Sunday, 8 March 2015

Berliner Weissbier in the 1970’s (part one)

I’m so glad I started going through “Die Berliner Weisse” methodically. Because I’m learning so much. So of it a bit of a shock.

The book has stuff nailed together from different sources. A bit like mine, really. This particular bit comes from a thesis written by Dietz in 1978/1979. He investigated the production methods and characteristics of the beer of the three Weissbier breweries in West Berlin. From another table in the book, I know that these were Schultheiss, Kindl and Hochschulbrauerei.

What’s interesting is that two of the breweries employed the classic method of a mixed culture, while the other used a totally different technique.

Here’s the description from the book:

"While in brewery I and brewery II a variation on the classical method (open vats and storage tanks) and bottle-conditioning was performed, in brewery III a modified two-piece fermentation process in modern cylindroconical fermenters was applied, in accordance with Barrach [54].

The lactic acid concentration can be adjusted fairly consistently to the optimum level here, fluctuations in concentration as in the beers of the breweries I and II can be avoided. Due to the closed, low-infection fermentation and maturation in the cylindroconical fermentation tanks and the lack of secondary yeast Brettanomyces bruxellensis in brewery III, the acetic acid content is very low. The higher residual extract values for brewery III correlate with the amount of harmful carbohydrates and show that in this beer fermentation did not progress until full attenuation. The lack of CO2 content is here compensated by post-carbonisation. In the beers of the breweries I and II secondary conditioning yeast Brettanomyces bruxellensis will certainly have been present in the mixed culture and have thereby ensured a higher degree of attenuation in the bottle. All the other values fluctuate within the normal range.

The lactic acid content in brewery III is produced from fresh, unhopped lauter wort in closed cylindroconical tanks, thereby always ensuring a constant level of acidity in the finished product.

However, a pure sour taste alone does not replace the full bouquet of a bottle-matured Berlin Weisse, made with a mixed culture of optimal composition."
"Die Berliner Weisse", by Gerolf Annemüller, Hans-J. Manger and Peter Lietz, 2008, pages 98 - 100. (My translation.)

[If you don’t trust my translation, you can find the original German text at the end of this post.]

This is the accompanying table:

Tabelle 11   Weissbier brewing methods at three West Berlin Breweries in 1978/79
Characteristic Brewery I Brewery II Brewery III
Grist barley malt and wheat malt 100 % barley malt 100 % barley malt
Mashing method infusion single decoction Infusion
Bittering 75 g leaf hops per 10 hl wort, hops added in the mash 63 g hop extract (25 % a-acid) per 10 hl wort, hops added to the Lauter wort 50 % of the wort is boiled with hops, cooled and pitched with top-fermenting yeast 50 % of the wort is pitched with lactobacillus without the addition of hops and without boiling. 
Wort boiling and wort cooling No boiling of the wort. The wort goes from the lauter tun, through the cooler to the fermenter. Bolied 5 minutes with the Lauter wort
micro organisms VLB - mixed culture of top-fermenting yeast and lactobacillus (multiple strains) VLB - mixed culture of top-fermenting yeast and lactobacillus (multiple strains) Top-fermenting yeast and a lactobacillus strain, separated and pitched as pure cultures.
Pitching Whole wort, 0.1 l yeast/hl Whole wort, 0.5 l yeast/hl Fermentation: 50% of the wort at 20º C in a conical; Souring: 50 % of the wort at 45 - 47°C in a conical
pitching temperature Ca. 18 °C Ca. 20 °C
primary fermentation At 18 °C in an open fermenter Without cooling at 20 - 25 °C 2 - 4 days in an open fermenter Fermentation at 20 - 22 °C; Souring at 45 - 47 °C  ca. 2 days until pH 2.9 - 3.1, acid = 6 - 6.5%
Maturation First stage transfer to lager tank for acid development, second stage in the bottle with the addition of fresh beer with 2% fermentable extract Transfer to the lager tank with 2 - 4% remaining extract for acid development. Before bottling mixed with fresh beer, bottled with 33% Kräusen and remaining extract 1.8 - 2%. Depending on the amount of lactic acid produced, the yeast fermented and bacteria fermented wort are mixed 50 : 50 or 60 : 40. One week lagering under pressure at 15º C to ferment extract.
Bottle conditioning 4 - 6 weeks at 15 - 20 °C 4 - 6 weeks at 20 °C
Requirements for bottle aging 0.6 - 0.7 % C02 No bottle conditioning, since after fermentation of the remaining extract it is roughly filtered (almost clear) and carbonated. No development in the bottle through the lack of micro-organisms.
Die Berliner Weisse, by Gerolf Annemüller, Hans-J. Manger and Peter Lietz, 2008, pages 98 - 99. (My translation.)

There’s so much meat in that sandwich. Lots of fascinating stuff. Before we go any further, I know who Brewery III was: Kindl. Because their Berliner Weisse wasn’t bottle conditioned.

Funnily enough I fished a bottle of Kindl Weisse from my beer cupboard a couple of weeks ago. It’s the last of half a dozen I bought several years ago. I tried a couple fresh and they were shit. I let the others sit for a few years before trying one again. I was amazed that it had acquired some of the character of a proper Berliner Weisse. Don’t know how that worked if the beer was truly sterile.

