Looking at WYeast Berliner Weisse Brettanomyces and Saccharomyces

On April 10, 2011, I made a 15 gal batch of Berliner. Never really thought of making this style until the friendly folks at Brooklyn Homebrew gave me a couple old WYeast 3191, and since this one requires no boil I went ahead and made a big batch.

As per WYeast description “This blend includes a German ale strain with low ester formation and a dry, crisp finish. The Lactobacillus included produces moderate levels of acidity. The unique Brettanomyces strain imparts a critical earthy characteristic that is indicative of a true Berliner Weisse. When this blend is used, expect a slow start to fermentation as the yeast and bacteria in the blend is balanced to allow proper acid production. It generally requires 3-6 months of aging to fully develop flavor characteristics. Use this blend with worts containing extremely low hopping rates.”

The first 5 gal were kegged and consumed in about a month and it was tart and refreshing for sure. The remaining 10 were split in half. One went on top of a can of Oregon Raspberry puree (in spirit of the fact that it is often consumed with Raspberry syrup), and the other was just left as is. Pellicles came and went, and the beers got funky and clear.

Today I noticed that the pellicle is back on the plain one and since my home lab is almost set up, I decided to take a look at it.

As you can see, a certain organism dominates the composition of the pellicle. Based on the size and shape it isn’t Saccharomyces cerevisiae nor is it Lactobacilli (the pellicle looks different), and it sure doesn’t look like Acetobacter to me. This leaves only Brettanomyces unless some organism from the grain managed to thrive and overtake everything else in the brew which is not very likely IMO.

There are a number of other organisms present as well. Tiny motile bacteria are slithering around, a few round yeast cells (most likely Saccharomyces) have been observed, and it just looks like a very “lively and wild” beer.

Since I was at it, I decided to swirl up the raspberries with a racking cane in the other half just to make sure all the fruity goodness gets into the final beer as well as take a look at it under microscope. The pellicle on that one is long since gone so I expected to see a lot of Brett at the bottom. Not so! By far the major organism down there was Saccharomyces and quite a few of them were budding. This is unexpected. The beer has the same funk as it’s brother, but with a definite raspberry presence.

You can see yeast budding on top and on the right. The long filaments are the raspberries. Some bacteria in there as well.

It is also VERY interesting to see ascospore formation in Saccharomyces. I have never seen them with my eyes before today and actually didn’t even realize what I was looking at. For those who don’t know, this is another way of yeast reproduction. Haha! Bet you thought yeast reproduces by budding, right? Well this is the “post budding” stage when the cell produces 4 or 8 copies of its chromosomes and packages them into these spores. These spores can later develop into new yeast. I don’t know much about this as I am not a mycologist so if anyone out there knows about this, feel free to share.

You can see them really well in this micrograph

Pretty cool huh?

WY3191 seems like a solid limited release blend liked by everyone who tried it. Since it is only available about once every other year, I feel very good about the fact that I saved 10mL of the original in my fridge. As soon as I finish my setup (or at least the current stage of it) I’m going to take a look at it, plate, and reculture the Sacch, Brett, and Lacto. As for the beers, I’ll give the plain version 2 more weeks before bottling, and maybe a month or two to the other one for everything to settle down again.

10 thoughts on “Looking at WYeast Berliner Weisse Brettanomyces and Saccharomyces

    • I use Celestron Advanced Biological Microscope 500 (#44104) with Celestron Digital Microscope Imager (a 15X camera that replaces the eyepiece and plugs into your computer. I don’t like the quality, but good cameras like that cost more than I’ll spend on brewing ingredients in 3 years) with some homemade modifications (darkfield, wide-field 15X eyepiece for looking at stuff at 600X without camera if I want, just ordered a 100X objective with oil on sale today to bump the magnification to 1500X). Took some browsing around the web to get the best prices, but in the end I saved at least $100 or maybe even $200 or more than if I’d have bought the whole assembly from the company.
      It’s a good microscope on home budget. $120 for the plain scope that lets you get to 500X is pretty good. Good optics, sturdy construction, very good price for a homebrewer.

  1. You using a sterile hood, or how are you dealing with that? I was thinking of making a small box I could spray with ethanol or metabisulfite solution and work in.

    I bought agar, plates, pipettes and a loop but have been lazy and haven’t put anything together yet. I usually keep yeast in jars for several generations, then buy new. I was freezing small aliquots (2ml) with glycol and that worked but growing them back up was a bit of a pain.

    Nice site, maybe I’ll get off by butt and do some of this. I’m a biochemist and did my fair share of micro in my day, so I am confident I could do it.

    • I’m about to finish setting up a hood inside one of my book shelves. It’s about 30 by 25 and 12 deep. Hopefully today or tomorrow I’ll install a plexiglass screen leaving an open space on top that will be closed when not in use. Since I don’t have a ventilation system in it, the plan is to use alcohol lamps to push the air upward and through the top opening while working inside it. Right now I’m just using the kitchen stove to make a “hot air hood” and work close to the flame. I will sanitize it with 70% ISP before and after use, of course, and maintain stir plate cultures in it when I’m not actively plating or inoculating or whatnot.
      I’m kind of on the fence about maintaining freezer glycerol culture bank mainly because yeast can just sit in its own beer for well over a year easily.
      I too am a biochemist by training by the way 🙂

  2. Pingback: Free Brettanomyces! « BKYeast

  3. Pingback: Plain Berliner Weisse Tasting « BKYeast

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