Jelly Donut jokes aside, and no disrespect to “Camelot”, I am planning on making a Berliner Weisse for the first time. This beer is strange. On the one hand it has the simplest recipe of anything I’ve ever done. (aside from hard cider maybe). On the other hand, there are several options during the process than can stack up, to a dozen or more ways to get there.
A Berliner Weisse, is typically, light-bodied, light colored, low alcohol (aprox 3.5%) very lively carbonated and a moderate to strong tartness. Supposedly Napoleon’s troops called this beer the “Champagne of the North” and it presumably helped keep them in good morale while they were sacking most of western Europe in the Summer and Fall of 1812. I didn’t help them much the following Winter when they got to Moscow however. Probably would have preferred a “winter warmer” by that time.
But I digress….
As a traditionally low gravity brew, 1.035ish OG a 5 gallon batch will need only about 7# of grain, split between White Wheat and regular 2-Row. It’s the sourness that makes it tricky. Or at least hard to decide what to do. Lacto-Bacillus is the bacteria that gives the beer it its distinct sourness and acidity. As an amateur triathlete, I am no stranger to lactic acid, only this time I will be drinking it, as opposed to waiting for it to dissipate from my tired muscles after a workout.
The easiest way to get there, would be to ferment from the beginning with a “Berliner Weise blend” yeast, say White Labs WPL630. This has standard ale fermenting yest, blended with a Lacto culture, all in one. Their own website claims that the sourness may take several months to develop with this yeast. It is not always available though so other methods will need to be employed.
Another school of thought is to keep the Lacto culture separate and introduce it to the wort as a separate fermentation stage. Either before or after the ale yeast. Which is what I will be doing. We are stacking variables here and already the number of choices is starting to spin out of control. For the Lacto, you can get it commercially from either of the major brewers yest producers, which is what I am doing or try making one your self….which is what I am doing.
A 6Gal batch will get me 2 3G carboys that I can test different methods with. I will do a two stage fermentation giving the Lacto-Bacillus a head start for a couple days and then adding ale yest to do most of the actual fermentation. On one I will put in WY5335 Lacto and the other I will try my home made starter from raw crushed grain and warm water. This bacteria likes warmer temps so I will have to figure out a way to keep them around 90F for a while.