Let’s work our way through that table. And it starts with a pretty big surprise: two of the three contain no wheat. Though, as I never tire of repeating, Weissbier doesn’t necessarily contain wheat. The term originally described beers made with air-dried malt, which could be from either wheat or barley. I must check what they did in the DDR at this time. There must be something in Kunze.

Only brewery II decocted and just a single decoction at that. Though infusion mashes had long been used by some for Berliner Weisse. The mashing schema varied from brewery to brewery.

The boil – or lack of it – and hop additions were different at all three breweries. No boil at Brewery I, with the hops added to the mash and the wort going straight from the lauter tun to the cooler. Brewery II did boil, but only for 5 minutes. I’m slightly surprised that they used hop extract at this date, as the brewing method seems pretty old fashioned. While at Brewery III, let’s call it Kindl, there was a standard boil for the half of the wort that was fermented with yeast. The other half never got a glimpse of a hop.

The two breweries using the classic method both got their mixed culture from the VLB. Interesting that it contained multiple lactobacillus strains. But why don’t they mention Brettanomyces in the  table when they do in the text? Had it got into the mixed culture by accident? Kindl seem to have used just a single strain of lactobacillus and kept yeast and bacteria separate.

The big difference in pitching rates between Brewery I and II strikes me.  0.1l per hl looks very little to me.  Done a quick check at Barclay Perkins. In 1937 their 4d Ale - at 1031º a beer with a very similar gravity to Berliner Weisse – was pitched with 0.43 kg of yeast per hl*. That’s surely way more than 100 ml.

The fermentation temperatures are very much as they were at the start of the 20th century – in the low twenties centigrade. Except, obviously at Kindl. Where the lactobacillus fermentation was at crazy temperature over 40º C. Lactobacillus can be pretty heat tolerant. I’ve heard of some strains that can even survive boiling. Not what you’d want running loose in your brewery.

Almost teatime. The rest will have to wait until tomorrow. Maturation and bottle-conditioning. And more Brettanomyces.

* Barclay Perkins brewing record held at the London Metropolitan Archives, document number ACC/2305/01/622.

“Während Brauerei I und Brauerei II ein variiertes klassisches Verfahren mit klassischer Technik (offene Bottiche und Lagertanks) sowie Flaschenreifung durchführen, wird in Brauerei III mit modernen zylindrokonischen Gärtanks ein angepasstes zweiteiliges Fermentationsverfahren in Anlehnung an Barrach [54] angewendet.

Die Milchsäurekonzentration kann hier recht konstant in der optimalen Konzentration eingestellt werden, Schwankungen in der Konzentration wie bei den Bieren der Brauereien I und II werden vermieden. Auf Grund der geschlossenen, infektionsarmen Gärung und Reifung in den zylindrokonischen Gärtanks und der fehlenden Nachgärhefe Brettanomyces bruxellensis in Brauerei III ist der Gehalt an Essigsäure sehr niedrig. Die höheren Restextraktwerte bei Brauerei III korrelieren mit dem Gehalt an belastenden Kohlenhydraten und zeigen, dass bei diesem Bier die Vergärung nicht bis zur Endvergärung geführt wurde. Der fehlende CO2-Gehalt wird hier durch Nach-carbonisierung ausgeglichen. Bei den Bieren der Brauereien I und II wird die in der Mischkultur sicher auch vorhandene  Nachgärhefe  Brettanomyces bruxellensis vorhanden gewesen sein und dadurch in der Flaschenreifung für eine höhere Vergärung gesorgt haben. Alle anderen Werte schwanken im üblichen Bereich.

Die Milchsäurecharge in Brauerei III wird durch Drauflassen frischer, ungehopfter Läuterwürze im geschlossenen zylindrokonischen Gärtank weitergeführt und man gewährleistet damit immer eine konstante Säuerung der Fertigprodukte.

Allerdings ein reiner saurer Geschmack allein ersetzt nicht das volle Bukett einer flaschengereiften Berliner Weißen, hergestellt mit einer optimal zusammengesetzten Mischkultur.”


Jeff Renner said...

What do you suppose "harmful carbohydrates" are?

Stonch said...

During my trip to Franconia last week I met two Berliner beer fanatics last week at Kathi Brau and then at Rothenbach. Asked them if they like Berliner Weisse. Their answer was simple: "it isn't even beer".

Ron Pattinson said...


sadly that's a sentiment echoed by many Germans.

Ron Pattinson said...


no idea. It does seem odd, the idea of harmful carbohydrates.

Chris said...

I appreciate this article. I have been struggling with trying to brew a berliner weisse and I think that my next attempt with be using the brewery III model of splitting into separate fermentations of a clean beer and a sour beer.

Anonymous said...

I'd translate the "belastenden Kohlenhydrate" rather with something along the lines of "straining".

Ron Pattinson said...


that's probably one of the simplest methods. But I'll be posting some more brewing methods in the near future.

Chris said...

And of course your critique of the beer from brewery III might be another factor to consider ;)

Looking forward to more in this series of posts.

For what it's worth, I'd be very interested in hearing if there are any references to turn around time (grain to glass). I've always interpreted berliner wiesse to be a wheat beer with a short term turn around but others treat it like a sour with months of aging.

I'm gonna take a crack it brewing several more berliner wiesse based on this series of post.