No Boil Berliner Weisse

 Those beautiful mid-February brew days!

Those beautiful mid-February brew days!

If you've followed along with my brewing adventures, you'll remember a couple of barrel aged beer recipes (Russian Imperial Stout and English Dark Mild). I also did a Barley Wine and a Rye Saison with Riesling grape concentrate in the same barrel (recipes lost forever to a computer crash). The saison had some brett in it, so the barrel's days of seeing clean beers were over. After I finished aging the Riesling Rye Saison, I kegged 5 gallons out of the 11 gallon barrel and then added in 5 gallons of the base beer used in my Nordic Wheat beer that was soured with my house sour culture. The barrel has now become a mini Solera project. Every 6 months or so I'll brew up 11 gallons of a basic 50/50 German Pale Malt/What Malt beer, 5.5 gallons will get soured and the other 5.5 gallons I can play with.

And that, my friends, is what brings you to this blog today...me playing with my wort. I was due to give a talk at my homebrew club (W.I.Z.A.R.D.S. in Worcester, MA) about sour beers back in April and wanted to have an example of both a fast and slow soured beer. I had a turbid mashed lamibic I brewed back in 2015 still kicking around that fit the bill for slow soured beer, so all I needed was a fast sour beer. And that's where this mid-February brew day came in.

I'm a big fan of Berliner Weisses, but had never tried making a no-boil one. I wanted to keep that raw, rustic, bready flavor from the pale and wheat malts, but I also didn't want this to continue to sour and watch the pH drop until it got too acidic to enjoy. So instead of a more traditional no-boil brews where you pitch lacto and yeast either together or slightly staggered on wort that was pasteurized, I decided to do an overnight kettle sour with pro-biotics, then raise the temp of the soured mash to 185F to kill all the bacteria and then pitch yeast into the cooled wort.

 The beauty of a simple grain bill.

The beauty of a simple grain bill.

Berliner Weisse recipe for 5.5 gallons:

Grains:

  • 4.5 lbs German Pale Malt
  • 4.5 lbs Wheat Malt

Single infusion mash at 150F for 1 hour, then add boiling water to 170F and let that sit for 15 minutes before draining and batch sparging.

Fast souring:

  • Once all the liquid was collected, heat up the wort to 185F and drain into a 5 gallon corny keg
  • Add 5 ml of lactic acid to drop the initial pH to around 4.5 and cool wort to 115F
  • Add 4 Ultimate Flora capsules (open capsules and dump in contents)
  • Wrap the keg in a blanket and place in fermentation chamber set at 90F
  • 12-18 hours later, test the pH until it was around 3.3
  • Pour the soured wort into boil kettle
  • Add 0.5oz of Hallertauer hops and immersion chiller
  • Heat everything to 185F, cut heat and let sit for 10 minutes
  • Chill and add everything to a carboy

Fermentation Plan:

  • I used 2 packets of SafAle German Ale (K-97) yeast for this beer. It gives a bit of an ester character that plays with the sourness, giving an extra level of complexity. Fermented at 68F for 2 weeks before cold crashing and kegging.
 It was a steamy 150F on that 30F brew day.

It was a steamy 150F on that 30F brew day.

Since this was originally an 11 gallon batch that I was spliting, I ended up taking roughly 5 gallons of pre-boiled wort, which luckily for me was at an OG of 1.036. After heating up my wort to 185F, I had to pause to fill up a corny keg. I added the lactic acid to help get the pH low enough to clear the "danger zone" for bad bugs to grow, and then put the keg in my basement to cool down to 115F. When I came back up to start the boil, I almost forget to add my hops for the sour base. Which, for me, is as close to a brewing disaster as I get.

The souring went a little faster than I anticipated, which was fine, I just wasn't expecting to get back on the brew horse at 830am on a Sunday morning, but luckily heating up to 185F, holding for 10 minutes to pasteurize, and then chilling went super fast. To make sure all the soured wort got into the carboy, I had to actually pour the last of the wort from the kettle into the carboy. But it was worth it as the finished beer is light, lemony, and bready. It's an easy drinker that you can slam back, but also complex enough that sipping and savoring is a viable option too. It's also the lightest beer I've ever brewed color-wise.

I really dug this beer a lot and am happy with the way it came out. I might try a different yeast than the K-97 next time. One of my wild yeasts I struck out to single colonies (I'll be writing about that project eventually) has a little rustic bite to it that I think would go well here. I just need to grow up a bigger starter and test out a full 1 gallon test batch with it to see what it's truly like in a light beer base.

 What's paler than pale? This beer.

What's paler than pale? This beer.

Final numbers for my No Boil Berliner Weisse:

  • Batch Size: 5 gallons
  • Original Gravity: 1.036
  • Final Gravity: 1.012
  • ABV: 3.15%
  • IBU: 2
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