Saturday, January 23, 2010

Berliner Weisse- "No-Boil" Method

(Hold the goofy syrups, please.)

Clarissa has been bugging me to make another Berliner Weisse for about 2 years now, since she really liked the last one (if you homebrew a lot it's important to keep your significant other happy, so they don't mind the mess and assortment of brewing gear around the house). Although it was a very nice beer, the last batch was not as sour as I had wanted. I had used the Wyeast 3191 Berliner Weisse blend, which was supposed to be a pre-balanced blend of ale yeast, lactic bacteria, and brett, but most people that used the blend had less sourness in their finished beer than is really proper for the style. I participated in a Berliner Weisse trade and online tasting with other members of the Babbblebelt homebrew forum, and this seemed to be the consensus on the Wyeast 3191. The Wyeast berliner blend is not currently available. It was a limited release and I'm not sure if they plan to re-release it.

I've been tempted to try another Berlinner, but I've been waffling on which technique to use to get it properly sour. The choices were anything from pitching a commercial lactobacillus culture before the ale yeast, to doing a sour mash, or even doing a no boil method where the lactobacillus that malted barley contains is not killed off and survives into the fermentation, producing lactic acid.

I have a sour ale strain going, the same one I used for the Flanders Pale Ale, and I thought this would be a great way to get a lot of brett into the fermentation as well as some bacteria to sour it, but I thought this would not be enough on it's own to produce the proper lactic sourness. The best Berliner of the tasting group, and the most sour, was brewed with the no-boil method. This was what I finally decided on. I thought of doing a sour mash over 24-48 hours, but the risk of getting garbagey, vomitty flavors from butyric acid producing bacteria just didn't sound good.

No-boil (well, really, part of the mash was boiled as a decoction step) is how Berliner Weisse was traditionally made in Germany. The brewing method is radically different from any beer I have ever made before. I have some ideas on how this technique could be used on a commercial system fairly easily, although you could infect your entire brewhouse if you do not sanitize your equipment properly afterwards. I used a simplified version of the old-school double decocted Berliner Weisse technique, which I will give details on in the recipe below. basically the most important point is to not let the grains ever get so hot that you kill off the lactic acid bacteria. I tried to keep everything at or under 160, and also get some extra grain dust into the wort after the mash was done.

Recipe is for 11.75 gallons, all grain diluted with water (see details)
O.G. 1.034 IBU's around 5

6 lb. Great Western Superior Pilsner malt
6 lb. Great Western wheat malt
.5 lb. rice hulls

56 gr. of hops at about 4.5% AA ( I used New Zealand Hallertau pellets & whole Willamette)

Mash: 4.5 gallons water + 3 gr. Calcium Chloride + 3 gr. gypsum
Mash in to 156, rest 45 minutes
After 45 minutes I ran off 5 quarts of mash liquor only, not a grain and liquor mix, to boil with the hops (see picture below).

I boiled this with the hops for 20 minutes. The whole step took about 30 minutes.
Then I added this back to the main mash, which brought it up to 160.

I sparged with 4.5 gallons at 160 degrees. I used my grain bucket, below, to collect the wort. I intentionally left some extra grain dust in the bucket so I could pick up some more lacto.

Here's the wort running off into the grain bucket:

I added the wort into my keggle, which contained 4.5 gallons of pre-boiled water, cooled back down to 140 degrees. This gave me my final volume of 11.75 gallons (4.5 gallons water + 7.25 gallons wort). I mixed this well and took a gravity reading, which came in at 1.034, which means my efficiency on this batch was about 85%.

I ran the wort through the plate chiller and collected 2 carboys full, at 68 degrees. The rest of the remaining wort was boiled and used for a starter for a different beer. Both carboys were aerated by shaking for 2 minutes each, and I pitched about 1/3 cup of slurry per carboy of the Rodenbug blend, which I had used for the Flanders Pale Ale I brewed over a month ago.

I used a heating pad to get the fermentation warmish. The big carboy stuck out fermentation at aobut 70 and the small carboy got up to 74. I will be very interested to see if the smaller, warmer fermented carboy comes out any more sour.

Here are the beers, pre-fermentation, hanging out with my other wild ales. From left to right, that's the batch of Flanders red from over a year ago keg-conditioning, then the 2 carboys of Berliner Weisse, then the brett saison in the orange shirt, and the Flanders Pale ale in back in the tan shirt. It's very exciting to look at these beers right now because both the brett saison and the Flanders Pale are showing visible, slow fermentation. I am trying to be patient and not sample these beers!

Only time will tell how these beers turn out. I hope they will be spectacular!


jaymo said...

I know the feeling with the patience! I've also got a couple beers I did with Al's Bugfarm III slurry that are doing the slow-ferment thing right now, as well as an all-brett w/ additional wine & dried cherries.

Can't wait to hear how your BWs turn out!

Brett Begani said...

Sour mash. where you hold the temp over time is what kind of funk you get, then the time you let it go is the level of that funk. I've done three sour mash beers so far and everyone loves them. It would be good to compare the differences in your method with my berliner. The biggest difference with mine is I bumped the gravity to make a 6% instead of the typical 3% abv. I have two berliner and one Oud Bruin all made with the same method. I like the first berliner better because the temp held between 80 and 90 the whole time, the 2nd one and the Oud Bruin were held mostly at 100 (the overnights dropped that severely).

Seanywonton said...

Yeah, I took a little nip off each fermenter the other day. One fermented at about 70 and the other was higher, 74-76. Not surprisingly the one fermented warmer has a bit more lactic twang, but both are pretty mellow so far. We can definitely do some tastings later Brett.

Paul! said...

I think you should make a blended keg of this, the brett saison and the one you brewed today.

I mean come'on you brew like 5 saisons a week, what's one more?

ET said...

Great write-up. I'm going to try one of these soon. Btw, how long did you wait between when you added the decoction back, and the sparge? And how did the beer turn out in the end?

Seanywonton said...

ET, I think I starter the lauter retty much immediately after adding the decoction back in.

The first keg was a little meh-riffic. Not bad, very thin in body and a cidery sourness. It also had a weird menthol flavor when young that seemed to go away over time. I also have another keg that has been sitting at ambient temp in the garage, maybe I will do a tasting of that whenever I tap it.

I'm thinking the next realm I would like to explore is an overnight or up to 24 hour sour mash of the entire mash, followed by a short boil, and then a fairly clean fermentation.

There are a lot of ways to get to a good Berlinner Weisse it seems. I still haven't found one that I think works great and is also fairly easy to do on a commercial level. So I'm still experimenting for the time being.