Friday, 21 March 2008

Berliner Weisse (finished at last)

I've finally finished the translation of the Berliner Weisse section in the Oekonomische Encyklopädie of1773 (pages 163 - 165). Sorry for the delay. I do have a life outside beer, you know, difficult as that may be to imagine.

Today's section deals with cooling, fermentation and bottling. First cooling the wort:

"The wort is now thoroughly developped and it is time to cool it. With Weissbier it is more necessary than with Braunbier that it cools quickly, because it will spoil without chance of rescue if the brewer isn't careful. Accordingly Weissbier brewers have their own equipment in which they cool the beer, called a cool ship. Such a beer cool ship is an open but solid box of planks and stands next to the tun raised on a platform. It is eight feet wide and one foot high. Its length depends on the room and it should run parallel to one long and one short wall of the brewery. The brewer sets a portable wooden pump in th Zapfbottich [tapping tun] and with it pumps the wort from the tun into the cool ship. When the wort has cooled sufficiently, it is poured, using a wooden gutter, from the cool ship back into the cleaned mash tun and in this vessel is pitched with yeast. "

There's no mention of lactic acid bacteria in the text. Just yeast. Could this cool ship be where the lactic acid bacteria got into the beer? It was wooden and open to the air. Doesn't seem unreasonable.

Now pitching the yeast:

"Weissbier brewers usually preliminarily tap some unboiled wort from the Zapfbottich before the cooled wort is added to it. They cool this boiled wort [I think they mean unboiled wort] , pitch it with yeast in order to test if the beer will ferment. The greatest portion is, as already stated, cooled in the cool ship, run into the mash tun and pitched with yeast. To this the earlier tapped and pitched wort is added when it starts to ferment and encourages through this the fermentation of the entire brew. To 4 Tonne [1 Tonne = 114.503 litres] of wort the Weissbier adds at most 1 Quart [1 Prussian Quart = 1.14503 litres] of yeast."

Why make a yeast starter with unboiled wort? Is this the source of the lactic acid bacteria? WHy else would you do this?

Finally, fermentation:

"After 5 or 6 hours, when the fermentation goes well, a white spot appears in the middle of the beer, and the Weissbier brewer then usually puts his beer immediately into Tonne [barrels] , without waiting for a full fermentation in the mash tun. The beer is taken into the cellar and here it must ferment or, as they say, belch. First sticky and pitch-like yeast appears, which consequently in Berlin is called pitch or pitch barm. Cobblers use this yeast as glue. The Weissbier brewer has to carefully remove this yeast and isolate it from the yeast used for pitching. This he uses again to pitch in a new brew; however, in order to improve his beer, so he alternates between pitching with his own recovered yeast yeast from Kottwitzerbier, which he has brought from Kottbus. Weissbier is seldom sold on draught in Berlin, but generally delivered to publicans and by these filled into bottles."

Putting the wort back into the mash tun for pitching, then moving it into barrels at the first sign of fermentation is a bit odd, too. Any ideas why they might have done this? Why not just fill it directly into the fermentation barrels?

Bottling by publicans is very similar to Gose, where this practice continued well into the 20th century. Could this be the origin of adding water at bottling time? Possibly. I think I have evidence to support this. In "Die Herstellung Obergähriger Biere". You know what I'm going to say now. A translation of the relevant text will follow. Sometime soon.

You can find the original German text from Oekonomische Encyklopädie here:

Any improvements on my translation are welcome. I struggled.

1 comment:

Kristen England said...

'Putting the wort back into the mash tun for pitching, then moving it into barrels at the first sign of fermentation is a bit odd, too. Any ideas why they might have done this? Why not just fill it directly into the fermentation barrels?'

This to me seems the very most likely candidate for the lacto. Lacto is the primary 'bug' on malt husks by many orders of magnitude. The mash tun would be a great place to a massive amount of lacto to hang out ESPECIALLY if it was wood. I think this is an idea that was completely misunderstood by home brewers where they try to do a 'sour mash' and leave the mash in the tun over night so it can pick up some of that sourness.