[clever play on words “Berliner” and/or “Weisse” goes here]

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Partly by reader request but mostly because it’s time: Berliner Weisse.

Tiny grain bill, no boil … this is easier than extract brewing! I should brew Berliner Weisse all the time.

Wort zu Deine Mutti
Target OG: 1.028

Grist:

  • 50% German Pils malt
  • 50% Weyermann Pale Wheat malt

Mash:

  • dough in w/ Hallertau Mittelfrüh (whole, 5.7% aa) to approx. 5 IBU
  • 134F for 60′
  • 152F for 15′
  • 170F for 10′

Fermentation:

  • Run off unboiled wort and chill to 68-70F
  • O2 and pitch with Wyeast 3191 Berliner Weisse Blend
  • Ferment at 70F to TG, then package in these sweet 0.5 L German swing-tops in their German delivery case for conditioning and aging.

DSC_0278

Depending on the resource, there seems to be a fractured consensus on some of the finer points of the process (decoction or no decoction, no boil or a short boil, Brett or no Brett), but I think that, for this beer, arrival at the right destination validates the route: light and refreshing, wheaty but not hoppy, roundly lactic-sour, highly effervescent.

And my mom has to like it: Berliner Weisse is the only style of beer she’ll drink. Pressure’s on – be back in a couple months with tasting notes.

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58 thoughts on “[clever play on words “Berliner” and/or “Weisse” goes here]

  1. Man, I loves me some Berliner Weisse. I prefer the 3-day sour mash technique, letting the lactic grow on its own, then a 15-minute boil with just enough hops to be able to call it beer. Ferment with wlp001, keg and force carb, and I’m drinking it in ~ 2 1/2 weeks. Mmm… tangy!

      • It does stink. Kinda vomit-like. We kept the mash in the garage on a heated stir plate so we didn’t have to smell it for 3 days. When the little lady (who helps me brew and enjoys the smells associated with brewing) got a whiff of it, she said, “that doesn’t smell like beer. That’s gonna be nasty.” Same during the boil and fermentation. But once it was attenuated, cold, and carbed, she couldn’t get enough of it.

        • I’ve got the same thing percolating on a heating pad in my kitchen right now, and it is sure starting to develop a, uh, presence. Just entered hour 36. It’s my first attempt at the sour mash, and I’m anxiously excited. Did you ferment the cali 01 at the low end or high end of it’s range? I’ve read some folks aim a little higher than normal for the extra esters, but I’m leery.

          • I keep it in the low to mid range. I’m not really looking for a lot of esters, and the lacto would probably mask them anyway.

            • I’ve been dry hopping my sour mash Berliners. It brightens the nose and adds fruit (vs herbs) to the flavor.

  2. Sort of off topic – have you ever had luck culturing bacteria from commercial beers? I’m about to try my first sour (much thanks to you for motivation), I attempted to culture some dreggs from lindemans gueuze, gueuze fond tradition, and the kicker dreggs from burton india empire ale.

    • I’m struggling with a concise but complete answer … I have cultured dregs and propagated them up and inoculated wort and had the beer turn out well. As the years have gone by I’ve done this less because the population and proportions of a recovered mixed culture won’t necessarily be representative of what fermented the source beer (especially if the bottle has some age on it), the population that is there often behaves differently in subsequent generations, and the microbial grab bag makes successes hard to replicate and the cause(s) of defects hard to pinpoint. But it is geeky and fun and a way to perhaps get a strain that isn’t otherwise available to homebrewers, and it’s a solid excuse to buy and drink some great bottles. “Darling, I hope you like ramen, because I need this Cantillon.”

  3. A buddy and I just “brewed” a Berliner-esque beer for a wort transformation challenge from a local brewery. The brewery provided 5 gallons of wort. The base wort was a wheat beer (don’t have the recipe in front of me) around an og of 1.050. We took that wort and split into two batches, we then mashed a 50/50 pilsner/wheat to dilute the original wort down to a gravity of 1.032. No boil, and pitched the Wyeast 3191 in one carboy, and a blend of NE wild yeast with sour dregs from various commercial brews (really have no idea, except there was some dregs from Trinity). We tasted and kegged these this weekend. The brew with the straight berliner yeast is a cleaner tartness, mildly sour now, but very refreshing. The NE wild/dregs beer is slightly funkier, a little less clean, but slightly more sour. This one had a really nice pellicle on it. Currently sitting under 30 psi, and will sample tomorrow. The contest calls for 6 bottles to be submitted. We have very high hopes with this one. Will let you know how it all turns out.

