Homebrew Batch #11: Berliner Weisse

Berliner Weiss wort being chilled after the boil.
I tasted my first Berliner Weisse about a year ago at Bailey's German Beer Fest. I tasted two on the same day and was fascinated by the style. It's the antithesis of beers that are popular today. The typical Berliner Weisse is low in alcohol, has very little hop bitterness, and a nice tart tang (which comes from bacteria called lactobacillus). In Germany, they're typically served with fruit-flavored syrups which cut the sourness. I've tried the syrups and am not a fan of them as I prefer the tartness.

The Berliner Weisse is not easy to find as it's not one that brewed widely. Dogfish Head makes a great Berliner Weisse with peaches called Festina Peche and The Bruery has released Hottenroth (which I reviewed this winter).  Since I love the style and it's tough to find, I thought I'd brew my own.

I want this beer to be ready for summer drinking, so I got an early start. Why so long? It takes a long time (I've heard up to six months) for lactobacillus to develop its sour character. There are several methods to make Berliner Weisse. I chose one with a short 15 minute boil. You can even use a no-boil method. Here's the recipe I used:

  • Style:  Berliner Weisse
  • Type:  All Grain
  • Boil Volume:  6.25 gallons
  • Batch Size: 5.0 gallons
  • Boil Time:  15 min.
  • Est. Stats:
    • Target OG: 1.038
    • Target FG: 1.012
    • ABV:  3.41%
    • IBUs:  9.8
    • SRM:  2.9
  • Efficiency:  70%
  • Grains: 
    • 3.0 lbs. German Wheat Malt
    • 4.125 lbs. Pilsner Malt
  • Hops:  0.8 oz. Liberty (Hallertauer substitute)  6.0 alpha acid (15 min) 
  • Mash:  8.91 quarts (1.25 qt / lb) water @ 166.1° and hold for 90 min @ 149.0°F
  • Sparge:  21.8 quarts of 170°F water over 60 min
  • Yeast:  European Ale (WLP0011) and Lactobacillus Delbrueckii (WLP677)
  • Ferment:  
    • Primary: 30 days @ 67°F.
    • Secondary:  60 days @ 70°F.
  • Bottle / Keg:  7.17 oz. corn sugar for 10 days at  70°F (3.5 CO2 volumes)

Brew Log:
Feb 18:  Made a yeast starter (my first one) using the mixed Eurpoean Ale yeast and Lactobacillus I harvested after the primary fermentation of my Sour Cherry Ale.

Feb 22:  Brew day. The recipe was simple and the 15 minute boil led to a short brew session. My pre-boil wort gravity was 1.034 and it ended up at 1.035 (slightly under target) after the boil. I pitched the yeast starter (mixture of European Ale and lactobacillus) at 77°F. About 3 hours after pitching, I could see some airlock movement. About 6 hours after pitching, I had airlock blurps ever 2-3 seconds. I really like the quick fermentation onset provided by yeast starters and will probably use them more often in the future!

Feb 23:  About 24 hours after fermentation, it produced a strong rotten egg / dirty diaper / sulfur smell. I didn't panic, because I had read this was normal. It really was quite foul, but one of my Siebel educated friends reiterated that this was normal. I opened the bucket to take a look, and here's what I saw (picture below):

Krausen, 24 hours after pitching.

Feb 26:  Airlock activity has slowed down considerably and the foul smell is pretty much gone. I won't open the bucket and take a gravity reading. I'll probably wait 3-4 weeks before racking to secondary.  

Apr 10:  When I opened the bucket, I got a whiff of some very strong vapors of acid and sulfur. I didn't expect this and thought I trashed the beer. I took a taste, and was surprised that it tasted quite nicewheat with light grassy hops. However, the tart flavor hasn't developed yet. I'm not surprised because this will take time. My gravity reading was 1.006 (slightly below target). I racked 6 gallons into a glass carboy. I'll leave it in secondary for a few months and hope the lacto gets to work. If not, I may spike it with some lactic acid. Is that cheating?!?  Here's what it looked like today:

More updates coming soon....

Have you brewed a Berliner Weisse? What method did you use and how did it turn out?

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  1. Can you add fruit (peach, apricot, plum) to this recipe? If you were to, would you do that after boil?

  2. Absolutely! I would add these in secondary fermentation.


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