Plain Berliner Weisse Tasting

A while back I made a post about bottling the Berliner Weisse  brewed on April 10, 2011 and split into plain and raspberry infused portions. Those of you who have been following me for a while would know that it’s this beer that really started this blog and several initial posts were about the sediment and pellicle observed during its fermentation. Of particular interest to me was looking at Saccharomyces sporulation – a sign of sexual reproduction in nutrient poor environment which may give rise to “new” and “mutant” strains with varying characteristics and flavor profiles. This topic comes up every now and again in the homebrewing community and gives rise to arguments about yeast reproduction. Just recently I was a part of a discussion where some claimed yeast only reproduce by budding while others said sexual reproduction occurs. In any case, let us be clear that brewer yeast can reproduce by means other than budding.

On a dark and windy evening, sitting in anticipation of the super storm to hit New York, I decided to go ahead and finally do an official tasting of the plain portion in hopes of bringing a few bright summer memories. I have tasted it two or three times before and even brought it to a homebrewer meetup once, but never felt like it was really all that interesting. However now, after over a year and a half since it’s creation, I feel it is finally ready to be tasted properly.

My colleague Sam of eurekabrewing, a fellow scientist and a homebrewer who lives on the other side of the Atlantic also made a similar beer and posted a rather nice writeup on it here (seriously, read it, it’s very educational) followed by tasting notes. As I tasted my Berliner I went back and read over his observations and was surprised at how different our beers turned out. It just goes to show that there are more than one way to make and interpret a given style.

Plain Berliner Tasting:

Appearance: Very pale, straw colored. Lots of bubbles at first and then calms down. Clear with a little haze. Head lasts about 5 seconds and then dissipates completely.

Smell: Champagne. The smell of champagne permeates the air as soon as you open the bottle. Can’t really describe it any other way. Just champagne. Some minor funk and lemon.

Taste: Light lactic sourness up front, giving way to malt with a hint of sweetness and breadiness. Tastes like champagne otherwise. White wine, bright, a hint of funk, some pear, white apples. Long dry, tart, mouthwatering finish with more white apples appearing at the very end. Want to take another sip again and again.

Mouthfeel: Very light. Medium carbonation.

Overall: Very impressive. Perfect summer beer. Unmatched refreshing quality. Amazing how much it improved since the summer. Low sourness makes it perfect for my tastes as I’m not a fan of “so sour you can feel your tongue dissolving” beers. I’m impressed! Even my mother liked it, which has only ever happened with a Dubbel before. Looks like I’ll pull out my 15 Gal fermentor out of the cellar and make another batch in the upcoming months.

Stay tuned for an official tasting of the raspberry infused portion…


7 thoughts on “Plain Berliner Weisse Tasting

  1. Cheers to the other side of the Atlantic 😉 And thanks for linking to my site. Much appreciated. It seems your Berliner Weisse fermented with Wyeast’s #3191 Berliner Weisse blend seems to have a different profile than my spontaneous soured one. The Brettanomyces I used for my Weisse (isolated from Brasserie de Franches Montagnes) seems to be a very funky strain… 😉 However, I would drink your Berliner Weisse for sure. It sounds really delicious.

    Well, I bottled my second Berliner Weisse a few weeks ago. I basically used the same recipe as for my first Berliner Weisse but no souring mash step this time. And used Wyeast’s #3191 Berliner Weisse blend as well. First tastings will be around Christmas I hope… I will do a side-by-side tasting of the two Berliner Weisses next summer for sure. Maybe the Brettanomyces strain in the Berliner Weisse blend is not as funky as the one I used for my first Berliner Weisse or just needs some further maturation time. I will post about this Berliner Weisse for sure. However, not in the near future since I am madly busy with my research work lately.

    Can’t wait for the descriptions of the Raspberry Weisse. I had the opportunity to taste Dogfish Head’s Festina Peche in London last year which is a Berliner Weisse with peaches. Just incredible. Fruits seem to be a perfect match for this kind of beer. Berliner Weisse with fruits = by far the best summer beer!

    Cheers, Sam

    • Hey Sam!
      For this one I just mashed it and ran off into the fermenter and kept running cold water through the grain until it filled up to nearly 15 gallons. After that I just threw in 2 old packs of WY Berliner Blend and let it ride. So microorganisms from the grains were a major contributor in fermentation.
      Fruit indeed seems to go very well with this style. I’m planning to do another 15 gallon batch very soon and split into three fruited versions. Luckily I saved several jars of the yeast cake from the original brew and plan to turn it into my house Berliner Weisse culture so I’ll just throw in a jar or thick yeast slurry and let it run how it wants to.

