Sometimes you have to do something new just for the sake of being different. That’s the theory behind this month’s recipe, which takes an unusual style, Berliner weissbier, then makes a two-for-one substitution that creates a surprisingly nice flavor.
You might know the history and traditions associated with Berliner weissbiers. If not, here’s a quick summary.
They are generally light in body, color, and flavor; low in alcohol; often slightly cloudy; mildly sour; and usually quite refreshing. A perfect summer beer in many ways. They are fermented with yeast strains and bacteria that cause the creation of lactic acid. Often, to counteract the sourness, they are served with a sweet syrup — raspberry, lemon, or woodruff; red, yellow, or green, just like a traffic light. Line up three weissbiers on the bar, flavor each with a different syrup, and you have an image worthy of the best Impressionist still-life painters.
Never having been one to live completely conventionally — or, in other words, to follow the rules religiously — I decided one time to bottle my Berliner weissbier with the syrup already in it. I had made a batch and intended to divide it in thirds: one-third red, one-third yellow, one-third green.
That was the plan. By the time the bottling was done, though, somehow about a dozen bottles were flavored with all three. How it happened is a very long story — blame it on inattention, distraction, early onset of senility.
In any event, it was another one of those happy accidents. The sweet raspberry mixed well with the citric acidity of the lemon and the vanilla/clove/spiciness of the woodruff. The color was, well, kind of brownish gray. Not the most appetizing appearance, to be sure, but a very nice flavor and aroma. The next time I brewed it, I decided to bottle the whole batch with the mixture, and I managed to find colorless lemon and raspberry flavorings. This batch ended up only slightly greenish, but delicious.
The Berliner style of wheat beer is, however, a very tricky style to brew at home. The difficulty of obtaining the right combination of yeast and bacteria, and the trickiness of brewing a light yet flavorful beer without allowing any one flavor to dominate, make it one to brew very carefully. I find it easier, personally, to cheat. I brew this as a slightly lighter-than-appropriate Bavarian weizenbier, use a regular ale yeast — or at least not a true weizen yeast — and then sour it with lactic acid at bottling. This gets me close to the tart acidity of the Berliner style, but I don’t risk a lactic fermentation, which could get out of control.
For this recipe, I use only two of the three syrup flavors that are traditional, but you can use the woodruff, too, if you wish. The nice thing about this style and this recipe is that they are forgiving; if it’s cloudy or grainy or yeasty or acidic...well, all of those can be very appropriate weissbier characteristics.
(5 gallons, partial mash)
• 1.5 lbs. pilsner malt
• 2 lbs. malted wheat
• 0.5 lb. carapils malt
• 0.5 lb. Munich malt
• 2 lbs. unhopped wheat dry malt extract
• 1.5 oz. Hallertauer hops (4% alpha acid, 6 AAUs)
• American ale yeast (Wyeast 1056 or 1272)
• 1 to 2 drops 88% food-grade lactic acid, diluted 9 to 1
• 2 oz. raspberry wine flavoring essence
• 1 oz. pure lemon juice
• 7/8 cup corn sugar for priming
Step by Step:
Heat 2 gal. water to 162° F. Mix in crushed grains, getting the temperature as close to 152° F as possible, and hold at that temperature for 90 min. Sparge with 2.5 gal. water at 169° F.
Add dry malt extract to kettle and bring to a boil. Add the Hallertauer hops and boil 60 min. Remove from heat, add enough cold water to make 5.25 gal., and cool to 68° F. Pitch yeast.
Ferment at about 65° F for two weeks. Rack to secondary, let age, and clarify for three to four weeks. Acidify with the lactic acid (it is important to dilute it — add a little at a time, stir in well, taste after each addition). Prime with corn sugar, add the raspberry essence and lemon juice, and bottle. Age cool (50° F) for three to four weeks.
OG = 1.045
FG = 1.015
All-grain: Increase the pilsner malt to 2.5 lbs. and the wheat to 3 lbs. Omit the dry malt extract. Mash temperatures will be the same, but increase the volume of water to 3 gal. to start and 3.5 gal. for sparging.
Extract: Steep the carapils, Munich, and 0.5 lb. malted wheat in 2 gal. of water heated to 150° F for 45 min. Add 4 lbs. wheat dry malt extract and bring to a boil. Continue as above.
Lactic acid: If you are overly cautious and don’t trust yourself with high-concentration lactic acid, you can certainly omit it. The lemon juice will acidify and sour the beer somewhat, just not as much.
Sweetness: If you want your beer to end up a little sweeter, as it would with the addition of syrups to the glass, try adding
a little (perhaps 1/2 cup) malto-dextrin powder or 1 to 2 oz. of glycerin (liqueur finishing additive) at bottling. Both additives are non-fermentable and increase the body and perceived sweetness.
