Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Berliner Weisse Test

NOTE:  Brew day should be last weekend in July or first weekend in August.  Will update with brewday notes and pictures, and review when finished.

Berliner weisse is one of my favorite sour beer styles.  On a hot summer day in Southern Cal the spritzy carbonation, lactic-lemony tartness, grainy wheat character and fruitiness really seem to hit the spot.

About ten months back I attempted my first Berliner as a partigyle beer from a large batch of single decocted Bavarian Hefeweizen I was preparing for an event (The Caltech Sausage Fest... yes, that is seriously an event).  I ended up blending some of the first and second runnings to hit an O.G. of 1.028, and after a 15 minute boil with some EKG to hit 8 IBU, chilled it to 100 F and pitched 2 vials of White Labs Lactobacillus bacteria (WLP677).  I kept the beer around 100 F for 7 days before slowly cooling to 70 F and pitching 1 packet of Wyeast German Ale Yeast (1007).  After gravity was stable for 7 days (1.006), I racked to a bottling bucket, pitched Brettanomyces Bruxellensis and primed to 2.5 volumes of CO2 assuming that the gravity would drop to somewhere around 1.000 (It did).  Upon tasting the beer at 3, 6 and 9 months, it had a great effervescent carbonation, floral/fruitiness and grainy wheat character, but just a touch of tartness.

I found this quite interesting as I assumed pitching Lactobacillus bacteria would produce a good deal of lactic acid.  However, when doing a little research I found some interesting facts about Lactobacillus metabolism (Excerpt from Wikipedia, followed by information from http://textbookofbacteriology.net/lactics_2.html):

Many lactobacilli are unusual in that they operate using homofermentative metabolism (that is, they produce only lactic acid from sugars in contrast to heterofermentative lactobacilli which can produce either alcohol or lactic acid from sugars) and are aerotolerant despite the complete absence of a respiratory chain[citation needed]. This aerotolerance is manganese-dependent and has been explored (and explained) in Lactobacillus plantarum. Many lactobacilli do not require iron for growth and have an extremely high hydrogen peroxide tolerance.

According to metabolism, Lactobacillus species can be divided into three groups:

Obligately homofermentative (Group I) including:
L. acidophilus, L. delbrueckii, L. helveticus, L. salivarius

Facultatively heterofermentative (Group II) including:
L. casei, L. curvatus, L. plantarum, L. sakei

Obligately heterofermentative (Group III) including:
L. brevis, L. buchneri, L. fermentum, L. reuteri

Heterofermentative (Left) and Homofermentative Metabolism (Right)
From http://textbookofbacteriology.net/lactics_2.html

                            Heterofermentative                                            Homofermentative

Heterofermentative (Heterolactic)= One mole of glucose is converted (via the (via the pentose phosphate pathway) into equimolar quantities (1 each) of CO2, Ethanol and Lactic acid.

Homofermentative (Homolactic) = Under conditions of excess glucose and limited oxygen lactic acid bacteria can produce lactic acid via the catabolism of one mole of glucose (via the Embden-Meyerhof pathway) into 2 moles of pyruvate, which is eventually reduced to lactic acid.

Note that the Whitelabs WLP677 is referred to as Lactobacillus bacteria, which only lists a genus (Lactobacillus) and not a species (delbrueckii), which to me suggests a blend of species or un-named subspecies.  Information from White Labs on the Mad Fermentationist's Blog (http://www.themadfermentationist.com/2012/06/100-lactobacillus-berliner-weisse.html) suggests that WLP677 is indeed heterofermentative and can produce lactic acid, CO2 and alcohol, in contrast to the Wyeast 5335 Lactobacillus delbrueckii (Genus and Species) that only produces lactic acid.  Interestingly, a recent post on the Mad Fermentationist's blog reviewing his 100% WLP677 Lactobacillus fermented berliner weiss produced a similar result to my beer, namely a nice nose with some lactic acid like aromas, but a taste that falls pretty flat in the acid department (e.g. almost none).

