A hankering for Berliner Weisse

For the past few weeks, maybe months, I’ve been plotting a stab at a Berliner Weisse. Light, sour, refreshing and low in alcohol, this is a brew not widely available and a hassle to put together.

I’ve read nightmarish mash schedules and the concern over contaminating equipment. But the grainbill is simple and very few hops. To boil, or not to boil. Will a sour mash impart sufficient sour character, or will I have to add lactobacillus to the fermenter? Or should I try yogurt?

After much deliberation, I came up with my plan and invited over my beer-inquisitive brother-in-law, Kyle. This good guy is working on getting converted to good beer. Here’s what I came up with:

With a grainbill of 4 pounds of Pils and 2 pounds malted wheat, I started by mashing 10% of the grainbill in a small container at 150F for one hour.

Berliner Weisse 1

Next, I added a heavy handful of uncrushed grain to this mini-mash and dropped the temperature to 120F. Sealed tight, I placed this container in a bath of hot water inside my Igloo mash tun. This mashed for 18 hours, and required a little heat boost every so often. I’d pull a pint or so of water out of the tun and heat it to boil to help maintain my temperature.

Berliner Weisse 2

Following this rest, which lasted through my own slumber and the brewing of a batch of milk stout, I added this sour mash to the full mash. Rest at 150F for an hour.

Berliner Weisse 3

One element of this beer I contemplated a good deal was the hops. Traditionally, I’ve read that Berliner Weisses are not boiled. Even with a subdued level of hops in this style, I need to isomerize the rascals, don’t I? While some homebrewed versions boil the wort, I elected to skip the full hour. For the hops, I boiled them in my sparge water.

Berliner 4

Concerned about contamination in such an affair, I did bring to a boil for 5 minutes. Next came my wort chiller and the pitching of the yeast. I’d intended to use a Kolsch yeast, but my local homebrew shop was fresh out, so I went with Wyeast 1338, Eurpoean Ale. With much excitement, I placed my fermenter in MY NEW CELLAR! As I take a look at the thermometer on the Ides of July, it’s a comfortable 71F. And my cooling bill’s not through the roof to achieve it.

Berliner Weisse and Milk Stout in Carboys

I expected that the sour nature after the overnight mash would be more assertive, so I’ll be curious to see how it develops as the fermentation commences. If it doesn’t funkify a good deal more, I may need to mail order some lacto to add and wait it out. Time will tell.

The particulars, in short:

As-yet-unnamed Berliner Weisse

4# Pils

2# Wheat malt

1 oz. Halletauer (4.2% alpha)–boiled one hour in sparge water

Wyeast 1338

OG: 1.029

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One Response to A hankering for Berliner Weisse

  1. [...] Always looking to explore new ground, I took on the Berliner Weisse Project this summer. Following contemplation and smarter-people-than-me brain picking, I settled in on a plan. [...]

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