    • That’s cool – the “cleaner” tartness of straight Lacto vs. the sour suicide culture makes sense. What was the time frame of your fermentations?

  4. MD,

    Thanks a bunch, this example of how to do is very interesting and the first time I’ve heard about it. I will be giving it a try no doubt.
    Would you mind sharing what literature resources a homebrewer could go to if he wanted to learn more about this style and the history behind it? Other than Google?

    Thanks again!

  5. Hey MD,
    I’ve never tried a Berliner Weiss so I’m not sure how the style is suppose to taste but wouldn’t a no boil or short boil have a ton of DMS?(especially with the pils malt)
    Cheers!

    • You’d think so, but it’s not. My guess is that it’s due to the low gravity – Pils malt is just a percentage of the grist, and you don’t need much grist to achieve 1.030, so there’s just not that much source material to contribute SMM in the first place.

      I can sometimes find Kindl Weisse in bottles in MN, but a lot of US craft brewers are starting to brew Berliners; there’s a good breakdown of the proper profile here: http://www.bjcp.org/2008styles/style17.php

  6. Mister Dawson, I was just thinking about doing a Berliner Weisse for the very first time when up pops your timely article, so thank you kindly. I have three quick questions on your mash schedule. First, did you recommend a decoction method or a direct heat rise for the outlined mash steps? Second, if you use the decoction method, how does boiling the thick mash containing the whole hops impact the IBU calculations? Finally, I was curious how the mash step temperatures you outlined affect the body and fermentability for this style? .

    • I did a direct-heat step mash for this one, I might go back and brew it again with a single decoction for comparison if schedule permits – depending on the source consulted, you’ll see both methods advised. Boiling hopped mash will increase the IBU pickup – you could adjust for that by aiming at the low end of the IBU range (3-8) and planning on a little higher outcome, or else waiting til after the decoction to add the hops. The combo beta/protease plus low-temp alpha rests should make a highly fermentable wort with a little HMW protein breakdown for clarity and foam (mouthfeel isn’t going to be in the game for a beer this low-gravity and dry).

      • Thanks Michael, I think I’ll try the decoction approach. I like you have a very critical audience with both my Wife and Schwiegermutter being Swiss nationals who have always loved a good Shankbeir. No pressure…right? I’ll post again after I brew and let you know how my first efforts turn out.

  7. Cool mash schedule! 60′ @ 134 is mighty long, sir – is that to try to get it as clear as possible? I just did a bastardized berliner (pre boil sour mash) with the schedule reversed exactly. Thank you as always for the great article!

    • The sched is from Brewing With Wheat, and I think it’s probably partly for clarity, but there should also be beta amylase activity in there to ensure high attenuation. I’ve been using a combo protease/beta rest for continental lagers too.

  8. I made one with a short boil last November that I will tap on 5-4 for a cinco/ quatro de Mayo party. Serving it with himbiersirup and zitroensirup to be made next week. Some say you should sour it for a few days before pitching the yeast. But that yeast has bugs for that.

  9. Sorry newbee ish question..

    I’m trying to understand how to calculate how much oz of hop’s you used in your example here. I’m using a brewing calculator and though I realize I dont need to be very accurate but I’m really wanting to get the same result that your getting for this style. Would I be right if I was guessing .5-1oz of the hop per this recipe volume?

    I’m thinking that this recipe more of a chef style of not calculating and just going with what you feel will work. My instints tell me to add 1oz of hops in at the start of the 152F temp and I am imagining that at the end of the 10 min 170F I would end up getting about the same amount of bittering as I would if I was adding hopes at a 30 min boil.

    What would you say to that MD?

    • That amount of a low-alpha noble hop should be ballpark for a 5-10 gallon batch.

      The formula I use (Tinseth in Beersmith) adjusts for mash hopping at -80% … so – just for argument – if there’s x amount of hops at y% aa, and that would contribute 20 IBUs if added to the kettle and boiled for 60 minutes, then that same amount in a 60 minute mash would give 20% of that, or 4 IBU.

  10. To clarify, should I treat this like a belgian sour and dedicate special equipment for this one due to the bugs in the yeast?

  11. Dr. Dawson,

    Thank you for your continued ruminations on all things beer via this blog – I always look forward to your postings.

