My First Berliner Weisse

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I enjoy fermenting all sorts of things other than sweet wort, I make Sauerkraut, dilly beans, sourdough bread. The thought of experimenting with the other cultures adrift in my home has always been around, but I never wanted to add unknown cultures to my brewhouse or waste ten gallons of beer.

My First Berliner Weisse - Nick Balazs - l-bben-feldschloss-berliner-weisse-558.jpg

I had been wanting to make a Berliner Weisse for some time, I decided to experiment with the untamed cultures in my fridge. I made a typical 500ml DME starter and dumped in a bunch of juice from my latest batch of sauerkraut, set it on a heat pad and let it go for a few days. My research showed that sauerkraut would have Leuconostoc mensetorides, Lactobacillus plantarum and Lactobacillus brevis.

Not having the ability to isolate the L. brevis which I found in research to be the bacterial strain used in traditional Berliner Weiss, Leuconostoc mensetorides would likely be killed with higher growth temperatures so I kept the culture around 120F. I was afraid that the starter would die or not take off, but the third day there was a clean aroma and a tart lactic flavor. All had worked well and I was ready to brew some beer.

Brew day I use 50% wheat and 50% patagonia extra pale malt. I shot for an infusion temperature of 132F and held the mash there for 30 minutes. I then did a single decoction with no solids to raise the temperature to about 148F, mashed out and fly sparged into my brew kettle. I collected 10 gallons of wort at 1.032 which was allowed to cool for a few hours, once under 140F I pitched my bacteria started with a hand full of grain.

I use a keggle for my brew kettle, with that large amount of surface area potentially exposed to air, I was concerned about acetobacter development. To mitigate that I tried to keep the temperature above 100F with a heat pad and covered the opening with plastic wrap and a lid. The temperature was hard to control but after three days, the wort pH was approximately 3.0 as read with a pH strip and the wort was pleasantly sour.

Day five I ran off into two five gallon fermentors and pitched two yeasts, wyeast 2565 (Klsch) and wyeast 1007 (German Ale). The Klsch yeast took off quickly and fermented quite dry under 1.000. The German Ale yeast was much more subdued and took a while to finish, the beer finished slightly higher, around 1.006. The batch fermented with the German Ale was a bit fruity, I wasn't expecting this with fermentation temperatures between 59 and 61F. Finally I added a little Brett that I cultured out of an Evil Twin Femme Fatale Brett.

I plan to bottle and age this beer as soon as I find time to wash bottles. The beer is currently extremely tart and very dry.

Two things I took away from my first Berliner Weisse:

  1. Don't be afraid to experiment with unknown strains.
  2. No boil and no hops, no worries.

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