Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Berliner Weiss Recipe

It's been a busy day in the backyard test lab. Woke up this morning with a serious itch to brew some beer. Mashed in a really hoppy Imperial IPA around 7:00 AM. This thing is loaded with hops and clocks in at a theoretical 240 IBUs! Should be tasty.

The early start meant we were done brewing by 12:30... but what to do with all that extra time in the day. Brew another beer of course. I hopped on my bike and picked up some grains at Brew and Grow. Now it's time to brew some Berliner Weiss. This is an interesting recipe envolving some microorganisms other than yeastto achieve a nice refreshing tartness. There are several ways to achieve the sourness in this type of beer, but we are taking it old school with a classic sour mash.

This recipe isn't for the faint of heart, however it's pretty easy to brew. Even partial mash brewers can go all grain on this one with no major  problems.

Berliner Weiss

Batch size 6 gallons
Boil size 6 gallons (we aren't boiling this one really)
IBUs = <4


5lb German Pilsner
3.5lb Malted Wheat

hops: 1oz hallertau  anything low alpha will work for this, old hops are fine too ;)
Yeast - European Ale

Since the grain bill is so small on this recipe, and we will be doing something odd to the mash, I am simply mashing this in an ordinary 6.5 gallon food-grade bucket.

Mash in the grains with 2.5 Gallons water @ 162F to reach a mash temp of 149, let rest 90min

I simply wrapped the bucket, with a lid on, with a sleeping bag, which will keep the temperature well.

After 90 minutes we will infuse 2.25 gallons of near boiling water to bring the temp up to 172, let rest 10 mins

Now's where it get's wierd!!!

I know open the bucket up and let it cool outside to 120F. Usually this is the danger zone for beer spoiling organisms, but it's these that will give us our sour notes in the finished beer. Once the mash is down to 120F I also throw in a handful or two of the same grains I mashed in with. The difference is that these haven't been pasteurized by the mash and are covered in nasty little critters that'll help achieve our sour mash.

Now we lay some plastic wrap right on top of the mash, to prevent to much aceto character from oxygen. I am going one step further here by putting a thermowell into the bucket and a heat wrap around it to maintain a 100F temp. You can do this at ambient room temp, but the warmer the better here for the lactic bacteria to really shine.

Now we are going to let this sit between 3-6 days. This going to turn nasty~!!! what you see and smell in this bucket may haunt you for years to come, but don't worry, the finished beer should help you recover. Taste this soup every day or so to see how sour you're getting... TASTE DON'T SMELL. Yoou may want to do this in the basement if you have loved ones you'd like to keep.

Once the soup is sour enough to your liking, we want to stop the acidification process, collect our acid wort, and of course ferment it.

Now add your hops to the mash... yeah the mash... don't question my authority! Now we are going to heat the mash to 172 again. You can do this in several kettles if you cant fit it into one. Carefully pour the mash into your lauter tun (cooler, false bottomed kettle, even a muslin bag in a bottling bucket) and sparge with about 2.5-3 gallons of water to collect you 6 gallons of wort.

At this point you can just go ahead cool the wort and pitch your yeast or bring the mixture to a brief 1 minute boil before cooling and pitching. Ferment around 67F and in a couple weeks your Berliner Weiss should be ready!

A couple of notes. There is a much easier way of doing this by pitching the un-mashed grains into the finished wort rather than souring the mash. This requires a lot less time and effort and the effects are very similar, we just wanted to try it the ole fashined way is all. You may also choose to only sour a portion of the mash/wort, then blend the two to achieve a nice balanced sour. We really like sour beer, so we are going gung ho... if it is indeed too sour we will brew another batch without the souring steps and blend them to our liking.

For some more info on sour mashing...

An excellent(and easier) Berliner Weiss recipe

Also Check out John Palmer and Jamil Zainasheff's excellent book "Brewing Classic Styles". They have a very good Berliner weiss recipe that uses a lacto culture instead of sour mashing.

Please feel free to ask us any questions.

Gross pics sure to come;)

happy brewing. 
The Pipeworks Boys

Thursday, November 4, 2010

What goes into an experimental brew?

So today we decided it was finally time to brew a little beer we've been talking about for quite some time. Well, it'll be brewed in the morning, but I decided to pen the recipe today. Both myself and Gerrit come from Jewish backgrounds, and like any self respecting Jew, we love a good pastrami on rye sandwich. So we got to talking about the different elements that go into making a pastrami sandwich, from the brining spices, to the peppery crusted brisket, to the rye bread and mustard...

Could these elements somehow be combined into a beer???

Well, that's what we will set out to discover tomorrow morning.

After posting our intentions on our Facebook page, we got a couple reactions ranging from disgust to intrigue. I also received a great email from an intrigued gentlemen by the name of Adam. Below you'll find his question and my response regarding the creative process in developing such a brew.


Adam Writes

When making a new beer, such as the one that was posted on facebook earlier today, how do you know what the end result will taste like? Will it even be drinkable? Do you taste test throughout the brewing process? If so when are the best times to taste? I would think in coming up with something new you wouldn't want to waste money and product in brewing something that will ultimately get tossed out.

Thanks and curious.

Hey Adam,

Great question! Generally when formulating a recipe I use stylistic traditions to guide me. If I am brewing an English Porter, let's say, I look at the historical recipes used and take note of what grains, hops, mashing techniques are prevalent. After that I start thinking about what my end goals are i.e. do I want a roastier porter, or maybe a hoppier one. Through experience I usually have a pretty good sense of what the end result will be.

I do indeed taste throughout the brewing/fermentation process. Of course I taste my wort pre and post boil. I'll usually taste again after initial fermentation and a couple times throughout the ageing process.

Now, most of what I said gets tossed out the window when we are trying something really experimental, like the forthcoming Pastrami on Rye. To be honest, I've never brewed with most of the spices that will go into the beer.

When doing something like this I start with a solid foundation. I decided a rich malty brown ale/porter base would support the flavors I was going for. Then I changed it up a little by introducing the smoked malt and rye. I have used these grains quite often so I have a good idea of what proportions will lend some flavor without being overkill.

 Then I researched what the typical spicing is for pastrami. Working out the proportions is the tricky part. I began looking up what typical amounts are for using the various spices alone. So say when folks use about 2tsp of peppercorns in a beer to get a mild pepper taste, I at least have a baseline for the flavor threshold of that spice. I do my best to make an educated guess. I also try to undershoot it a little the first time I brew something like this, as I can always add more spice flavor in secondary or prior to bottling.

Past that, it's a bit of a craps shoot. This will be a pilot batch. I would never do something like this on a full scale batch until I was pleased with a 5 gallon version first. This thing could be terrible all said and done, but it could be awesome. Based on the first batch I can make adjustments to subsequent batches, if, of course, it seems a worthy venture.

As they say, nothing ventured, nothing gained. I remember the first time I brewed my Belgian IPA with my partner Gerrit. I came out of the kitchen at the end of the boil with a bunch of Szechuan Peppercorns... he looked at me like I was crazy. I told him I had been researching the flavors of those particular berries (they are actually berries) and thought they'd complement the hops really well. He was quite skeptical, but in the end it turned out to be one of his favorite beers.

The Pipeworks Boys