Berliner weisse is the only beer style that is rarely served without augmentation in the glass. In Germany it is considered strange to drink it without a dose of sugary neon-colored syrup. I love to drink it straight, but its mild wheaty flavor and bright lactic acidity make a wonderful backdrop for bold fruit (as so many breweries in Florida have discovered)! Without raspberry, woodruff, or passionfruit Berliner weisse is usually compared to lemonade, so why not add actual lemons?
The wort for this batch was second runnings from a saison flavored with wine and hops both from New Zealand. Despite that, the brewing process was pretty much my standard for a Berliner weisse, mashed with a hopped decoction, with wort subsequently heated nearly to a boil to sanitize, but not actually boiled.
I’ve been disappointed by the acidity imparted by commercial Lactobacillus in previous batches. Luckily both Wyeast and White Labs recently released more aggressive Lactobacillus brevis cultures. At a pH above 4.5 an enzyme produced by Lactobacillus denatures the proteins responsible for head retention. To combat this, I added refined lactic acid to lower the pH of the wort prior to fermentation. I’m looking for a finished pH below 3.5, so the refined lactic acid will represent less than 10% of the total acidity.
A big starter of Wyeast L. brevis ensured a quick start to fermentation. This is important because Lacto needs carbohydrates to produce lactic acid. I pitched US-05 without rehydration after I saw some good activity from the Lacto. I didn’t want to risk waiting too long because a low pH can disrupt the ale yeast's fermentation. That night I drank a bottle of Boulevard's Saison Brett (generously sent by James Spencer) and added the dregs from it to the fermentor as well.
After two months, with fermentation finished as indicated by a stable gravity of 1.002, I added strips of zest harvested from three lemons with a vegetable peeler. My goal was to impart a brightness to the aroma, without turning the beer into furniture polish (24 hours seemed to be plenty of time). For many previous citrus-peel infused batches I've turned to a Microplane grater. Last summer while I was working at Modern Times I was amazed by how much citrus aroma we achieved in a "Five-Alive" version of Fortunate Islands using a vegetable peeler (maybe because it gets a bit deeper into the skin?). I still try to leave most of the bitter white pith behind, but invariably a small amount is taken with the colorful zest.
For half of that batch that was all the lemon it received. Once I was left with two gallons in the bottling bucket I pulled a sample for a quick taste test. I decided to reinforce the remainder with 25 g of True Lemon (ingredients: citric acid, lemon oil, lemon juice, vitamin C, and maltodextrin). I've been experimenting with adding it to beers by the glass for a few months (along with the Lime and Grapefruit variants). They are very easy to overdo, but in the right combination they are actually pretty convincing.
Batch Size (Gal): 5.00
Total Grain (Lbs): 16.50
Anticipated OG: 1.030
Anticipated SRM: 2.4
Anticipated IBU: 2.3
Brewhouse Efficiency: 77% (with parti-gyle)
Wort Boil Time: 0 Minutes
66.7% - 11.00 lbs. Rahr Pilsener
33.3% - 5.50 lbs. Wheat Malt
1.38 oz. Czech Saaz (Pellet, 2.70% AA) Mash Hop
Zest from 3 Lemons in Fermentor
Wyeast L5223-PC Lactobacillus brevis
Safale US-05 American Ale Yeast
Boulevard Saison Brett Dregs
Profile: Washington, DC
Sacch Rest - 90 min @ 148F
Sacch Rest #2 - 15 min @ 155F (Decoction)
7/26/14 Made a 1L starter (50 g DME, nutrient, chilled to 112F, put on stirplate on low) with Wyeast L. brevis (two weeks from manufacture). Strong activity by the next morning, already a bit tart.
Added 3 g of CaCl and 1 tsp of 10% phosphoric acid to the mash (along with a couple handfuls of rice hulls. Decoction didn't raise the temperature as much as I expected. Same treatment for the 170 F sparge water.
Partigyle batch sparge.
Swapped wort back and forth to achieve 7.25 gallons @ 1.052, and 5.5 gallons at 1.034.
Lemon Berliner - Brought just to a boil, added yeast nutrient, chilled to 85F, added 7.5 g of 88% lactic acid (aiming for 4.5 pH), pitched Lacto, left at 65F to ferment. OG 1.030. L. brevis and Saison Brett dregs for the first 24 hours - activity by 12 hours, then US-05 (11 g, not rehydrated) (down to 1.024 already).
Sitting at ~75F ambient after two-three days to ensure complete fermentation.
9/27/14 Down to 1.002, added strips of zest from three lemons (still in primary fermentor).
9/28/14 Bottled 4.75 gallons with 5 5/8 oz of tablet sugar. After more than half was in bottles, added 25 g of True Lemon to the remaining 2.1 gallons
9/17/15 Tasting notes for both versions. The zest alone was far and away my preference. The True Lemon gave a Country Time Lemonade flavor that dominated.