Friday, 24 March 2017


Now here’s something you’ve probably heard of: Weissbier. And I think mostly of the Berlin kind.

The beer’s specs: high CO2 content and low gravity, certainly sound like Berliner Weisse.

Weissbier has a high CO2 and low alcohol content, is a particularly refreshing drink, especially in the summer, and has an OG of 7-8% Balling.

To brew it half barley, half wheat-malt are used which makes it tingly, refreshing, and extremely palatable; But can also be made using with rice flour or broken rice up to 20% (and more), but it must first be gelatinised or the decoction method used; however, the infusion method is generally used.

Hops. These are not boiled directly with the wort, but are first boiled and this hop water is used to produce a mild taste. Aromatization. In order to obtain the well-liked flavour, spices are boiled in small sacks shortly before the wort is run off from the copper: citrus or cinnamon peels, cloves, coriander, juniper berries (the latter stir up the wild yeasts and bacteria) or they are added to the barrel when it is filled.

In order to facilitate "settling" in the cooler, vegetable finings (Irish moss) are already added in the copper and the wort is boiled until it breaks. As real finings 2 to 3 gr. of isinglass per hectolitre are added.

Attenuation: 50, or also up to 45%.

Some brewers, to help further clarification, pass the beer through a filter. - Before racking the Weissbier, which has been lagered for longer than 13 weeks (at 4-6° R [5º - 7.5º C]), has 0.5 to 1 liter of Kräusen per hectolitre added to it.

The yeast sits firmly on the bottom.

The clarified beer must have a fiery glow and foam in the glass.”
"Die Fabrikation obergäriger Biere in Praxis und Theorie" by Braumeister Grenell, 1907, pages 66 - 67. (My translation.)

There are several interesting points in there.

Boiling the hops separately in water I’m sure I’ve heard of before. Not sure in what context. It sounds like another way of avoiding boiling the wort, which later in the 20th century was the case for Berliner Weisse.

The sacks of spices don’t sound very Reinheitsgebot. Nor Berliner Weisse. This book was published at a very odd moment: just about when the Reinheitsgebot was being introduced to the whole of Germany. The author describes several practices which I’m sure became illegal. It’s an interesting collection of spices. Orange peel and coriander sound like a Belgian Witbier. Though that’s probably no coincidence. Witbier is at the western end of a wheat beer tradition that stretched right across North Germany to Berlin.

Interesting that both Irish moss, isinglass and a filter were used. Sounds like they wanted to get a sparkling clear beer.

The section on Weissbier ends with some analyses:

Analyses of Weissbier
ABW Extract minerals CO2
Berln. Weisse I 3.91 4.85 0.17 0.32
                   II  3.33 4.28 0.16 0.2
             „ Export 2.2 6.14 0.18 0.4
             „ Jost  2.6 2.6 0.17 0.5
Potsd. Weisse 3.26 4.72 0.19 0.39
Kölner       3.55 3.71 0.16 0.4
Münch.      3.51 4.37 0.15 0.4


Benedikt Koch said...

The boiling of the hops is often find in gose and lichtenhainer recipes. lichtenhainer because the beer is not boiled but hopped so they boil the hops seperate. In (goslarsche) gose only one portion is boiled and that is the hopfkrug. It is then added to all other runnings of the beer.
About the spices, cinnamon also appears in one gose recipe I found. But so far no luck about getting more recipes with spices in it...


BryanB said...

Lars Garshol has also mentioned adding a separately-boiled "hop tea" extensively in his reports of traditional Scandic & Baltic beer.


Lars Marius Garshol said...

Boiling the hops in water (making hop tea, as the Lithuanians call it) was and is very common in farmhouse brewing all over the Nordic and Baltic countries. I would be very surprised if the practice wasn't also common in German farmhouse ale. As you say, it was typically a trick to get iso-alpha-acid into the beer without boiling the wort. In quite a few places, people started boiling the wort, but never gave up the hop tea.

Some people let the beer finish fermenting first, then added hop tea to taste afterwards, which is kind of neat, if slightly risky.

James said...

Ron, Lars Garshol has written about the practice of boiling the hops separately here. Here's an excerpt, related to the brewing of "raw" (unboiled) ale:

Isomerization of the hops is solved in various ways. Some boil hop tea in water on the side, then pour that in. Others take off a little of the wort, then boil it with hops, then pour that in. Some pour near-boiling wort on the hops. And some drop it altogether. Turns out it's not absolutely required.

A Brew Rat said...

Interesting that the passage seems to imply that juniper berries were a source of wild yeast and bacteria to the wort, presumably to get that lactic tang. Or am I reading that wrong?

BrianW said...

Lars Marius' research on raw ale in Scandinavia and the Baltic region is probably the best documented contemporary research on brewers that boil hops separately (which some of them do):

Interesting to note the use of juniper berries, with juniper being so prominent in many of those beers.

Lars Marius Garshol said...

Haha, I guess this is what happens when the moderator takes too long: 5 people chip in, all thinking they're the first to make their point. :-)

Anyway, yes, that use of juniper berries is another thing that makes one think of farmhouse ale. Juniper berries boiled in the wort was used in farmhouse ale in Germany, too (Westphalia).

Unknown said...

The attenuation value seems shockingly low, no? I'm wondering if this was the attenuation % measured at racking, as opposed to the finished beer post-aging and pre-bottling.

Ron Pattinson said...

Richared Preiss,

yes, 45-50% doesn't seeem much.