Wednesday, July 8, 2009

(Cabernet) Berliner Weiss

After how well my first batch of Berliner Weiss came out, it was only a matter of time before I brewed another one. This time I upped the volume to a full 5 gallon batch because I polished off the first batch far too soon, but other than that I kept the wort production (decoction, mash hopping, minimal-boil) the same.

The only major change I made to the base beer was the yeast/bacteria. The first time I used the great Wyeast Berliner Weiss Blend, but it has not been re-released since. So this time I used some slurry from my buddy Dan (who does the City Brewer blog), he used Wyeast Lacto and some US-05. I also added some Brett L (also from Dan), and the dregs from a bottle of Cantillon for some complexity (the beer got to 1.002 pretty quickly so I doubt the added funk will do much).

After making my own blueberry syrup last year (I liked the fruit flavor, but not the sweetness) I wanted to add some fruit to the beer during fermentation. I was inspired by a glass of Cabernet Sauvignon lambic that my friend Brian made (which incidentally took gold in the NHC East Regionals this year). So I took half the batch and added 34.5 oz of Cabernet grape juice after primary fermentation. Actual grapes would have been even better (that is how the lambic was made), but they aren't in season at the moment. The juice was from concentrate (picked up at the supermarket), but the flavor seems to be pretty good from the samples I have pulled (and the color in the glass is not nearly as shocking as the photo).

I am hoping to bottle soon since this will be the perfect beer for a DC summer that is just starting to burn.

Battle of France (Cabernet Berliner Weiss)

Recipe Specifics (All-Grain)
Batch Size (Gal): 5.00
Total Grain (Lbs): 7.50
Anticipated OG: 1.033
Anticipated SRM: 2.6
Anticipated IBU: 0.5
Brewhouse Efficiency: 58 %
Wort Boil Time: 3 Minutes

4.50 lbs. German Pilsener
3.00 lbs. German Wheat Malt

1.00 oz. Hallertau Hersbrucker @ Mash Hop

Safale US 05 Chico and Wyeast 5335 Lacto slurry

Water Profile
Profile: Washington DC

Mash Schedule
Pulled the decoction after 5 minutes at the Protein rest. Added hops to the decoction. ~10 min to get up to 155. Left there for 15 min. Boiled 10 minutes. Added back to the mash got up to 140. After 10 min added 1qrt of hot water to get up to 145, should have pulled a bigger decoction.

Brewed 5/24/09 by myself

DC tap water, carbon filtered.

Slow, cloudy runoff. Batch sparged. Collected 5.5 gallons of 1.033 wort.

Brought to a boil for ~3 minutes, skimming. Chilled to 80, pitched a thin 10 oz of slurry of lacto and yeast from Dan (US-05 and commercial Lacto). I also added some Brett L dregs from Dan. Put into my chest freezer @ 65 degrees.

Some fermentation evident around 18 hours.

5/26/09 Added the dregs of a bottle of Cantillon Vigneronne.

5/31/09 Super cloudy still, looks like particulate. Fermentation seems to be wrapping up, mild sourness, pretty clean.

6/07/09 Took out of the fridge to encourage fermentation/funk to get moving.

6/16/09 Racked to secondary gravity down ~1.002. Half racked onto three 11.5 oz bottles of First Blush Cabernet Juice. Nice tartness. It took a couple days to see the see renewed fermentation from the juice. Left at summer DC room temp.

8/9/09 Bottled both halves with 2.75 oz of table sugar each. Aiming for 3.5 volumes of CO2.

12/01/09 First tasting of both halves, both are doing well but need a few more months to mature.

4/28/10 Took first place in the Sour Ales category in the East Region of the 2010 NHC, scoring a 40.5.


Aaron said...

Dogfish Head is selling a Peach Berliner Weisse this summer. I am super excited to try and find some. Do you think a wild culture would turn out a decent sour? I think I might have one that is free of mold.

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

Festina Peche has been pretty hit or miss for me, some times it tastes light/tart/refreshing, but others it is sort of dull/muddled. I'm not sure how they get their sourness (lactic acid or bacteria), does anyone know?

Do you mean a true wild culture, or something like Wyeast Lambic blend? If you mean a real wild, watch out as the hopping is so low that it isn't going to be protected like a lambic.

BarlowBrewing said...

Very interesting. I made a Berliner Weiss last year with Cal ale and lacto delbrueckii, and it turned out great. I split the 5g batch and bottled half as a straight BW and let the rest sit on sour cherries for a few months. The cherried half added some sweetness which did not ferment out, which made it more neutral in the sourness, and I didn’t like it quite as much.

But I’m still thinking about it and your post offers me some inspiration. I’m thinking about the same recipe, and split, with a red wine grape concentrate now. Thanks.

Aaron said...

True wild culture; I left a jug of wort out overnight and got some yeast (well, once I got yeast). Would 10 IBU be a good level to shoot for? Maybe 15...

