Berliner Weisse Experiment 1 (Lacto Sources)

For some reason, I’ve become particularly intrigued by Berliner Weisse (BW) as of late.  I really love the style especially in the crazy heat of summer and, maybe more importantly, my wife loves a nice tart beer (read: Festina Peche).  My first attempt (that is still souring – fingers crossed) used the Jamil method of pitching the yeast and lacto at the same time.  Clearly this method produces a great beer since the last BW winner at NHC used Jamil’s method.  That said, I’m not really interested in waiting 6 months everytime I brew one.  So, I started to do some research into different ways to sour a BW and there is a decent amount of information but nothing very extensive, well tested or documented.  So, I decided to run a set of my own experiments to find out how can I make a BW that sours very quickly, tastes great, maybe keeps cost and complexity in the check and can be served on draft without concern of infecting everything it touches.  All that said, I’m not interested in making a really crappy beer quickly so if to make the best beer takes time or I have to serve it in bottles rather than draft then thats what I’ll do but it seems the only way to know for sure is the run some experiments.  I didn’t want to start totally from scratch so I took the test data from Jess Caudill of Wyeast that was presented at NHC (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_hClp9huB1M) and built from there.  It is clear in Jess’ preso that for the lacto to sour quickly and produce a lot of tasty lactic acid it is best if it doesn’t compete with yeast at the beginning but let it sour first then use a yeast that works well at low pH to finish things up.  Makes total sense – the less the lacto has to compete the better.  But in dorking around on the web there seems to be little consensus on the best source of lacto.  So my first set of tests are to try different sources and see how quickly they sour and to what level do they drop the pH and how does it taste/smell as it goes along.My plan is to do 3 x 1 gallon test batches at a time where I boil a little over 3 gallons of 1.030 muntons wheat DME wort for 15 minutes, cool to around 100F and then pitch the sources of lacto and hold at 90-100F and take daily pH and aroma/flavor notes till the pH stops dropping, the pH gets to the level of sour I want, or the batch goes rancid.  My plan is to test raw 2-row, raw acidulated malt and different “pure” lacto cultures from labs (white labs, wyeast etc..) as well as probiotic sources.   Unlike Jess’ experiments, assuming the 1 gallon batch is not rancid, I plan to boil the wort again to kill the lacto (so it could then be served on draft), ferment using german ale yeast and then bottle condition at ~3.5 volumes to see how the finished beer comes across.

For later experiments, I’d also like to try:

-not reboiling the wort to leave the Lacto alive
– using Brett rather than German Ale as the primary fermenter,
-fermenting with German Ale and  bottle conditioning with Brett
– making it bigger (1.050+)
– making it much hoppier than normal versions with boil/whirlpool/dry hopping experiments.
– lowering the pH using lactic acid before pitching lacto since this appears to speed things up and help with head retention without really effecting the flavor profile.

And I’m sure I’ll come up with other ideas.

So, first the lab setup:

 IMG_3050 IMG_3052 IMG_3053 IMG_3054 IMG_3055 IMG_3056
The fermenters are just standard 1 gallon jugs with universal bungs and some tubing to run over to a jar of sanitizer.  The chamber is just a nice big cooler with a lizard lamp in it hooked into my old brewery automation box that I’m just using to keep the temp in the cooler at 95F.  not super precise but should work well for this experiment and the temp swings went from 93-96F so not too bad.  of course this is all outside to keep the family at bay :)For round 1 I tested1) 1 oz uncrushed weyerman acidulated malt
2) 1 oz uncrushed 2 row from Canada Malting
3) 50 tablets of Lactobacillus Acidophilus that are 100 million cells per tablet

Everything I’ve read on people kettle souring, the amount of grain put in is always “a handful” so I thought I’d be a bit more precise and actually measure the amount of grain by weight 🙂

For the tablets, Jess recommends >= 5 million cells / ml which is about 19 billion cells / gallon but I didn’t really want to use 190 tables.  Instead I used what should be a bit over 1 million cells / ml which still did well in Jess’ tests it just took a bit longer and allowed me to buy less probiotics 🙂  Here is a picture of the Acidophilus I used:

IMG_3051

I’m keen on trying “probiotic” strains of lacto since I can buy them at the pharmacy, they are fairly inexpensive, a lot of them don’t even have to be refrigerated and from reading different forums it appears other have had good luck with them.  There are a lot of blends out there but I’m looking to stick to pure strains, at least for now, so I can see the performance and flavor profile of each individual strain.The initial numbers are OG of 1.031 and initial pH (pre-pitching) of 5.8.
lacto_experiment_1

Day 1 (ie 24 hours in):
1 (acidulated malt) : pH 4.81 malty sweet, not sour. clean.  no fermentation activity.
2 (2 row): pH 4.14 a little sour like apple juice.  still worty and sweet.  no fermentation activity.
3 (acidophilus): pH 3.97.  similar to 2 but just a hair more sour.  no fermentation activity.Day 2:
1 (acidulated malt) : pH 4.59  big foamy kreusen with a strong horse blanket / goatie aroma with an edge of dirty diaper.  no malt aroma.  seems very sketchy so not tasted.  very hazy.
2 (2 row): pH 3.89 super weird foam that is like big soap bubbles that are a bit reflective and alien looking.  really strange.  malty aroma w/ a little lactic tart nose.  also very sketchy so not tasted.
3 (acidophilus): pH 3.77 no foam at all.  malty aroma w/ a hint of sour aroma but comes across more malty then sour.  pretty tart flavor.  5 on a scale of 1 to 10.  clean sourness surrounded by wortiness.pictures of Day 2:

1 (acidualted malt)

