Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Split Batch: Berliner Weisse and Belgian Blonde

I brewed! (It had been a few months, ok almost 5, but I have a lot of excuses.)

It is funny to me that over the course of brewing sour and Brett beers for the last 3 yrs or so I haven't brewed a Berliner Weisse. I typically enjoy the more malty beers when it comes to sour. I have been re-thinking my brewing schedule since I actually have a working kegerator (build post to come). I'm trying to focus a bit more on beers that would be nice to have on draft and that appeal to a bit bigger of an audience. I realized this when I went to start tapping the kegs for the new kegerator that I brew out of the fringes a bit too much. I had the following beers on draft:
- Spelt Saison with Brett Drie
- Chardonnay Barrel Saison
- Huge Barelywine with house sour culture
- 100% Brett Drie Oat Saison with tons of dry hops

Each beer had Brett in it and a couple since they have been sitting around since last summer are getting pretty funky.

I figured with this split batch I could get 2 universally enjoyed styles done at once. The planning for this batch was a bit involved because I'm an efficiency expert. As many seasoned homebrewers know, there are several ways to brew Berliner Weisse. Each technique has its pros and cons and I'll quickly summarize. (Chris at Lewy Brewing did a good Berliner Weisse overview  and Mike at Mad Fermentationalist has tried several methods).

Sour Mash:
Pro: Good Complexity, No extra ingredients, Fast Souring, Bacteria only in Mash Tun
Con: Little control, Horrible smell, Inconsistent results, Extended or 2 part brew session

Sour Wort:
Pro: Same as Sour Mash with a bit more "control" with CO2 blanket and smell better contained
Con: Same as Sour Mash, but more equipment touches bacteria

Commercial Lacto:
Pro: More consistent results, mild complexity
Con: Extra cost for lacto, souring takes longer, must build starter, bacteria in fermenter

Adding Acid:
Pro: Fast, No bacteria in brew system, easy to control acid level
Con: Low complexity and very clean (could be a pro depending on taste)

I chose to go with the commercial lacto method as I like the compromise between some complexity from flavors produced by the commercial strain of lacto and the reduced risk of off flavors from endobacteria in mash tun. Also by souring in the fermenter I can have half of the batch as a clean/ non-sour beer. I built the lacto starter up 3 days before the brew session in 1/2 gal of 1.030 un-hppped wort. I flushed with CO2 and used a container that minimized air contact. The starter was wrapping in a heating blanket and kept at 95 F. The starter was decanted before pitching. I actually got a lot of CO2 activity from the White Labs lacto strain, which is in agreement with other's reports.

The actual recipe is close to standard Berliner Weiss except with some wheat being substituted by Munich malt. I also decided to add a decoction since it is traditional and I want some added malt complexity even though that's a bit out of the style guidlelines. The decoction is also a good way to be able to boil some of the hops to get a few IBU out of them. The fermentation was a bit special also, see my notes below. As for the Belgian Blonde, it is just a bonus beer. I'll use it as a blender beer to tone down some sours and also to serve to people on draft as a good introductory beer.

2012 Berliner Weisse & Belgian Blonde 

Batch Size: 10.000 gal       O.G.: 1.032 (BW), TBD (BB)               FG: TBD
IBU: ~5 (BW), ~20 (BB)                      SRM: ~4                          ABV: TBD 

Name                            Amount Color
Pilsner (2 Row) Bel     8.000 lb 2 L
Munich Malt               1.500 lb 9 L
Wheat Malt, Bel         4.000 lb 2 L
Acid Malt                    1.000 lb 3 L
Total grain: 14.500 lb

Name                                      Alpha      Amount      Use      Time              IBU
Styrian Goldings                    4.5%         1.0 oz        Boil      60.000 min     8.7
Super Styrian (BB only)        9.5%          .25 oz       Boil     90.000 min      12
Styrian Goldings (BB only)  4.5%         1.0 oz        Boil     15.000 min     5.5