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

I have no experience with ambient beer fermentation, but to me it seems more suited to a lambic than a Berliner Weiss. BW are generally very clean lacto/sacch and only occasionally have just a hint of funk for complexity.

If/when I try an ambient fermentation I would use loads of aged hops (for microbial control), do it during a cool part of the year (when there are less aggressive bacteria around), age it for a long time (to give it a chance to fully develop).

With fresh hops I think it would be hard to give a ~1.030 beer enough hops to protect it without making it too bitter.

If you give it a try, let me know how it turns out. Good luck.

Jeff said...

I made my first Berliner this year and I think it came out really nice. I am about to carbonate it and start serving it as it is just starting to warm up here in San Diego. I think that next year I will brew this beer again and add apricots to part of it. I think those flavors will really blend well. But your idea is nice as well, what about a white wine juice concentrate? Something to ponder.

Aaron said...

I took my yeasty lees from the overnight culture (daytime got yeast plus mold) and tossed them into a gallon of 1.050 wort with about 15 IBUs. Won't be a Weisse at all, but it will be something. Think I'll stick to sour mash etc. to do my sours for now.

Aaron said...

Just thought I'd update you on my wild yeast batch. So far, only about 50% attenuation, and I might pitch some commercial yeast to finish it off. Flavor is slightly sour with apple spice notes. The sour is kind of half way between a Berliner Weisse and a more funky beer. Very interesting beer, and a fun experiment.

Joshua Boelter said...

I brewed a version of this in Nov 2010 using the 3191 yeast/bug blend and (with the addition of cherry juice in the secondary) it placed 3rd in NHC'12 (Atlanta) in category 20. I aged it for nearly a year to get the Brett to express itself -- it's still not very sour, but respectable.

Joshua Boelter said...

...and thank you for the recipe and guidance!

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...


Berliner weisse is one of the only styles where I think building up the bugs separately is close to a requirement. I’ve had much better luck when I pitch an active culture of Lacto rather than when I used the Wyeast blend. You won’t get much Brett character in such a low gravity beer, especially with a cool mash temp. If you want more Brett character, I would mash hotter. Personally I like just a funky edge to my Berliners.

Suwannee Refugee said...

Hey MF, I know I'm kind of late to the party but thinking about doing a 10g batch this weekend. How did you figure out your OG since you didn't boil? Most of the most programs take into consideration that you'll boil your wort.

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

Are you asking how to determine your efficiency (which would allow you to predict the OG)? Determining the actual OG is the same as usual, take a hydrometer or refractometer reading. Prediction will take some knowledge of your system on your part. It is a very low gravity beer, so you will actually be using a similar water/grain ratio overall (mash+sparge) to what you'd use for a somewhat stronger beer, still I lost ~10% from my standard efficiency for this batch. I'd rather underestimate my efficiency and then dilute with water, rather than come up short.

Botkin said...

Hi MF,
I am willing to try this recipe myself. I have a question. I do not brew too often and I have got a pack of flaked wheat that is going to expire soon, so I was wondering if there would be problems adding a part of it to the batch. Would it give to much body for the style?
My plan is to go with WY1007 or WY1056 together with lacto buchneri and dregs from some cantillon.
An other question, do you think going with a single infusion has a great difference compared to decoction?
Thanks, really appreciate your work!

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

Flaked wheat should be fine!

I'm not a big fan of Buchneri (Wyeast) if you want a pH lower than ~3.5-3.6. I've moved to mostly L. brevis and L. plantarum (Omega Lacto Blend).

Especially for a beer with this much going on, I don't think a decoction is needed.

Best of luck, let me know how it turns out!

Botkin said...

Hi Mike,
I brewed my batch more than two months ago. Now it is sitting in my garage (23C, 74F) with some sporadic airlock bubble and SG of 1.003. Do you think I should wait two months of stable gravity before bottling? I see you did not wait so much, even using brettanomyces, for this batch. After acidifying with WY1056 I fermented with WY 1007 and dregs from two Cantillon. A pellicle developed and went away in some weeks. I took a sample and taste a nice but light tartness with no off-flavors. Any suggestion on how much I should wait?
Thanks a lot!

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

Glad to hear it is tasting good!

Fermentation of .001 generates .5 volumes of CO2. Just depends how long you want to cellar it for, but it doesn't take much of a drop to create excessive carbonation. Likely safe now if you taste it regularly and are ready to get it cold if it starts to get too spritzy. Safer to wait a month and check the gravity again (with dregs different microbes may take time to really start working).

On a commercial scale we'll go into kegs after a few weeks without priming sugar and let them sit warm. Then we can always add or vent-off CO2 if it needs it before serving.

Botkin said...

Thanks for the great info, Mike!
I want to highlight that I made a mistake in my previous post. Obviously I did not acidify with WY1056, but with WY5335.
Unfortunately I am not able to keg yet. I'll wait some time, hope it will be worth the wait!