I think this is the first piece I've written on my blog that is tagged only a€obeera€¯; apologies to my readers who don't care about such things (there are feeds for PHP and Web as well, if you'd prefer to avoid the occasional post on beer geekery).
I love a good berliner weiAYe beer. For those of you that haven't had the pleasure of enjoying a glass, it's a very light and refreshing, sour and acidic, low alcohol beer. It's as acidic as lemonade, and low enough in alcohol that the Germans even occasionally refer to it as children's beer.
I've found a few examples in bottles (while travelling), but it's very rare that I find a good berliner weiAYe on tap, and even more rare that the one on tap is pouring properly (they're usually under-carbonated, really yeasty, and they pour all foamy). I prefer mine straight (a€oohne schuAYa€¯), but they're traditionally (at least for some values of traditional) consumed mit schuAYa€‰-a€‰that is, with either raspberry (a€ohimbeersirupa€¯) or woodruff (a€owaldmeistersirupa€¯) syrups to balance the lactic, yogurty sourness of the berliner weiAYe base with sweet fruity flavours. If you like sour, I highly recommend you try it all three ways, if you're ever given the chance.
A few years ago, before I'd ever even had my first taste of berliner weiAYe, I was listening through Jamil Zainasheff's radio show wherein he described all of the different BJCP styles, and gave hints on how to brew each of them. A few episodes were exceptionally helpful, but the one on berliner weiAYe really resonated with me.
In the episode, he describes the beer and how to sour it after fermentation with a lactobacillus culture, but also talks about how a€osome brewersa€¯ sour mash the grist to form the lactic component, and I knew I had to try this technique. (I've also discussed sour mashing with Will Meyers of Cambridge Brewing (last time I saw him, I thanked him for the advice, and he assured me that it was his pleasure since he had nearly no recollection of the entire weekend of the event where we discussed it (-:), and with John Kimmich of The Alchemist in Vermont.)
As a result of this good advice, and some experimentation on my part, I recently won a gold medal in competition with my berliner [style] weiAYe (the sour raspberry version of the same beer also won a silver).
I'm about to dive deep into beer nerdery here, so please feel free to stop reading at any time, but if you're interested in my sour mashing (at home) technique, please read on. I've posted my berliner weiAYe recipe on my site, and last year I posted some photos on Flickr. Here we goa€¦
The sourness in my berliner weiAYe comes completely from the sour mash. In most other sour beers (such as lambics, flanders red, gueuze, etc.), the sour components are yeast- and bacteria-derived after the boil as part of the fermentation process. In mine, all of the lactic sourness is in the beer before it's boiled.
The mash was mostly normal, but I kept it very thick. More on this later, but I added water over the next couple of days to help control the temperature, so thicker is better. Luckily, this is such a low-gravity beer that it's easy to make a thick mash without it being a€otoo thicka€¯ for efficient conversion. I let the mash convert fully, but instead of lautering into the kettle, I just cooled it down to around 40A°C, which is close to the optimal temperature to grow lactobacillus.
Once it has cooled down to ~40A°C, I added a pound of unmilled 2-row malt and stirred it in. This was instead of using a lactobacillus culture, because grain contains natural lactobacillus on the husks. On a previous batch, I'd milled the grain that I added post-conversion, but this introduced a *lot* of starch into the finished beer. This doesn't matter too much, but it madea€¦ shall we say a€odigestiona€¯a€¦ diffic
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