Lactobacillus – Berliner Weisse
WLP011 - European Ale Yeast Ale – Berliner Weisse
WLP530 Abbey Ale Yeast – Singel

Brewing Process 
Mash 5 gals with grain (Strike 147) – Protein Rest at 133 for 10 mins before taking decoction
Add 1 oz Styrian Goldings to mash tun
Remove Decoction (Decoc Vol = Total Mash Vol *( target temp – start temp)/(boil temp- start temp))*1.15) which is a total of 9.5 qts (2.25 gal)
Bring decoction to 153 for 15 mins
Bring decoction to boil for 15 mins while stirring
Mash at 153 – 30 mins
Add 8.5 gals Sparge water at 175
Run 3.5 gals into boil kettle and bring to boil for 15 mins
Measure gravity, calculate how much water to add to cool to 5 gals of 1.034 wort to 110F
Add lacto to Berliner Weisse and keep on warming blanket
Sprage remaining liquid
Bring Singel up to Boil
Add .25 oz Super Stryrian – Boil 90
Add 1 oz Saaz at 15 min

Both batches were fermented in stainless steel corny kegs. This process was especially important for the Berliner Weisse so that I could prevent exposure to O2 by purging the keg with CO2. I vented the keg often the first day and it was producing lots of CO2 (but not all lacto strains will). The whole keg was wrapped in an electric blanket and set to 95F. On Day 2, I created a 500 ml starter with some leftover frozen wort and put the European Ale yeast on the stir plate. On Day 3, the blanket was removed and the batch was allowed to cool to 65-70 and the European Ale yeast was added. I then attached a blow-off tube from the gas in thread.

The Belgian Blonde was fermented in the corny with a blow off tube pushed over the threads on the Gas-In post. It was also wrapped in a blanket to help with temperature swings. There was a lot of temperature swing since this was done in the garage (my fermentation chamber is not put back together, yet) from the low 60s to low 70s. It will be interesting to see how it turns out.

I will update the post with pH and gravity readings over time.


  1. It must be the time for Berliner Weisse's. I am working on my 2nd batch of mine, plus writing a new updated post about that I would do differently. I really like your approach to the brewing style. I feel that people can get over complicated on the Berliner processes.

    The split batch is a crazy idea, that I like. It will be interesting to see how it turns out over the next couple months.

    1. It is definitely time for brewing Berliner Weisse. I'm thinking it should be ready to drink by mid summer. It is funny to think how simple tasting this beer is considering the various ways it can be brewed.

      I get geeked out on trying to make the most of one brew session.

    2. That is why I created my 1st post about my process, I was freaked out about the process of creating a drinkable product. In the end it was a great beer to sample all day long. I just wish mine lasted longer.

  2. Jeff, so you didn't aerate the Berliner wort at all before pitching?

    1. Nope, only the air it picked up from being racked into the keg. Lacto is anaerobic so it doesn't need oxygen so I tried to avoid it. I do think it is important to have a well oxygenated starter for your Sacc strain because it is going into a low ph, low O2 environment.

  3. You missed one alternative method that results in no bad/vomity smells or taste

    Make a small "starter" using crushed grain and DME, then step it up at least once (adding some Bicarb to cut acidity)

    The first fermentation may smell/taste gross, but as the pH drops the enterobacter/etc that make those nasty flavors die, leaving you with yeast and lactic bacteria

    1. Ryan,
      I tried that method with my Gose last time and still had a few off flavors, but maybe I didn't build the starter up enough. The finished beer had a very strong sulfurous smell, which I'm guessing came from underpitching non healthy yeast. Any ideas?

      I'm up for trying it again, maybe with a 1 gal batch.

  4. You really should give Sam of EurekaBrewing some love. He wrote a beautiful article a while back
    AND he also didn't boil it (as it should be). So both of us got great results with no-boil method.
    You should give it a try :)

    1. Dmitri, I forgot about that article by Eureka, it was well done. Between you and Ryan, I'll give the no-boil method another try. I'm at least interested in tasting a bunch of different versions.

    2. I'd have no problem sending you some!


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...