposed to be re-released this April) in my Flanders Red I decided to give this one a try. 3191 Berliner Weiss is a mix of lactobacillus, Saccharomyces, and a "special" Brett strain as well. The Brett is rumored to come from a Berliner Weiss brewery that has recently gone bankrupt, not sure what brewery or how the Brett strain compares to the other commercially available strains, but how could I resist?

The hops and alcohol are kept low to keep the sensitive lacto happy and putting out acid, unlike Pediococcus lacto will not do an effective job souring a beer after primary fermentation. Even in optimal conditions, lacto will be inhibited by its own acids at only 50% the level that pedio can live in (meaning that lacto on its own will never make a beer as sour as a Lambic).

The kink in my recipe was to add the hops to the mash and preform a decoction to get from the protein rest to the saccharification rest. At least that was the plan, but my decoction didn't raise the temperature enough so I had to resort to adding more hot water. After the sparge I heated the wort until it just barely came to a boil, then chilled it and pitched the blend. Without a boil remember that your efficiency will take a tumble because you can't collect extra wort to concentrate down in the boil.

The number of IBUs mash hops are purported give a beer varies widely between the different hop utilization formulas, but I doubt any accurately account for mash hops that go through a decoction, but no wort boil. It is safe to say that this beer is low in bitterness, 4 or 5 IBUs wouldn't surprise me.

So far I am underwhelmed by the sourness of the beer which should be bright and firmly acidic. I have my doubts about the blend, many people suggest adding the lacto a day or so before the Saccharomyces because the lacto likes simple sugars (which Saccharomyces also likes to eat first) and low alcohol, but this blend is so easy (and cheap compared to buying multiple strains) that it was hard to resit.

The picture to the right is a time lapse, one photo taken every 12 hours for the first 7 days of fermentation (starting 12 hours after I pitched). Nothing particularly exciting, but you can see the krasusen grow, stay in high krausen, then begin to fall.

It will be a few months before this beer is finished, but i thought I would put my recipe and notes up since the yeast/bacteria blend is only available for another 6 weeks or so.

No -Boil Berliner Weiss

Recipe Specifics
Batch Size (Gal): 3.50
Total Grain (Lbs): 5.00
Anticipated OG: 1.032
Anticipated SRM: 2.4
Anticipated IBU: 0.5 (No idea how accurate this is)
Brewhouse Efficiency: 59 %
Wort Boil Time: 1 Minutes

3.50 lbs. Pilsener
1.50 lbs. Wheat Malt

0.50 oz. Willamette

WYeast 3191 Berliner-Weisse

Water Profile
Profile: Pale, Low Hop

Calcium(Ca): 65.0 ppm
Magnesium(Mg): 7.5 ppm
Sodium(Na): 15.0 ppm
Sulfate(SO4): 50.0 ppm
Chloride(Cl): 96.0 ppm
biCarbonate(HCO3): 23.0 ppm

pH: 8.25

Mash Schedule
10 min @ 123 Infuse
10 min @ 136 Decoc (Thick 2 qrts)
45 min @ 146 Infuse
20 min @ 154 Infuse

Brewed 1/19/08 with James

Water was 50/50 DC Tap and Distilled water

Added hops to the mash right after dough in. Both malts were from Weyermann.

Pulled a thick decoction 5 minutes after the protein rest started. Brought up to a boil in 10 minutes, then held there for about 12 more.

Batch sparged to collect about 3.5 gallons. Brought to a boil, skimmed, then immediately chilled down to 70. Shook to aerate then pitched a pack of the Berliner Weisse blend, and left it at 70ish

Decent Krausen by 12 hours.

1/27/08 Krausen mostly down, the gravity is down to 1.005. Not much sourness.

1/29/08 Transfered to 3 gallon glass secondary, got just about 3 gallons.

2/11/08 Pulled a sample, gravity still reads 1.005. Still light on the lactic, but increased from last time. Some odd fruitiness as well, hopefully this one will improve with some age.