One other note of import from the Mad Fermentationist's blog comes from Chad Yakobson at Crooked Stave, that mentioned "Lacto produces a protein degrading enzyme which is active at higher pH values. By lowering the pH (e.g., acid malt, or food grade acid) to 4.5-4.8 pre-pitching you can yield better foam stability. I decided to skip this technique on my first attempt however to see if it is a necessary step."  Interestingly, the cited proteolytic activity is of critical importance for lactobacillus survival, and is important in flavor development in cheese production.  In order to grow to high cell density some strains of lactobacillus require amino acids in quantities not available in their growth medium and thus must secrete proteases to liberate the amino acids from proteins.  In cheese making this apparently is responsible for the production of desirable flavor tones.   I'm curious if the strains available to homebrewers are auxotrophs (Prototrophs can synthesize all required amino acids themselves) and are required to secrete proteases for cell growth and survival.  The notoriously poor foam stability in Berliner Weiss could most likely stem from the secreted proteases required for cell growth if lactic acid bacteria used for fermentation of Berliner weisse are indeed auxotrophic.

So, with all that long winded inner monologue about lactic acid bacteria, WTF am I going to do for my Berliner Weiss Test??

I'd really like to brew a series of Berliner Weiss' with varying fermentation and microbe/yeast profiles in order to find the sweet spot for my Berliner Weiss': very dry and effervescent, with sharp lactic/lemonade like sourness, moderate fruitiness and a nice grainy wheat flavor.  In order to hit that mark I'll be utilizing the following strains:

Wyeast German Ale Yeast (1007)
Wyeast Berlinerweisse blend (3191 PC)
Wyeast Lactobacillus (5335)
White Labs Berlinerweisse blend (WLP630)
White Labs Brett Clausenii Trois (WLP644)
White Labs Lactobacillus (WLP677)
Non-fat Yogurt Mixed Culture

The use of Brett Clausenii Trois might be a bit weird to some, but I like its fruity aroma and mild Brett character, so I'll be using it instead of the normal Brett Clausenii (Lambicus used in the first Berliner was too funky/horsey/hay).  Additionally, the use of a mixed yogurt culture may seem odd, but it is a source of lactobacillus (granted its not a pure culture), and provides an additional source of lactobacillus not produced by Wyeast or White Labs.  While many people swear by sour mashing in corny kegs, I'm concerned with repeatability, so will not be performing sour mashes in this experiment.

As far as the grain bill, I'm just doing a simple 23 gallon extract batch with a mini-mash.  24 Gallon boil volume with straight up Wheat Extract LME & DME (65% Wheat, 35% Pilsner) with a mini-mash of Malted Wheat and Torrified Wheat for just a little extra dextrin content and raw wheat flavor (Not traditional, but I like it, so fuck tradition).  Will be doing a short 30 minute boil with EKG hops to hit 5 IBU, then chilling down to 100 F for the Lacto ferments and racking off, then chilling the remainder down to 75 F for the Berliner Weisse Blend fermentations.

Heres the breakdown of the split batches and fermentation schedule:

5 gal - Wyeast Lacto and cup of non-fat yogurt for 7 days, White Labs Lacto to Finish
1 gal - Wyeast Lacto for 7 days, White Labs Lacto to finish
1 gal - Wyeast Lacto for 7 days, White Labs BrettCT to finish
5 gal - Wyeast Lacto for 7 days, White Labs Lacto 7 days, White Labs BrettCT at bottling
5 gal - Wyeast Lacto for 7 days, Wyeast German Ale Yeast to finish, White Labs BrettCT at bottling
1 gal - White Labs Berlinerweisse Blend
1 gal - Wyeast Berlinerweisse Blend
Prior Batch - White Labs Lacto for 7 days, Wyeast German Ale Yeast to finish, White Labs Brett Lambicus at bottling

All batches containing Brettanomyces added at bottling will be primed to 2.5 volumes CO2, all batches without Brettanomyces will be primed to 3.0 volumes of CO2.

Note Additional volume of wort (4-5 gallons) will be innoculated with BugFarm VI and a bunch of maltodextrin to make a Golden sour that will be racked onto homegrown peaches in a couple months.

