My wife’s favorite style of craft beer is a well made Berliner Weisse. Even though she turns her nose to the wildest of wild ales and bitter hop bombs, she loves a sour wheat ale. According to Kim, “I really enjoy the acidity and lemon-like tartness. It’s a palate cleansing beer that makes me happy.” Spot on.
A Berliner Weisse is extremely light in color – arising from a grist of almost 50% wheat and 50% barley – and is low in alcohol, almost 3% ABV, with a spritzy carbonation. The tartness and acidity arises from lactic acid bacteria present during fermentation. Picture the perfect summer beer.
Historically, a Berliner Weisse wort was not boiled, allowing lactic acid bacteria present on the grain to make its way into the primary fermentation. The beer originated sometime in the 18th century, and as legend has it, was dubbed by Napoleon Bonaparte as the “Champagne of the North”, when his armies marched on to Russia (and subsequently perished). More likely, the beer has its roots from the Flanders region where brown and red sour ales were popular at the time.
The modern Berliner Weisse, being developed and perfected by breweries in Berlin during the 19th century, has artificial sweeteners added to the beer to cut the acidity, such as woodruff or raspberry syrup. By the 1950s, the popularity of the beer waned until the american craft beer movement began to resurrect the style. As a result, there are many variations of the beer, with a common lactic acid acidity. In a nod to storage of the beer in microbe-laden barrels, some American craft breweries have begun to include Brettanomyces for a more complex beer.
My personal favorite Berliner Weisse, and Kim would agree with me, is Southampton’s award winning Berliner Weisse. I was lucky enough to purchase a bottle at release day and it should be the benchmark of the style. Lemon, apple tartness, some mild funk, doughy wheat character, and an effervescent carbonation. Other Berliner Weisse’s that are more accesible include Fritz Beam’s 1809 and The Bruery’s Hottenroth.
I decided to brew this beer after Kim tried a Berliner Weisse that my friend and I brewed together at his house and asked, “Now why can’t you make this ALL the time?”. Jonathan Moxey, an award winning homebrewer and writer at Serious Eats, brewed an amazing Berliner Weisse that took first place in category at the Homebrew Alley 6 competition. To brew a Berliner Weisse, look no further to Serious Eat’s article written by Joe Postma. For my brew I decided to do something different and add Brettanomyces. Specifically, I added two strains that I isolated from Cantillon, CB-1 and CB-2.
Recipe (5 gallon batch – no boil method):
- 3.5 pounds of Wheat malt
- 3.0 pounds of German Pilsner malt
Mashed in with 1 ounce of German Hallertauer (4.8% AA) with a protein rest at 125ºF. I then raised the mash temperature to 148ºF and held for one hour. Mashed out at 168ºF and collected wort. Sterilized wort chiller and cooled wort down to 65ºF. I did not boil the wort and pitched 150 billion cells of WLP 090, two packets of Lactobacillus Delbrueckii, and 100 billion cells each of CB-1 and CB-2.
FG: ?? Still souring
ABV: ?? Estimated 3%