IMG_3058

2 – (2 row)
IMG_3059

3 – (acidophilus):
IMG_3062

Day 3:
1 (acidulated malt) : pH 4.05  no kreusen.  odor is a bit of sour lactic and some funk -> brett.  tasted it since no sick smell.  worty.  funky – bretty.  a bit sour.
2 (2 row): pH 3.40 no kreusen.  smell is sweet wort w/ an edge of sour.  otherwise clean.  flavor is sour – 7 out of 10 (10 being the most sour beer i’ve had).  a bit of sweet wort flavor.
3 (acidophilus): pH 3.42 still no kreusen.  seems to have dropped clear?  nose is mostly wort (more than 2) w/ just an edge of sour.  flavor is also pretty worty but 6 out of 10 on sour scale.Day 4:
1 (acidulated malt) : pH 4.09 no change
2 (2 row): pH 3.28 similar to day 3 but a hint more sour in nose and flavor.  get a bit mouth puckering.  nice level of sour.  8 out of 10.
3 (acidophilus): pH 3.40 similar to day 3 but a shade more sour.  7 out of 10.Day 5:
1 (acidulated malt) : pH 4.05  no change
2 (2 row): pH 3.14 nose is a bit more tart.  flavor is similar but getting very tart.  throat constricting 🙂  9 out of 10.  about the level i would want if i’m looking for a very sour beer.  clean.  still malty/worty.
3 (acidophilus): pH 3.34 similar to day 4.  nice and tart but not as tart as 2.  clean.  still malty/worty.  7 out of 10.

Day 6:
Work ….  Boooooo

Day 7:
1 (acidulated malt) : pH 4.09  no change
2 (2 row): pH 3.10 similar to day 5.  i’m really enjoying these samples 🙂  pretty darn tart.
3 (acidophilus): pH 3.30 nice sour level but not as sour as 2.

Day 8:
1 (acidulated malt) : no change.  dumped.
2 (2 row): pH 3.08 similar to day 7. TART.
3 (acidophilus): pH 3.30 similar to day 7.

I took 2 and 3 and did the following:

put through strainer into boil kettle to remove solid matter.
boiled for 15 mins with ~5 IBUs of centennial (.15 oz) since that is what i had laying around
cooled to ~60F and pitched half a smack pack of german ale into each (~50ml of slurry)

pitched on 12/13/14
12/14/14
8am
2 (2 row): no activity
3 (acidophilus): has thin kreusen and seems to be bubbling a little bit but not much
8pm
2 (2 row): no activity
3 (acidophilus): 1″ kreusen and steady bubbling but nothing crazy

lacto_ferment_1

12/15/14
8am
2 (2 row): no activity
3 (acidophilus): still kreusened but bubbling has slowed12/16/14
8am
2 (2 row): no activity
3 (acidophilus): still kreusened but bubbling has slowed to ~4 sec12/17/14
2 (2 row): no activity
3 (acidophilus): still ~4 sec

12/18/14
8am
2 (2 row): no activity
3 (acidophilus): kreusen dropped.  bubble ~60sec

12/19-22/14
no activity

12/22/14
2 (2-row) FG = 1.019 pH = 2.99.  aroma – sweet worty smell with a sour edge.  flavor – VERY sour but sweet malt edge.

3 (acidopholus) FG 1.010  pH = 3.21  aroma – lightly sour and yeasty with a bit of cardboard.  flavor – good level of sour.  clean.  slight malty sweet flavor and a bit oxidized.

I dumped 2 due to high sugar content (bottle bombs) and very low pH.

I bottled 3 targeting 3.5 volumes.  It was .85 gallons @ room temp so I boiled 1.2 oz of sugar in 1/2 cup of filtered water and mixed that in with beer in bottling bucket.  this ended up filling 6 bottles.  I have them stored in a plastic bin with a locking lid in one of my bath tubs and fully expect to hear some explosions at some point.  fingers crossed 🙂

1/5/15
Success!  The one batch (3(acidopholus) that I had marked BW1-3) that I bottled carbed up to what seems like the targeted 3.5 (super duper carbonated) and is actually a really nice beer!  Definitely no head issues either initially or with retention.  Big fluffy pillow that lingers till your done.  Probably my only complaint is the weird malt off flavors which are subtle and that it is too dark.  Both of these I just chalk up to using wheat DME.  I see no flavor issues from the lacto or yeast.  And did I mention it is really damn sour 🙂  Here is a picture.

bw_1-3_results

lessons learned:
1) raw grains seem fairly risky.  acidulated malt was an abject failure.  not sure if there was lactic acid but not much lacto or the other bugs just outcompeted.  2-row seemed to work pretty well as far as souring but there was some definite funk so I wouldn’t use this for a large batch since the probability of failure seems high.  it works but i have my doubts that it would work consistently.  at the very least I would make a starter first and make sure it is clean before pitching into a bigger batch.
2) store bought probiotics seem to work fairly well.  it will be interesting to see the difference between the store bought acidophilus and the lab grown delbrueckii and brevis. 

3) take gravity readings before boiling 🙂  it seems that one of two things happened with the 2-row.  there was some yeast or heterofermentative bacteria that generated alcohol which I then boiled off 🙂 or the german ale yeast did ferment some but conked out in a sub-3 pH.  But I won’t know since I didn’t test to see if the gravity drop from 1.031 to 1.019 took place before boiling or after.

4) even low pH friendly beer yeast like german ale have their limits and it appears to be in the < 3.2 pH range since #3 seemed to finish out but #2 never really got started.  another experiment 🙂  find at what pH level to pitch the yeast or use really low pH friendly  wine yeast or brett.

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