Sunday 23 August 2009

Berliner Weisse (part 93)

After my mammoth translation session last year, I thought I knew a thing or two about Berliner Weisse. Not everything by a long chalk, as it turns out.

I don't know how the VLB book "Die Berliner Weiße" slipped beneath my radar. It was published last year. I only spotted it last week, after seeing a review in the PINT magazine. A whole book, just about Berliner Weisse. Right down my Strasse.

I own several VLB publications, mostly yearbooks from 1900 to 1925. Full of fascinating facts, they are. If only they weren't printed in Gothic typeface. You can see an example here.

Where was I? Berliner Weisse, that was it. I thought I knew pretty well how it was made, after all the technical descriptions I've translated. Well, it turns out there was something everyone missed until the second half of the 20th century. And which came as a great surprise to me. Want to know what it was?

It turns out there's more than just the mixed lactic acid bacteria/yeast culture involved in Berliner Weisse's fermentation. Something I thought wasn't found in German beer: Brettanomyces. Turns out that, on closer investigation, much of the distinctive aroma is formed by a long, slow secondary conditioning in the bottle by Brettanomyces. The reason no-one spotted it was because it wasn't deliberately added but just picked up somewhere in the brewery.

Red face time. I've told homebrewers on beer forums a couple of times that Brettanomyces is entirely inappropriate in a Berliner Weisse. Turns out it's actually essential. You live and learn, eh?

"Die Berliner Weiße" published by VLB Berlin, 2008, pages 85 - 88.


The Beer Nut said...

That picture: I don't fancy yours much.

Matt said...

Ron, your willingness to admit past errors is both admirable and unusual.

Just got the latest 'Good Bottled Beer Guide' from CAMRA, now organised into styles rather than brewers. The intro to mild now makes clear that mild originally meant young rather than lightly hopped. The one on porter repeats the 'three threads' story, balances it with a Martyn Cornell quote saying it's bollocks and concludes that no one really knows! 'IPA was strong and hoppy to survive the sea journey to India' survives intact as does 'pale ale and bitter are historically different beers'.

mentaldental said...

Beer Nut: she does look like she has been sent from Satan!

Ron: interesting and surprising about the Brett. It's not obvious in the flavour/aroma but I guess, since it is a "brewery infection", it's effects are present at pretty low levels.

Any information about the strain of Brett? And is it present in some or all examples?

Spencer said...

Well, hey. I was lucky enough to get part of a hand-carried bottle of Schultheiss (sp?) back in the mid-90s, and it definitely had Brett in it. That was, for me, one of the things in it that I preferred over Kindl. Unfortunately, only Kindl was ever available in my local stores, and then only sometimes.

Ron Pattinson said...

Beer Nut, mine's the beer.

mentaldental said...

Spencer: that's interesting. I didn't notice Brett in the bottles of Schultheiss I had, some of which were quite old. Mind you that was some time ago and I think I am more attuned to Brett now!. It's probably true that I detect it now where it doesn't exist!

It seems to be accepted widely that Schultheiss was better than Kindl. Was Brett the reason?

Rob Sterowski said...

I remember some sort of story that Schultheiß was bottle conditioned and Kindl wasn't, and that was also the reason it wasn't actually called Berliner Weiße but "Berliner Kindl Weiße".

Jeff Renner said...

Did I have some of that Schultheiß, Spencer? I remember sharing one, but don't have the memory you do. I also preferred it over Kindl for its complexity, but had had it earlier.

Along with Mentaldental, I also wonder what strain it might have been.