3/12/08 Finally getting more sourness, another few months and it should be ready to go.

4/16/08 Seems to be getting more sour, pH paper reads below 4.0 (which really isn't that low for a sour beer).

4/19/08 Bottled with 3.5 oz of table sugar. Aiming for around 3.2 volumes of CO2, I'd go higher but I'm concerned about the bottles handling it. The airlock went dry at some point recently, it had water a week previously.

4/25/08 Already pretty good carbonation.

5/10/08 Awarded first in its category at the 2008 Spirit of Free Beer.

5/12/08 Tasted as part of the Alternative Hopping Basic Brewing Radio Episode.

5/27/08 First Tasting, plain, with commercial raspberry, woodruff, and homemade blueberry syrup

8/24/08 Second Tasting, just plain.

7/8/09 Second Berliner Weiss Brew


Kevin C said...

I wouldn't worry about not getting enough sourness from you Berliner Weisse. Mine took about 3 months before it was at a level I liked.

I didn't use the blend, but I used a 1338 Euro Ale, and a packet of Lactobacillus...both pitched at the same time.

It turned out very nice, and after a few months I threw in a can of peach puree.

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

Good to hear! I was concerned that now with some alcohol the lacto wouldn’t be able to produce much sourness.

What sort of temperature did you leave the beer at to age/sour. I know lacto likes it on the warm side so I just have mine out at room temp. Any idea how much more your gravity dropped after the initial fermentation?

Kevin C said...

My notes say I fermented at 67 F for a week or two, and then I took it out of my chest freezer and let it sit in my living room (maintains a pretty constant 65 F or so).

I didn't notice much gravity drop at all after a week or two. OG was 1.040, and after about two weeks it went down to 1.005. It dropped down to 1.003 when I kegged it.

I wouldn't be concerned too much with the lacto not producing enough sourness in the presence of alcohol. I bet it got off to a good start while the yeast in the blend was "lagging."

I'm excited to hear how this one develops, especially what the Brett brings to the table. Keep us posted!

Anonymous said...

How's yours coming? I could no longer post on the BA thread,, because it's been too long...I'm thinking I will take a reading and re-rack pretty soon. There's about an inch and half of stuff at the bottom of my carboy.

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

I've got less trub in the secondary than you, probably just 1/2 inch. I'll probably give it another month and then bottle it, that will be about 3 months in secondary.

I heard about a store in DC that sells the traditional syrups, so I figure I'll go and pick up bottles of the raspberry and woodruff at some point soon. I've heard they essentially turn the beer into an alcopop, but I've never tried them and I figure they are worth having around for people who aren't big beer fans.

Anonymous said...

So I just took a reading and got 1.009 at room temp, so about 1.0095 with the adjustment.
I thought it'd be lower by now, but I'm also new at again, I appreciate your input...I wouldn't mind bottling soon.

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

That is surprising. My only theory is that the acid malt combined with a relatively cool and short mash caused an incomplete conversion of the starches. How does the beer look? Is there activity going on? Is it cloudy? How does it taste? Any word on how other people’s portions are going?

I would hold off bottling, at just over 70% attenuation I bet it will keep dropping. The Brett in the blend will keep working through the dextrins for some time and could lead to over-carbonation.

Good luck, keep me in the loop on this one.

Anonymous said...

Chiming in w/ another batch of B. Weisse done with the 3191. After being in seconary for a month it finally developed bacterial colonies on top and then about 2 weeks later it started bubbling again. I haven't tasted it recently.

Brian said...

Hi Mike,

Any chance you could post an updated tasting from your Berliner Weisse? I've recently starting becoming very interested in this style and would love to hear how yours has developed. In fact I'm thinking that I will have to brew one myself (pending finding the Wyeast blend that is).


The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

No problem, I'm making some provolone at the moment (first batch of cheese), so I've got some time. Haven't had one in awhile so I'll chill down a bottle and give it a proper review later tonight.

AaronK said...

