Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Berliner Weisse #4 Tasting

I brewed my fourth batch of Berliner Weisse spring 2012. The twist for this iteration was that I skipped my usual single decoction mash (to see how the method might perform if I were forced to brew it on a commercial system incapable of decoctions). I’m well aware that decoctions repeatedly fail to impress in blind tastings (e.g., Decoction: Worth the Effort in Zymurgy Nov/Dec 2014), but psychological or otherwise I tend to enjoy decocted batches more than similar infusion-mashed batches. Sour beers are notoriously tricky to run experiments for, because even two batches with the same process and microbes can come out pretty different. So don't read too much into the results for this batch!

Other than the mash alteration, my process was the same as my previous batches: mash hops, no boil, and a mixture of clean ale yeast, Lactobacillus, and Brettanomyces. The other half of this batch was fermented with nothing but Lactobacillus. This is actually my forth tasting involving portions of this brew day! This half worked very well with rhubarb.

Floor Berliner.Berliner Weisse 4 – “No Decoction”

Appearance – The frothy white head recedes quickly, leaving only a wispy covering. Crystal clear blonde body (despite the 0 minute boil and lots of wheat malt). Certainly looks like a real Berliner weisse.

Smell – Green apple, dusty Brett, and light pilsner malt. Funkier than a Berliner weisse typically is, but about where I like them. However, it’s a bit stodgy, musty, and not as alive as it could be. I'd hoped the Brett Trois would bring the citrus a bit more.

Taste – Bright lactic tartness, but not sharply acidic. Slight doughiness in the finish, luckily no Cheerios-cereal. No alcohol or hops. Two-and-a-half years old and sadly tasting like twice that. It lacks a freshness and vibrancy that a sour beer should still have at this age.

Mouthfeel – Thin, mildly spritzy, plenty crisp. Great mouthfeel!

Drinkability & Notes – Solid, but not my favorite batch of Berliner. Not as refreshing as it should be. Likely a combo of the skipped decoction and the lackluster activity from the Lactobacillus. I’m enjoying the early results of my fifth Berliner much more!


Kostas Siozos said...


I was drinking my Berliner Weisse last night and I was a bit annoyed by the minimum head retention.

If you ferment with all the bugs at once, does the foam retention actually improve by having a pre-fermentation pH of 4.5, or is it inevitable that the critters, regardless of the pH, will break down most of the protein responsible for head retention.

I understand that there are many parameters affecting the foam retention and how the critters will affect it while fermenting, but could you give any tips on improving it?

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

I'm seeing much better head retention on that recent batch, despite the oils from the lemon peel. Dropping the pH before pitching Lacto isn't going to give a Berliner an IPA-level head (the low gravity and light hopping assume that), but it really helps!

Unknown said...

I brewed a no-boil Berliner on 23 October pitching Lacto Brevis, US-05 and Bret B & C simultaneously.

It's on a heat pad at about 28C. An early tasting this week showed that it wasn't very sour at all despite a lovely 'sour' aroma.

Will the sourness improve with ageing, or should I pitch more lacto?

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

What is the gravity now? Likely if it isn't very sour after six weeks, a Berliner weisse isn't going to be hugely sour. Lactobacillus really needs sugars to produce lactic acid, so pitching more Lacto may not do much to help.

Was it White Labs or Wyeast L. brevis? Did you make a starter? I find it really helps to have the Lacto ready to go when it is pitched with yeast.

Unknown said...

The gravity is now 1.006. I made a 2.5L starter for the White Labs L. Brevis about 5 days in advance of pitching. I made the starter from 100% Apple Juice.

Would there be anyway of saving this? Say if I made a higher gravity wort (say 1.040) with some more L.Brevis and added that into the main FV?

Thanks for your help

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

That is high enough that it may get a bit more sour over the next few months if you don't mind waiting. It doesn't sound like not enough L. brevis was the issue. If you can get it, Jolly Pumpkin dregs will sour pretty much anything. Pitch them along with 1/2 lb of maltodextrin and give it a few months.

Unknown said...

Really helpful. Thanks Mike, much appreciated.

I'm going to give it until February before taking another sample to see. It might just have been my impatience. A virtue I need to hone now I'm doing Bretted and Sour beers.

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

Really no reason to make a starter, especially with Wyeast Brett (unless you are doing a 100% primary fermentation). You're not going to get any sourness from Brett. What you will get is a nice earthy funk.