Beersmith Printout:

BeerSmith Recipe Printout - http://www.beersmith.com
Recipe: 072-077 Berliner Test
Brewer: Ward G. Walkup IV
Asst Brewer: 
Style: Berliner Weiss
TYPE: Partial Mash

Recipe Specifications
Batch Size (fermenter): 23.00 gal      
Boil Size: 24.00 gal
Bottling Volume: 22.75 gal
Estimated OG: 1.033 SG
Estimated Color: 4.1 SRM
Estimated IBU: 5.0 IBUs
Brewhouse Efficiency: 70.00 %
Boil Time: 30 Minutes

Amt         Name                                     Type        #        %/IBU         
1.25 oz     Goldings, East Kent [5.50 %] - Boil 30.0 Hop         5        5.0 IBUs      
6 lbs       Wheat Dry Extract (8.0 SRM)              Dry Extract 4        30.0 %        
12 lbs      LME Wheat Bavarian (Briess) (4.0 SRM)    Extract     3        60.0 %        
1 lbs       Wheat, Torrified (1.7 SRM)               Grain       2        5.0 %         
1 lbs       Wheat Malt, Ger (2.0 SRM)                Grain       1        5.0 %         

Mash Schedule: Temperature Mash, 1 Step, Full Body
Total Grain Weight: 20 lbs
Name              Description                             Step Temperat Step Time     
Saccharification  Add 4.50 qt of water at 162.8 F         156.0 F       40 min        
Mash Out          Add 0.00 qt of water and heat to 168.0  168.0 F       10 min   

Original batch using White Labs Lacto only, followed by German Ale Yeast then Brett Lambicus at bottling.  Batch wasn't sour at all (almost like a funky lager), which seems to be common amongst other people who used only White Labs Lacto, whereas Wyeast users using their Berliner Blend have got a good deal of tart.  Also, pitch brett trois or claus next time instead of lambicus, to get more tropical fruit and less barnyard funk.  I still have bottles of White Labs Lacto, Wyeast German Ale and White Labs Brett Clausennii Berliner to compare against.

Split batches:
5 gal - Wyeast Lacto and cup of non-fat yogurt for 7 days, White Labs Lacto to finish
1 gal - Wyeast Lacto for 7 days, White Labs Lacto to finish
1 gal - Wyeast Lacto for 7 days, BrettCT to finish
5 gal - Wyeast Lacto for 7 days, German Ale Yeast to finish, BrettCT at bottling
5 gal - Wyeast Lacto for 7 days, White Labs Lacto 7 days, BrettCT at bottling
1 gal - White Labs Berlinerweisse blend (630)
1 gal - Wyeast Berlinerweisse blend
Prior - White Labs Lacto for 7 days, German Ale Yeast to finish, Brett at bottling

Strains Needed:
Wyeast Lactobacillus (5335)
Wyeast German Ale Yeast (1007)
Wyeast Berlinerweisse blend (3191 PC)
White Labs Lactobacillus (WLP677)
White Labs Brett Clausenii Trois (WLP644)
White Labs Berlinerweisse blend (WLP630)
Non-fat Yogurt Mixed Culture

Created with BeerSmith 2 - http://www.beersmith.com


  1. Just a heads up on the yogurt one. I did a 5.5 gallon batch and it is at 5 weeks now, it fermented down to 1.005 as of last week, lots of DMS to start, fading with time, light lactic twang as of 4 weeks. I plan on bottling this weekend with Brett from Elysian's Mortis. Will post my recipe and notes on my blog early next week. Good luck with the experiment. If I go this route again I will make a starter and keep temps higher (I did ambient in the garage between 65-92*F).

  2. Thanks for the info regarding the yogurt Berliner. I'm planning on doing this within the next 2 weeks, so I'll get a starter going on the yogurt and set the ferm chamber up to hit around 90 F. Will check your post when its up.

  3. Great post. I have been exploring various lacto cultures and I managed to get one going from a dry yoghurt starter. It seems to be homofermentative as it didn't bubble at all and even though the pH has dropped down to 3.4, there was no drop in gravity (according to my refractometer). So far I have only done a 500ml 1.036 starter. Kept at 40C with an airlock, no stir-plate. After 8 days it had dropped to a pH of 3.4. Tastes very sour but clean. Still has quite a lot of sweetness in the background (almost tastes like fake sweetner in there) but some yeast would surely sort that out.

    I cooled the starter in the fridge to let it settle out, poured off the wort/beer and now have three white labs vials of the stuff in the fridge. Next step is to do some 1 gallon DME brews, sour the wort at 40C, boil again and then ferment with sach or bret. Might also try one where I pitch lacto and yeast and just see where it goes :)