Classic Styles Made Easy – Berliner Weisse

After finding success with a simple Hefeweizen recipe that was just wheat malt extract, I decided to up my game and try a slightly more involved style with the Berliner Weisse.  Staying true to the spirit of simplicity, the grain bill here is only wheat malt extract.

Getting the lactose in could be achieved in several different ways.  The easiest method would be to add the lactose at kegging or bottling, but I didn’t want to go that route.  I wanted lactose produced by lactobacillus.  To do that, there are two different methods.  The first method is the sour mash.  This involves making the mash and allowing it to remain warm for a few days to let the lactobacillus ferment.  In addition to the lactobacillus fermenting, other bugs in the mash will also prosper.  The final taste will vary based on the wild flora of the mash.  Since I don’t have a mash to do this, due to using wheat malt extract only, I had to find another way.

In my searches of the Googles, I encountered a lot of conflicting/murky information regarding techniques of using lactobacillus.  The other method I found was making a large lactobacillus starter, pouring that into their fermenter and allowing that to ferment a few days before adding yeast to finish the beer.  I had two concerns, how will the lactobacillus handle the hops since hops were historically used to also fight spoilage, which lactobacillus is prone to do.  And, this is supposed to be classic styles made easy and making a starter isn’t always the easiest thing for a beginner to do.  So I thought, why don’t I make the entire batch a starter and do the beer in two steps but use one kettle and one fermentor.

This process involved making 3 gallons of wort with 3 lbs wheat DME in a 5 gallon kettle, boiling it for 30 minutes and cooling it so it was lukewarm.  I then pitched two tubes of Lactobacillus Delbrueckii into my wort and purged the 2 gallon headspace of my kettle with carbon dioxide before I put the lid on.  I put the lid on and and put a couple pieces of tape on it ensure the lid wouldn’t accidentally be dislodged but yet loose enough to allow pressure to escape.  I wrapped kettle with a fermwrap, set the temperature to 90 degrees and insulated the kettle with a blanket.  I checked the taste of the wort after 2 days and determined it was not to my liking and repeated the above process.  After 3 more days I tasted it again and determined it “tangy” enough for my liking.

I then added 1 gallon of water, 1 pound of wheat DME and 1 oz of Tettnanger and brought the kettle back up to a boil for 40 minutes and chilled the 3 gallons of wort in an ice bath.  It did not smell good and this worried me.  However, based on the final product, the smell is nothing to worry about.  Once chilled, I transferred my wort to a 5 gallon carboy and added 1 package of saison yeast.  Fermentation and kegging proceeded as expected.

The end product was a very clean, refreshing, easy drinking, slightly tangy and slightly phenolic Berliner. I made a raspberry syrup and a sourwood honey syrup to go with it, but much prefer this Berliner without the syrup.  The only thing I would do different is maybe give the lactobacillus another day or two to increase the sourness and tanginess.  I will be making this again early next summer.

Marge’s Bingo Berliner Recipe (3 gallons): 

  • 4 lbs wheat dry malt extract
  • 1 oz Tettnanger Hops
  • 2 vials Lactobactillus Delbrueckii
  • 1 pouch saison yeast

Classic German Styles Made Easy

I really like hefeweizens, berliner weisses and goses so I started looking into the basic recipes for them.  Turns out all are essentially wheat and barley with different yeasts and water additions.  I have a friend who really likes these 3 styles also but has no brewing experience.  So I thought, why not try and see if I can do all three styles with the absolute most basic recipe and most basic brewing process.  With this in mind, I created a plan for all three styles.
Last month I did the hefe.   6 pounds of wheat DME, 1 oz Tettnang hops, 1 smack pack of Wyest 3068 Weihenstephan Weizen.  The plan was simple, heat 3 gallons of RO water, add the 6 pounds of wheat DME, bring it to a boil, throw full oz of hops in, add 1 tsp yeast nutrient, boil for 20 minutes, chill by submerging the kettle in ice water, pour wort into fermenter, dilute to 5.5 gallons, put the contents of the smack pack in and ferment at 63 F.
The stats:  SG – 1.046, FG – 1.012, 4.5% ABV, 5 IBUs.
The biggest thing I’ve learned from discussion, research and experience, is the hefe yeasts need to be stressed to produce a nice banana aroma.  If given too optimal of conditions and or to small of headspace, clovieness can overpower your beer.  You may like that, but I sure don’t.  So my plan was to keep the conditions so the yeast would be stressed but robust enough to fully ferment the beer.  I did not aerate anymore than the pouring of the wort into the fermentor.  I pitched only the smack pack which was 63% viable (63 billion cells) based on production date, I used a 6.5 gallon fermentor so I had plenty of head space (I did use a dose of anti foamer in the boil which helped keep the kraussen from blowing off).
Results:  I think it turned out pretty well.  I wish it was just a bit more creamy which is most likely due to the use of extract only.  I don’t detect any clove or bubblegum but the banana seems to be just right for my liking.
With the berlinner and gose, I will be using White Labs Lactobacillus Delbrueckii, WLP 677.  I’m most concerned with two issues, the first being the activity of the WLP 677.  WLP 677 can and will chew up a lot of the sugars which will result in a much lower ABV than predicted.  I did read that WLP 677 can chew up lactose, so I’ve been thinking of possibly adding some lactose to the berliner and allowing the US05 to ferment fully at 63 then moving the fermentor to the garage to allow for the WLP 677 to finish chewing up the lactose.  I’m also wondering if WLP 677 can chew up the sugars left behind with caramel malts.  Does anybody have experience with leaving US05 at 80-90 degrees post fermentation?  If the WLP 677 doesn’t chew up all the lactose, I will have a wheaty, sweet and sour beer.  That’ll be interesting.
The second issue is dependent on the direction that I go with the first issue.  If I end up pitching the WLP 677 first then I have to worry about the wort pH being to low for good fermentation of the US05.  To counter act the low pH, I plan on pitching a full sachet of US-05 into the 3 gallon batch and 2 teaspoons of yeast nutrient.  I will allow the WLP to have several days out in the hot garage to do its thing before I bring it downstairs to cool off for the US05.  I’m also curious as to if I can aerate the acidified wort without causing massive oxidation.
Anybody else have any ideas on how to control the lactic acid production?  I do not want to use a sour mash or no boil, I want to be in total control of the fermentation process.
Decisions, decisions, decisions.  I think I may need to ponder this with a beer.