    I have never brewed a sour beer, but, as others have mentioned, I now feel compelled to give one a shot having read your latest entry. This may be a rookie question, but do I understand correctly that any equipment that I would use for such a recipe would need to be dedicated to sours only? If so, would this apply to bottles also? My understanding is that the bacteria in play would potentially infect future non-sour recipes when using the same equipment.

    Thanks for your consideration!

    • I would have separate equipment for sours, unless you can sterilize the equipment via baking or boiling.

      You can sterilize your bottles by baking them. John Palmer’s How to Brew book and website has guidelines based on temperature and time.

      Hope this helps

    • My stainless and glass gear gets used for both sour and non-sour beers; like agentPLINY said, that stuff can be cleaned and sanitized. I do keep a dedicated set of cold-side porous/odor-carrying items (racking canes, hoses, keg o-rings etc) just for sour brewing – it’s cheap insurance vs. the cost of ingredients for subsequent non-sour batches.

  12. Great blog, was a huge fan of BTV while it was on. I was thinking about giving this a try as my first sour. Thinking about turning half into a fruity-thing while keeping the other half “berliner-classic.” Thanks for the inspiration! Vik.

  13. D,

    Could you please advise me on bottle conditioning for this recipe. Special bottles need? Will reg caps work ok at the high carb pressure that is required of this beer (3.5)? Do you bottle at 1.008 and do you add sugar or does it keep fermenting in the bottle to a lower gravity? I dont want to make a rookie mistake on this being my first “sour ish” beer. I checked with this site http://hbd.org/cgi-bin/recipator/recipator/carbonation.html?16087228#tag that recommended 3.5 for the style and at 5 gal to add about 200g of priming sugar (corn). What do you say Obi Wan???

    • Well … I’d say to exercise plenty of caution and common sense when pressurizing sealed glass containers! ; )

      It’s supposed to be a very highly effervescent style, so 3.5 vols is right in the wheelhouse. Definitely let it ferment to TG before packaging, I’d strongly suggest using a calculator (like the one you linked to) that factors in the beer temp and a really accurate scale to dose out the priming sugar.

      If you use the 3191 blend, over the course of months or years the Brett will keep on going, so the ultimate CO2 level will likely end up higher than it will be a couple weeks after packaging, so undershooting the initial CO2 level plus use of a heavier bottle wouldn’t be a terrible idea.

      Hope that helps!

  14. MD,

    I’ve made the attempt to brew your example here with the help of reading Brewing with Wheat (which is an awesome book, thanks) and I am now at week 3 with the beer still sitting in the primary carboy and yeast cake. From what I understand this should be on the yeast cake for the duration of the souring time (is that right) and the longer it sits the more sourish it will get (right or wrong?).

    I did a 10 gal batch and split it equally into 2 carboys and I am considering taking one off the yeast cake now to see how much of a difference I might get with the other sitting for the duration of the recommended time to sour. As I was about to commit to do just this I was struck with a little worry when I smelled the aroma coming from the carboy when I removed the airlock. Now I’m sure the smell of fermenting cabbage maybe a normal thing, but I’m wondering if this is something the yeast is going to eventually remove (?) or do I need to leave it for a minimum amount of time before I remove it from the yeast cake?
    Note that I have never experienced this yeast blend or Brett and I’ve always heard the word “Funk” when Brett was being used, but does that Funk means P U stinky? I like the taste of the beer so far as long as I’ve got my nose pinched but without it the aroma plays a little too much on my palet senses for me. Bottom line I’m just wondering what’s going on and what is the correct action to do in my situation.
    Another question is that I am considering adding fresh in season red cherries to the 2nd carboy thinking that the tart of the cherries will further the natural tartness of the Berliner Weisse and I am wondering if you would or would not thing this to be a wise thing to do?

    Thanks a billion and head of time, I am learning a ton form you and I just want to keep moving forward in my craft and am stocked to have people like yourself out there being so humble with sharing your knowledge!

    Curtis

    • From what I understand this should be on the yeast cake for the duration of the souring time (is that right) and the longer it sits the more sourish it will get (right or wrong?).

      I’ve read differing schools of thought on this for Berliner Weisse; the regimen in BWW calls for quick turnaround to packaging. Prolonged contact with the yeast cake will probably encourage a higher Brett profile, given enough time. The beer will increase in acidity/sourness with time up to a point, whether in bottle or in primary, but eventually the lacto will limit out once the pH drops too far for the cells to continue functioning.

      Re: cherries – go for it!

      • MD,

        What you say about getting it off the yeast cake reflects my recent experience.