      • Hey Dmitri, I hope your extra microorganisms from the grains get you the beer you are looking for. I am looking for a way to improve the sourness in my Weisse somehow. And reading your tasting notes, it seems the pure Berliner Weisse blend will not do the trick either. I even used a Stout wort (third runnings from an Imperial Stout) and dumped some Lactobacillus from Wyeast in there and left it at warm temperatures for four days… The mash never turned really sour! Or not to the level I am looking for. The mash is now on the Berliner Weisse cake…

        Well 15 gal is a neat batch size 🙂 I guess you can’t have enough Berliner Weisse… I kind of like Berliner Weisse brew days. They are rather short. Looking forward to read about your next Berliner Weisse then.

        Do you know what happens to the Lactobacillus in the slurry during the storage? I read somewhere that Lactobacillus die rather fast during storage. Maybe not a problem for you since you are not looking for an overpowering sourness. But a house Berliner Weisse culture sounds amazing 🙂

        By the way. I homebrewer from Germany just opened a small brewery to revive the traditional Berliner Weisse in Berlin ( He did a very thorough research job concerning Berliner Weisse and even successfully isolated an old typical Brettanomyces strain from an old traditional Berliner Weisse. I will get this particular Brettanomyces strain in the near future from him. I could even send you some cells of this strain if you want (and other Brettanomyces strains I have). Shipping some Eppendorf tubes with yeasts to the States should not be a problem.

      • That would be REALLY cool! I could also send you a few eppendorfs with the C strains and maybe Lactobacillus brevis if I manage to isolate it. That strain should be able to solve your search for more aggressive lactic character.
        There is a rumor going around that Brettanomyces in WY Berliner Blend is from Schultheiss brewery in former East Berlin. Do you know anything about that?
        As for Lactobacillus life in storage, I really don’t know and haven’t been able to work on it. As you know there is a real challenge for growing Lactic cultures at home in that they are anaerobes and like to grow at 30-35 C. I’m currently working on a way to resolve that issue and make a home “gas chamber” that could allow for Lactobacillus cultivation. First attempt is currently being made and I’ll repeat it a few more times with a few different samples before concluding anything. I may also get a little incubator (it’s amazing how cheap you can get stuff on eBay!) to maintain the right temperature for them.
        It looks like the next main project for me will be Lactobacillus cultivation and isolation. At least that’s where my interests have been pointing me towards in the recent weeks. To add to what I just described, I’m also working on making MRS agar (the ingredients are fairly common) at home and trying to use it for Lacto-specific isolations since I’m getting some dregs from a few guys that should contain L. brevis. If that works I’ll work on a few other things I have planned and make another selective media post with 3 or 4 new formulations.

  2. Consider it done! I will write you an email as soon as I have the strain in some tubes. Would be cool to trade some wild bugs with you 🙂 I am looking for a L. brevis strain as well to use it for a Berliner Weisse. I have a kefir culture which should contain some L. brevis (according to a paper I found). But I don’t have the equipment to isolate the different Lactobacillus strains out of there. I could send you some grains of the kefir culture as well. Maybe you are more lucky than I am 🙂

    Brettanomyces in the Wyeast blend. My stand of knowledge is the same here. It seems to be the/a Schultheiss strain. I isolated the Brettanomyces strain from the Berliner Weisse blend already but haven’t used it for a batch yet. I try to get further information about the Schultheiss brewery and the Brettanomyces strain.

    I guess it is easier for me to send you all the samples with Lactobacillus and let you isolate them for me 🙂 Just kidding. I haven’t put much though into the Lactobacillus matter as I am more interested in different Brettanoymces strains and commercial yeast strains at the moment. You seem to build yourself a pretty neat lab there with all that new equipment. Are you gearing up to commercially release your blends in the future? 🙂 I would be happy to supply you with some bugs from the other side of the Atlantic in that case. Just let me know.

    By the way, I did some platings with some of your media recipes (potato, bromocresol green, copper sulfate etc) a few months ago. However, I haven’t done the evaluation of the results yet.
    Cheers, Samuel

    • Well, if it paid enough to cover my homebrewing and yeast culturing I’d do it. Don’t know if there would be enough demand for it and there is also the matter of being a very busy PhD student so the supply would not be very consistent.

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