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…


Witch Poison Wild Gruit Tasting

There is always luck involved in brewing, especially when one’s doing a spontaneous fermentation. So let’s see how lucky I got with this one. As I mentioned in the original post this was a semi-spontaneous gruit. WYeast blends were added long after fermentation was over and the main fermentors were dry bread yeast and everything else that lived on the grains used. For a long time this brew was horrible and stinky, but as the time passed it changed and evolved into something unexpected and even beautiful in a way.

By now it’s almost 1.5 year old and spent 5 months in the bottle. Since this beer is highly carbonated I decided to go on an adventure and taste it twice. That is taste it immediately and write down my notes, and then let it sit for a bit to calm down and warm up a little and taste it again. Another thing is that there seems to be a lot of bacteria in the sediment because of how wispy it is. The lightest movement causes it to puff up into suspension.


Appearance: Yellow gold. Brilliant clear, but once even the tiniest bit of sediment gets in it becomes cloudy (such is the nature of bacterial sediments). Big fluffy head recedes immediately into nothingness. Constant stream of bubbles coming from the bottom. Champagne-like, sparkling. As bubbles burst when they come to the liquid interface, drops of beer shoot out into the air and hit your nose and face. Looks like a very “happy” beer.

After letting it sit for around 10 minutes there is still a constant stream of bubbles coming up from the bottom.


Smell: Sparkly bubbles attack your face with their bursts so it takes a little bit to get used to it and start smelling. Juniper greens, juniper wood and big earthy funk hit your nose at first. Grassy, hay-like, dried peas aromas detectable. Old vegetation.

After letting it sit for around 10 minutes a sweetness appears. Malty, sugary, musty-wine-like. Swirling the glass results in return of the juniper/funk that completely masks the gentle sweet notes.


Taste: Earthy funk up front, followed by more juniper. This gets washed away quickly by the high carbonation that just explodes on your tongue. After that passes, soft sourness appears and blooms, covering your whole mouth. Commandaria-like wine sweetness and mustiness appear after you get accustomed to the sourness. Light astringency numbs the tongue while the interplay of sour and sweet goes on for a while in the back. Some heat in your stomach after a couple minutes.

After letting it sit for around 10 minutes carbonation recedes and the flavor changes. There is still funky juniper in the beginning, but it gets overtaken by a tsunami of sweetness and sourness almost immediately. Same kind of musty wine sweetness, but the sourness is weaker than before so the sweetness eventually wins. Really weird in a good way. It’s like a mix of sour and sweet grapes in your mouth. Long finish.

Mouthfeel: High carbonation. Very light feel even after you allow carbonation to get down. Very very light with a lot of interesting flavors.


Overall: This is an interesting brew. Not something I’d drink every day – more like once in a while, so this one is probably going to last me years. It was very enjoyable to explore it in two attempts. There is definitely something witchy and dark about it. I got a picture of late autumn with bare trees, dead plants, cold, damp, chilling wind, light drizzling rain and mist in my mind while drinking it. It’s interesting that there is no smoke detectible whatsoever in this brew. One would think with all that smoked malt you’d get some, but alas there is none.

Free Brettanomyces Part 2.1

OK guys I’m pouring the Brett cultures into the tubes right now and they’ll be at Brooklyn Homebrew around 12-1 tomorrow.

A couple last minute observations:

C3 flocculates really well while C2 is slower in that respect.

With more time C2 also takes some vinous characteristics.

With more time C3 also takes some fruity characteristics.

Hope you enjoy these yeast and please let me know what you think of them.


Free Brettanomyces Part 2

I know it’s been a long time and some of you have contacted me regarding the possibility that this project is no longer active, but YES, it is still very active and is progressing! As I’m typing this there are two starters of C2 and C3 spinning on my desk. This weekend (most likely Sunday) I’ll bring some vials of each of these cultures to Brooklyn Homebrew for you Brett-heads to play with. Now, as before, you use these yeasts at your own risk and if your beer turns out horrible and poisonous I am not to blame. It would also be nice to get your tasting notes or even a bottle of whatever you added these bugs to. The yeast count won’t be too high in these vials so if you plan to use them as the main fermentor please make a starter.