        I brewed wort for a Berliner Weisse in May. I split the batch, pitching the Wyeast blend in 2+ gallons of wort and the White Labs blend in 2+ gallons. I let both sit on the yeast cake until September at ambient temperatures (75 to 80 degrees here in Austin).

        I sampled a bottle of each this week, and the resulting beers were noticeably different. The brett character of the Wyeast BW was very prominent, the sourness rather restrained, the mouthfeel was “silky”, and it was on the hazy end of the appearance spectrum. The White Labs blend (which does not have the Brett) was tarter, thinner, and clear.

        Next time, I will bottle sooner and see what happens.

  15. Pingback: TMBR: sschemy’s Berliner Weisses | the beer engine

  16. Hey Michael Dawson,
    What do you think about the possibility of reusing a berliner weisse yeast cake to achieve sourness more quickly in the next batch, as you might do for a flanders red or something. Or would the proportions in the cake get too messed up to be any good?
    cheers

    • Maybe?

      There’s such a variety of methods folks use which seem to produce viably sour Berliners (sour mash, no boil, mixed culture, Saccharomyces first and then Lacto …), but I’ve never personally tried this method, or as far as I know, the results of this method. It’s a pretty sure bet that the cell count and yeast/bacteria composition of the cake would be different from the original pitch; which might not be a big deal in a bigger, darker beer like a Flanders red or Oud Bruin, but it could be tough to anticipate how that might play out in such a light and delicate wort. The safest course might be to conduct an initial alcoholic fermentation with straight Sacch in primary and then introduce the green beer to the cake for souring. Let us know how this goes if you try it out!

  17. Sorry to be a bit late to the party on this one and for the amateurish inquiry.

    Found your recipe on growlermag.com (which disappeared from the inner tubes today for some reason), and was curious re: the mash. I generally do an infusion/+- mash out/batch sparge procedure in a 5gal Igloo cooler. My read of the recipe was that you were doing a decoction for the step, and then sparging to your target volume.

    For this small a grist, would I do better (convenience-wise without too much sacrifice in the end product) with a no sparge technique bumping the grain bill to account for an expected drop in efficiency and collecting (most) of the requisite volume in one fell swoop? Any adjustments need to be made to the mash hops with the wicked decrease in mash thickness if one were to go that route?

    Ein Prosit der Gemütlichkeit in 2014!

    • You’re never late to a sour party. Dang ol inner tubes.

      Short answer to the mash question is yes. As many readers have chimed in on their tweaks and techniques for Berliner wort production, there is definitely more than one way to skin this cat … decoction, infusion, BIAB, no-sparge, no-boil all have adherents and seem to produce good examples.

      Re: mash hops – I don’t think so, as long as there are no changes to the boil regimen.

      Vielen Dank und viel Glueck!

  18. MD,

    I had to use a different Berliner Weisse blend for the batch I brewed yesterday. (Will Wyeast be releasing its blend this year?) It only has an ale yeast and lacto.

    If I was going to add brett, how would you recommend I going about doing so? Also, which brett strain would you pitch?

    Thanks.

    (I just bottled a batch of your Extraordinary Ordinary Bitter as my spring lawnmower beer.)

    • Hey Tim,

      Thanks for the question. I’d just direct-pitch it to the fermentor after alcoholic fermentation is complete and plan to leave it there for a couple-few months, both for maximum effect and for control over carb level (bottle-aging would be an option too, but it could be harder to regulate CO2). As far as strain: dealer’s choice (I myself am partial to lambicus, since you asked). Have fun!

      • MD,

        I’m going to go with your suggestions. Thank you for your advice. I appreciate your help.

        I’ll post an update in a couple of months.

  19. Hey Mike, how did this brew turn out? Just curious, as I brewed a similar batch using the same technique based on this post. Going to be bottling it soon!

    • It turned out well – took a bit longer than expected to get well and truly sour, but the end result was good (and quite effervescent). I’ve been holding off on tasting notes b/c I’m trying to get my mom to drink it on camera with me …

      Let us know how yours turns out!

      • That will be some epic tasting notes! I used the white labs Berliner blend and it isn’t very sour yet. It’s only been about 8 weeks since brew day though. It is in bottles now. Fingers crossed I didn’t measure out too much sugar and create bottle grenades!

        • I used the same blend, no starter and no extra bugs, and patience is a virtue where the sourness is concerned. The yeast chewed it down to 1.005 in ~3 weeks. I am bulk aging in the secondary at 70-80°, and just now, 6 months after pitching, do I have the sourness I was gunning for.

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