Ich Bin Ein

lacto starter

This is my first attempt at brewing a Berliner Weisse. Usually when I brew a style for the first time, I try to stick quite close to the style description. This is especially true of a style like Berliner Weisse, which has a bit of a reputation for being difficult to get right. Thus my plan for this brew was to brew a fairly faithful version. My initial recipe plans were slightly altered when instead of pale wheat malt, I accidentally ordered dark wheat malt. This makes for a slightly darker beer (around 5 SRM instead of 3 SRM) than I had intended, though it will still be quite pale. Thus I ended up with a beer made up of 57% dark wheat malt and 43% pilsner malt. The malt bill was a rather small 3.5 kg in total as Berliners are generally very light beers. The plan was for an OG of 1.035.

The mash was rather more complicated than my usual single-infusion affairs. I went for a single-decoction mash, as I expected that the wheat malt would benefit from it. The mash schedule went as follows:

  1. Mash in at a lowly 63°C, giving initial mash temperature of 59°C.
  2. Remove a third of the mash into a smaller pot, heat that to 65°C.
  3. Rest decoction for 15 minutes.
  4. Increase temperature of decoction to 73°C
  5. Rest decoction for 15 minutes.
  6. Bring decoction to the boil, simmer for 10 minutes
  7. Return boiling decoction to the main mash, bringing temperature of mash to 64°C
  8. Rest the mash for 40 minutes.
  9. Mash out at 77°C

The Decoction

As is typical of Berliner Weisse, the hopping was extremely minimal with 40g of Saphir (2.9% AA) thrown into the mash for 30 minutes. This will provide the beer with some hop aroma as well as the micro-biological protection offered by hops but impart minimal bitterness, only about 2 IBU by my calculations. This is a no-boil beer, so I did not bring the wort to the boil at all, but just raised the wort to 82°C for 10 minutes to pasteurise it. Thanks to the lack of evaporation during the boil I ended up with a generous 26 litres of wort at the expected original gravity of 1.035

I went for a combination of three types of microbes, lactobacillus, brettanomyces and Brewer's yeast. Berliner Weisse does not necessarily contain brett, but I've read in various places that brett tends to add extra dimensions to a beer that otherwise can be a bit over-simple and one dimensional. As I wanted to give the slow-moving lacto a bit of a head start, I first pitched a 3-day old starter of Wyeast 5223-PC Lactobacillus Brevis. After about 48 hours, and with the Lacto showing good acivity, I then pitched one some US-05 and Wyeast 3203-PC De Dom. Wyeast's De Dom is a blend of lactobacillus, brettanomyces and brewer's yeast, which I chose primarily because it was half the price of the pure brett cultures that I could get from my brew shop.

Due to the heat-loving nature of lacto, I started out fermentation next to a radiator at a temperature of around 25°C. I will probably move the fermentor somewhere cooler once primary fermentation slows down. I expect that this beer will need a good 2 months at least before I can consider doing anything more with it. Until then I can only listen to the plaintive cries of the air-lock...

Vital Details

Batch size: 26l
Expected OG: 1.035
Expected FG: 1.007
Expected ABV: 3.6%
Colour (SRM): 4.9
IBU: 2

57.1% (2.00 kg) Wheat Malt, Dark
42.9% (1.50 kg) Pilsner Malt

Saphir (40g / 2 IBU) @ 30 min in mash

Wyeast 5223-PC Lactobacillus Brevis
Wyeast 3203-PC De Dom
Fermentis US-05