Berliner Weiss - What's your method?

I’m thinking of making a Berliner Weiss in the next few weeks. There’s so many methods that people use to make these that I’m having trouble deciding which way to go, between a sour mash, souring the wort, pitching lacto for a few days before primary yeast, pitching both together, pitching separate and blending, pitching brett in primary, etc…

What methods have you folks used in the past with success?

I struggled with the same thing but finally jumped in a few months ago and went with the berliner yeast blend from White Labs … eries.html Quite a bit of info of doing it all the various ways you mentioned but many of the methods seem very hit or miss and I’m only shooting to have the beer ready for summer so I was fine with waiting some time for the full sourness to develop. Other tip I ran across was to ferment on the warm side of the stated range (73 degrees) for more sour character so I did that which seemed to work. Other than that I followed the recipe from Kristen England in the “Brewing with Wheat” book. In there he states to use a 5:1 ratio of lacto to sacc at pitching, I just made the assumption that was about what was in the White Labs blend.

I’ve been able to try mine once, when I transferred to secondary (a corny keg) after a month and I was quite pleased with its progression as it was nicely tart. I left 5 gallons as is and the other 5 gallons got 5 lbs of sour cherries that I’ve had in the freezer since this last summer’s harvest.

Thanks Flip, I hadn’t really considered using a blend. My goal is to have something for summer, so I probably have time to let it sit awhile. I was reading about another method of splitting the wort between two fermenters, one with lacto and the other with primary yeast, and blending them to taste before letting them sit in secondary. I’m leaning this way to keep the lacto out of my primary fermenters and perhaps going with an unhopped wort for the lacto. So many choices though! :shock:

I recently attempted my second try at culturing lactic acid bacteria from a few tablespoons of grain, initially using a small 2 pint sucrose starter for a 2-3 gallon batch of Berliner Weisse. The starter was kept above 100F for several days and added to my runoff wort (brought up to a boil) to sour for an additional 3 days above 100F. Afterwards the wort was boiled for 15 minutes and Wyeast 2565 was pitched to ferment the rest.

I think I ran into a few issues that I did not run into the first time, which may support Flip’s claim of unpredictability using this method. While I did use a starter to select against the enteric bacteria and other nasties found on grain, I did not grab a pH but a taste test did indicate significant sourness. Light citric lemony aromatics replaced sweaty corn vomit during this time, which is expected/desired. What was interesting was that the main batch developed a pinkish pellicle and smelled of cherry pie. The wort did not attenuate much so I suspect the saccharomyces had a bit of issue dealing with the lowered pH during fermentation. The beer still retains a small bit of cherry pie and has a nice tartness but others note a plasticy, smoky distracting phenol rather than the cherry - my memory biases me. Without confirmation this might be from Brettanomyces as I did see yeast in my wort sample under a microscope. Since I did not get this character the first time suspect I cultured a different collection of bugs. I’m going to see if I can isolate these in my makeshift lab at home. Also, I did not get the bready or grainy wheat flavor that is noticeable for the style according to the BJCP. I wonder if not boiling wort would bring that out.

So, yes, you may have some better consistency using a pure blended culture from White Labs (never used it myself). I think your method of blending makes sense if you have a puckering sour on your hands. Good luck!

Sweaty corn vomit - If I ever have a punk band, that’s going to be the name of it!

I did brew this a couple of weeks ago. I couldn’t find any online sites that had L. Brevis in stock, so about a week before brew day I cultured some lacto off of some 2-row. I used a gallon of 1.040 unhopped wort in a jug with an airlock and tossed in a small handful of grain. In “American Sour Beers” he recommends preventing oxygen exposure while culturing lacto, hence the jug and airlock.

Anyways, got a nice krausen the next day from the lacto, so luckily no oxygen left in the jug. The aroma was pleasant fruity/bready, without any of the awful smells reported from lacto, so I think the lack of oxygen helped. I finally got the nerve to try it after 4 days or so, and it was nicely sour with almost a molasses flavor.

So 2 weeks from brew day, 2 gallons are chugging away at 70F with the lacto, and 4 gallons are chugging away with an all-brett fermentation. I’ll give it a couple more weeks and blend them in secondary.

No idea how this is going to turn out, but so far it’s been interesting…

I limited my oxygen as best I could though using an airlock probably would have helped more. The starter gives me a safety check in case it goes bad before I ruin the full batch but it appears that happened after that step anyway. I also do not remember seeing a krausen, just cloudy/turbid wort. I too wanted to limit my brewery against bacterial/Brett contamination and is why I chose this method first. The beer is fine, just won’t win any awards but was quick overall despite it being a brew week rather than a brew day. I did not have much interest in aging out a low-grav thirst quencher but maybe that is the trade-off. I’ll have to reread Mike’s book and blog.

Interesting… I pulled two gallon jugs off the main batch that I innoculated with the lacto starter, so I’ll have to check on them to see if they’re developing any off characteristics. I thought the krausen on the starter might have been wild yeast on the grain, but I saw krausen on both the gallon jugs as well, so I’m assuming that it’s a heterofermentative lacto. That was my thought, too, to make sure the starter was OK before adding it to a bigger batch.

There was a pretty significant difference between the two gallon jugs, though, even though they were pulled off the same batch of wort and innoculated with the same volume of starter wort. One actually blew out the airlock and is still bubbling aggressively two weeks later, whereas the other one developed a krausen that fell a few days later and is just slightly bubbling. Maybe I’ll sneak a taste of them tonight to see how they’re coming along.

Just wanted to provide an update. Here’s the finished product, carbonated to 4.0 volumes. And it’s absolutely great! Sour but not strip-enamel-off-your-teeth sour, lemony, light, easy to drink, and the carbonation really brings it to life. All 3.4%ABV beers should taste this good! :cheers:

Wow. Looks awesome.

Looks good… but soak that glass in PBW! Its not ‘beer clean!’. :wink:

You don’t like my custom-applied nucleation sites? It aids in head retention! :lol:

4 volumes of CO2 is liable to stick to anything though. :lol:

I’ll admit, it was a pretty exciting pour, especially with it being in corked Belgian bottles… :shock:

Damn that looks tasty!

I’m brewing the gose you helped me design/plan tomorrow!

Awesome, let us know how it goes! If only I knew at the time I brewed this what I know now, this one wouldn’t have taken 6 months to finish! But I’m looking forward to seeing how it develops in the bottle. The kettle sour sure won’t do that.