A bit of preliminary data from 5ml and 35ml primary cultures:

C2: seems to be a slower grower, and probably a slower fermentor. Forms a pellicle, but not very quickly. Can’t really tell as to how dry it ferments. Perhaps the most interesting character of this yeast is the smell. I used it to inoculate 5 and 35ml cultures of both Luria Broth and a DME-based medium and in both cases it ended up smelling sweet and fruity with wild strawberries (Fragaria vesca) coming to mind most of all. At least that’s what I associate the smell with since I grew up picking those things in the forests and marshes. For those of you unfamiliar, imagine a strawberry aroma mixed with wood, earth, damp moss and other warm fuzzy fruits as well as a hint of the typical Brett funk. I don’t know how it would turn out in an actual beer, but I plan to try ASAP and will ferment a batch of blond ale with it as soon as I can brew it. For those of you who know what Luria Broth smells like, to turn THAT into fruits… Quite impressive. Fermenting DME-based medium ended up with same results only more pronounced fruitiness and funk. I’ll start raising a starter for my own brew as soon as I dispense this one into tubes for you guys.

Cantillon Iris (2007) C2


C3: seems to be a more vigorous fermentor than C2, raising more krausen and forming a pellicle faster. Again an interesting aroma – sour, funky and citrusy in LB; sour, citrusy, funky and very vinous (like dry white wine) in DME-based medium. Can’t tell you much beyond that. I’ll raise a starter for myself as well for a saison with obscene amounts of lemon/lime/orange peel additions that I have planned.

Cantillon Iris (2007) C3


As soon as that’s over with I’ll prepare starters of all three Cantillon yeasts I isolated as well as WYeast Berliner Blend Brett to mail to those of you outside NYC and we’ll discuss mailing and trading arrangements. I’ll make a post when that happens with my email so that you could contact me in that regard.


Cantillon Iris (2007) Wild Yeast Isolation

Some time ago I got my hands on a bottle of 2007 Cantillon Iris. While the beer, in my opinion, is one of the worst ones I’ve had (dry-hopped woody vinegar hehe) the main purpose for getting it was the analysis of the dregs because it would be totally awesome to brew something with the wild yeast floating around at that brewery.

The procedure was pretty simple: Collect the dregs, shake it gently to homogenize, dilute 1:100 and plate. After waiting 3-4 weeks for something to grow, nothing did and I threw the plates out and almost gave up. As a “just in case” attempt, I decided to plate straight dregs and voila! I got colonies. For this purpose milk lactose + bromcresol green as well as brilliant green agar plates were used (sorry no pictures) resulting in three colony types: matte, rough colonies (C1), matte round colonies (C2), and smooth, round, glossy colonies (C3). I am still not sure whether the first two are the same or not as I suspect one may just be the later stage of the other one, but perhaps they are not due to some observations. The colonies were picked and used to inoculate 5mL of LB. The rough colonies formed pellicles in the tubes while the smooth one did not. Pellicle resulting from rough matte colonies fell away after a couple days, while the round matte one persists to this day. Subsequent plating didn’t give me much for some reason and I will have to replate. Meanwhile, here are some pictures from the liquid cultures.

It seems to me that cells grown in suspension culture have a different morphology than the ones grown in plates. Everyone who’s done cell culturing knows this, but I didn’t think it was true for yeast too. From what I see, though I did not show pictures, cells from plates tend to be shorter and rounder than the ones from tubes. If anyone has any ideas or knowledge, please share.

I also noticed that the rough colonies flocculate well and the medium is crystal clear with a sediment and a pellicle, while the smooth ones, while also forming sediment, remain suspended resulting in turbid medium. That is interesting because I noticed similar behavior and colony morphology from WY Berliner Weisse Blend Brettanomyces strain, but the cells look different.

They also smell different. C1 smells very slightly funky, C2 is quite funky, and C3 just smells like medium. Interesting…