Friday, 13 March 2015

Berliner Weissbier in the 1970’s – in the DDR

Yes, I finally got around to scanning the bits from Kunze about Berliner Weisse. I should really scan the whole book. But I have arsing and time issues.

It’s one of the first brewing manuals I ever owned, a present from my mother-in-law. Back in the DDR days. I know exactly where it came from: there’s a stamp from the Eisenacher Brauerei on the first page. The book is full of useful information, like what colour the label had to be for each style. And there are questions at the end of each chapter to see if you been paying attention in class.

“Weissbier is an old Berlin specialty that has remained unchanged to this day. With an original gravity of 9%, Berliner Weisse is the only Schankbier which is produced in the GDR.

White beer is made from barley and at least 30% wheat malt by the infusion method. The fermentation takes place with a mixture of yeast and lactic acid bacteria. It also creates the lactic acid taste, which is a distinguishing feature of Weissbier (PH about 3.3 to 3.7).

When brewing Weissbier the wort is only cooled to 20° C and at this temperature it is top fermented with a mixture of yeast and lactic acid bacteria. Yeast is harvested from the surface of the green beer. For this purpose the yeast head has be removed until a clean covering of yeast appears. The yeast is harvested until no more is produced. After 30-48 hours the primary fermentation is finished; the green beer is then pumped, with about 15% Kräusen, and bottled. The lagering of Weissbier, which isn't filtered, takes place at about 15° C. The green beer can be lagered in tanks; it is then given 20-25% Kräusen and sealed at a pressure of 2 atmospheres.

The formation of acid must be monitored when brewing Weissbier. The lactic acid content can be 0.25-0.35%. If the lactic acid content is too high, Weissbier tastes too sour and so loses its value. The taste of Weissbier should be fully aromatic, vinous, pure and harmonious and have a balanced acidity. The aroma is expected to be aromaticly spicy, vinous, flowery and fruity with no hint of vinegar. The head of Weissbier is very clean, dense, creamy and long lasting. The wide Weissbier glasses take this into account.

To round out the taste, it has become customary to drink Weissbier with a Schuß (Cherry syrup).”
"Technologie Brauer und Mälzer" by Wolfgang Kunze, 1975, page 443. (My translation*.)

It’s both fun and instructive to compare this method to those employed in West Berlin at the same time.

Like two of the breweries in the West, an infusion mash was employed. With three out of four going for this method, I think we’ll have to call this this the usual method. It’s a 50-50 split with the grist, 2 being all barley and 2 using wheat malt, too. The level of acidity is bang those found in the analysis or western versions around 3.5 pH.

The primary fermentation looks very similar to that of the two more traditional breweries in the West: a mixed yeast and lactobacillus fermentation starting at 20º C. Secondary fermentation is along similar lines, too: lagering in a tank for at a fairly warm temperature with the addition of Kräusen. Then bottle conditioning.

I’m disappointed that no mention is made of the hopping, either the quantity or the method.

It seems to have been a little higher in gravity than in the West – 9º Plato rather than 7.5º to 8º Plato. It’s interesting that there’s a specific mention of an acetic acid flavour being undesirable. You may recall that 2 of the 3 western versions contained significant amounts of  acetic acid.

I’m really getting into Berliner Weisse again. It’s such a fun topic. But so much of the stuff written about it in English is bollocks. If there are any publishers out there, I’m getting close to having enough information to write a book on the subject.

* I used Google Translate to help me out getting the text into English. I don't expect it to get brewing terminolgy right, but it's translation of "Schuß" was "cum shot".


BryanB said...

When you use Google Translate it invites you to offer a better translation as feedback if you have one. I believe there are people who amuse themselves by misusing this system to insert not-entirely-correct versions. Very Pythonesque.

Lady Luck Brewing said...

I wonder what the yeast to lactic acid ratio was?
Was this beer made continuously and did that ratio change with each subsequent repitch?

Ron Pattinson said...

Lady Luck,

look at some of my older posts on Berliner Weisse. The ratio of yeast to bacteria changed during fermentation but returned to the same at the end. It's very complicated.