Woodruff: Although it is optional to this recipe, woodruff can be obtained in or ordered through most homebrew shops. It does carry a minor government health warning, so read the label carefully. If you choose to use it, make a tincture by soaking 1 oz. of dried woodruff leaves in 2 oz. vodka for the length of the primary and secondary fermentation. Add this tincture at bottling with the other flavorings.
I Can’t Believe It’s Not Mild Ale
(5 gallons, all-grain)
This mild ale is on the high end for gravity for a mild but still is light on the hops. Very easy drinking, a killer session beer. This is also a good year-round beer to brew.
Jason Alstrom • via e-mail
• 5 lbs. mild ale malt (preferably English)
• 0.5 lb. Victory malt (preferably English)
• 0.5 lb. dextrin malt (preferably English)
• 0.5 lb. crystal malt (preferably English), 80° Lovibond
• 0.25 lb. wheat malt
• 0.25 lb. dark brown sugar
• 1 oz. black malt
• 1.5 oz. Willamette or Fuggle hops (4.2% alpha acid) for 60 min.
• 0.5 oz. Goldings hops (5.4% alpha acid) for 15 min.
• 1/2 tsp. Irish moss
• Wyeast 1335 (British ale II)
• 1/2 cup corn sugar for priming
Step by Step:
Start Wyeast culture five days in advance, following package directions.
Mash grains in 2 gal. of water and stabilize at 152° to 154° F for one hour. Sparge with 5 gal. of 170° F water.
Total boil is 75 min. Boil 15 min. and add sugar, black malt, and Willamette or Fuggle hops. Boil 45 min. more and add Goldings and Irish moss. Boil 15 min. more. Cool wort to 68° to 70° F and pitch yeast.
Ferment for one week and then transfer into secondary for one more week. Bottle with priming sugar, age 10 days, then enjoy. Cheers!
OG = 1.045
FG = 1.008
(5 gallons, extract with grain)
This is a very nice lager that uses Belgian malt and Bavarian-style yeast.
Rick Maestas • Espanola, N.M.
• 9.9 lbs. Belgian Abbey malt extract
• 3 oz. Special B malt
• 4 oz. chocolate malt
• 8 oz. wheat malt
• 1 oz. Tettnanger whole leaf hops (4.2% alpha acid) for 60 min.
• 0.25 oz. Saaz hop pellets (3.1% alpha acid) for 60 min.
• 1 qt. starter of Wyeast 2206 (Bavarian lager)
• 3/4 cup corn sugar for priming
Note: You can substitute amber malt extract and 12 oz. carapils if you can’t get Belgian Abbey malt extract.
Step by Step:
Steep the crushed grains in 5 gal. of water at 155° F for 45 min. Remove grains and add extract. Stir until extract is dissolved thoroughly. Bring to boil. Total boil is 75 min. Boil 15 min. and add the Tettnanger and Saaz hops. Boil 60 min. more. Cool, top up to 5 gal., aerate, and pitch yeast.
Be sure to aerate more than you think is necessary. Ferment at 70° F for one day, then bring the temperature down in five-degree increments until you reach 50° F. Rack to secondary after gravity does not change. Store at 40° F for about six weeks. Prime and bottle or keg as usual.
OG = 1.076
FG = 1.026
Mick’s Oatmeal-Rye Stout
(5 gallons, all-grain)
This is a delicious adult beverage with a very interesting texture and malt character, with chocolate and coffee overtones and a nice, lingering head.
Mike Mulhern • Camarillo, Calif.
• 7 lbs. Klages pale malt
• 6 oz. black patent malt
• 1 lb. crystal malt, 40° Lovibond
• 1 lb. flaked oats
• 1 lb. flaked rye
• 10 oz. roasted barley
• 2.5 oz. Fuggle hop pellets (4.6% alpha acid): 1.75 oz. for 45 min., 0.75 oz. for 10 min.
• 1/2 tsp. Irish moss for 15 min.
• 1 packet Edme ale yeast
• 11/4 cup American amber dry malt extract for priming
Step by Step:
Mash grains in 3.5 gal. of water at 155° F for 75 min. Sparge with
4 gal. of 168° F water to collect 5.75 gal.
Bring to boil. Total boil is 90 min. Boil 45 min. and add 1.75 oz. Fuggle hops. Boil 30 min. more and add Irish moss. Boil 5 min. more and add 0.75 oz. Fuggles. Boil 10 min. more. Cool and pitch yeast near 70° F.
Ferment seven days or until done. Rack to secondary and ferment seven days more. Prime and bottle.
OG = 1.065
FG = 1.015