Quick and Easy Berliner Weisse

IMG_0705I’ve started reading American Sour Beers by Michael Tonsmeire to learn more about how to produce more funky and sour beers. So far I really like the book – very well-structured and geared towards brewers who are already into all-grain brewing but new to sour and wild fermentations. The basis for this recipe was inspired by the book, adjusted for 3 gallons at about 60% efficiency. I did the BIAB method, and since this was a no-boil batch, I brewed this up in about 2 hours flat on a week night. Not bad!

  • 4.75 lb German Pils malt
  • 2.25 lb Wheat malt
  • 0.5 oz Czech Saaz (2.4% a.a.)
  • White Labs Brett Lambicaus
  • White Labs Lactobacillus Brevus
  • White Labs California Ale

// Mash-in 1.45 qt/lb at 125 for 10 min, 145 for 30 min, 158 for 5 min. Add the hops to the mash at the start of the 145 rest. Add ice, 0.75 qt cold water to chill to around 100F. Brought outside at 25F to chill for an hour, got down to 80F. Oxygenate for 30s, pitch all the yeast and bacteria. Brewed 2/12/15. //

UPDATE (2/18/15):  Fermentation has basically stopped, beer is starting to clarify in the carboy. Gravity at 1.009. Incredibly light color – such a light yellow it looks like lemonade.  Smell is awesome – straw, hay, some Brett funk, a little cherry/smoke, with a slightly off smell (urinal cake?). Surprisingly very smooth, dough-y, delicate bread flavor – a little sweet up front with some lemon highlights and just a hint of horsey funk, followed by a little acidic tartness. This is definitely on its way to becoming an awesome beer, but it just needs to get a little more sour!

UPDATE (3/17/15): A small pellicle has formed on the surface, so I took another sample. Nose is similar to before – funky with a little lemon and soft bread. More sourness developed, great tartness that makes me pucker a little bit but not much. The flavors are so subtle that they’re pretty much masked by the tartness of the beer, but come through a little in the finish. As soon as some space in my kegerator frees up, this one will be ready to go on tap.

UPDATE (4/13/15): Lots of tiny little pellicles now on the surface, but i went ahead and kegged because I’ve been dying to have this on tap (and, it’s been in the primary now for 2 months).  Slightly off-aroma has developed, kind of a stinky feet thing, but a good funky aroma as well. The taste is much more forgiving. Tartness upfront, followed by the same malt flavors as before. Sourness has gotten much more pronounced, with a little bit of funk and dryness in the finish. Really excited to see how this tastes chilled and will some carbonation! If that off-aroma persists, I might consider adding some fruit juice to the keg.

THE VERDICT

It was amazing to see right out of the gate how much the carbonation and cold temperature enhanced the tartness of this beer. Just a few days on CO2 and this thing tasted amazing, and pretty darn sour – by far the sourest thing I’ve brewed to date. It’s light, tart, and fairly complex for such a light malt and hop bill. The sacc, brett, and lacto did some interesting things together, but I think the brett really isn’t that noticeable in the mix. My kegerator pressure is kind of in flux, so I noticed that as the carbonation decreased, the implied sour/tartness did also. I think this beer could go really well blended with some fruit, preferably something bright and citrusy – orange, grapefruit, peach, maybe even apple.

Two months in the primary had me a little nervous since there were almost no hops, and very little alcohol in this beer to help protect from any kind of spoilage. But, given the nice flavor and active pellicles on the surface at the time I kegged it, I think this thing would’ve kept souring for even longer. It’s cool to see a decent sour beer can be created in a turnaround of just over 2 months. That may be a feature of the lacto-brevus that apparently sours faster than the debrukki strain. I guess you’d say this is very “young” in terms of sours; not much complexity with a very plain straightforward sourness, but it’s really nice to sip on a hot day. I combined 4 oz of this beer with just a splash of the Mosaic Belgian Pale ale, and that tasted really, really good. It added a little fruitiness and body without taking too much away from the sourness. Highly recommend this recipe for anyone looking to try making a sour beer for the first time!

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Filed under All-grain, Experimental, German, Small Batch, Sour, Summer

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