I've attempted two Berliner Weisse style beers, both with a soured mash instead of bugs in the fermenter. One was cultured with raw grain and left overnight, the other was raw grain + yogurt. The yogurt one was better, next time I am going to step up a culture of the yogurt bugs and skip the raw grain.

After sitting overnight, the mash is bubbly and sour. Then you strain out the grain, boil, add a dash of hops, and ferment as normal. The yeast does have a less than fun time in the low pH, but it gets the job done.

R.J. said...

Hi Mike,

I have a berliner I brewed with the Wyeast blend (plus the dregs from a few Jolly Pumpkin beers) on Nov. 21st, 2001. That makes it just a little over 3 months old. The gravity has been at 1.005 for almost 2 months.

I am wondering if it should be safe to bottle as it seems stable or if I should wait another month to be sure. This is my first sour beer so I have no experience to go off of.

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

It is probably about done, but I'd give it another month, then check the gravity again just to make sure it hasn't dropped any further. It does't take much of a drop to over carbonate a beer, especially a style that you are already aiming for high carbonation.

Sounds like a good combo of bugs, should be an excellent Berliner.

B.Eckert said...

Mike - did you add any additional yeast at bottling? I'm about to bottle my 9 month old Berliner and am wondering if I should do that. If so, what type of yeast do you recommend?

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

I haven't re-yeasted Berliners but I also generally bottle them a bit younger than that. I'd think a healthy culture of any ale yeast would be good insurance. The safest bet is usually the strain you used for primary fermentation. For more complex sour beers I often use wine yeast since it is alcohol/acid tolerant, but that probably isn’t necessary here. Good luck.

Chris George said...

Anyone ever thought of adding Ribena (black currant concentrate) to Berliner Weisse? In the glass of course? I think I'm going to give it a shot!

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

With the low risk of a single glass of beer, certainly seems worth a try! Start with a small amount, you can always add more.

John said...

since lacto likes the simple sugars, have you thought of adding some table sugar (or simple syrup) to the fermenter to give it very simple sugars to go crazy on initially?

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

It all depends on the strain of Lacto you are using. The strain sold by White Labs, for example, can ferment maltose and even larger carbohydrates, so it wouldn't be necessary. Of course even pitched alone I haven't gotten much acidity from it in my most recent batch.

If you are using a strain incapable of consuming complex sugars, adding some corn sugar (dextrose) would be the best option. However, if there is yeast in there it tends to go after the simplest sugars first.

Brooke said...

Hey Mike,

So, I've inoculated a batch with raw grain (pilsner/wheat) after a 1 minute boil and low alpha hopping. It now smells distinctly of sulfur and/or diaper. Should I be concerned that a foreign microbe or yeast has infected it or is this likely part of the process?

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

I tend to avoid this sort of fermentation because there is no easy way to tell what microbe is at work. Did you just pitch grain, no yeast? How are you keeping air from contacting the beer? Did you flush with CO2? What temperature did you inoculate at?

Brooke said...

From your questions, I gather that it would have been wiser to at least force out the air from the fermenter... I'm afraid I have either an airborn or grain-derived beast on my hands. Right now it is pleasantly tart and tastes fine, but that smell is ungodly. I had previously used a similar method, but had thrown a hefty dose of aciduated malt in the mash and kept it warm to let the lacto get going and then pitched the WP Berliner Weiss blend... that one is now incredibly sour... I wanted something more mild. I think next time I may pitch some sacch cold then some whey from a yogurt that I like at the same time. I'll let you know how this one turns out... unless it kills me in my sleep.

Unknown said...

Hi, I am planning a Berliner Weiss and was just wondering should I use wheat malt or plain wheat, or a combination of both? Even though I live in UK and have been to Germany a few times, I have never tasted a Berliner. So, it's a bit hard for me to work out which way to go. I am lead to understand that the 'bread like' character comes from raw wheat but I could just as easily be completely wrong. What I am really after I guess is an authentic Berliner recipe to have a base where I can start juggling with it. Cheers.