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Let’s Get Tropical: An obsession with the Florida-weisse

About two years ago I was lucky enough to try Miami Madness, a beer by J. Wakefield Brewing located in Miami, Florida. Described as a, “Sour ale with mango, guava, and passion fruit added,” I was blown away. To this day, I still cannot get over the depth of tropical fruit flavors and smells.

Given I’m a well-seasoned homebrewer with 10 beers under my belt on my highly sophisticated homebrew system (dripping with sarcasm here), I knew I had to tackle this beast. I dug in deep with a passion (fruit?).

Brewing Process

I decided on a 50:50 split of Pilsner and wheat malts as this ratio is the most traditional to a true Berliner weisse. I typically shoot for about a 1.050 starting gravity with a normal mash routine.

Without boiling, I then cooled the wort to about 100 °F (38 °C). I learned from a fellow brewer that adding 1 mL of lactic acid per gallon (3.8 L) of wort at this point will help protect it. From here, I added my preferred form of Lactobacillus culture. I use 16–24 oz. (470–710 mL) of Goodbelly® Probiotic juice and it works pretty well. Finally, I flushed the headspace of the brew kettle with CO2 and wrapped the brew kettle with plastic wrap to make it as airtight as possible. Placing the airtight brew kettle in a keg bucket with water, I set a heater to 100 °F (38 °C). This temperature may vary depending on the strain of Lacto you use, but this temperature has worked for me. I let this acidify for 48 hours, before bringing it to a boil. Obviously, the longer you let the wort sit pre-boil, the lower the pH of the wort will be. Honestly, I have yet to test any time frame longer or shorter than the 48 hours, but I have been very pleased with the results. I boil the wort for an hour with a bit of hops.

After cooling, I pitched 2 packets of US-05 due to the low pH and ferment as usual. Where’s the fruit you ask? Well it’s shoved precariously into my freezer until secondary — my significant other and house guests love being bombarded by bagged, frozen bricks of fruit when they’re going for an ice tray!

Fruit Addition

Fear of contamination from wild yeast or unwanted bacteria is a hazard with adding anything in secondary. For me, a liberal application of booze is the answer. Any fruit that I introduce into secondary has been spritzed, drizzled, mixed with, or otherwise infused with vodka or tequila. I have not had any infection problems to date. When racking to secondary (keg), I use the same process for an IPA that is getting dry hops. A second round of fermentation will ensue, so be sure to account for this.

I typically aim for 3+ lbs. of fruit per gallon of beer (0.36 kg/L), aged on fruit for one month, give or take a week or two. To date, I’ve brewed 5 of these Florida weisse beers and experimented with about a dozen different fruits. Ranging from the recognizable kiwi (I say don’t waste your time) to the more elusive and incomparable lulo (it’s kinda like an orange I guess?). You can reference my list at below.

Final Product

What fruit you choose certainly adds its own level of acidity and flavor — but in all instances my friends, family, and more discerning fellow homebrew club folk have raved about the finished product. It comes out tart and refreshing, without being overly sweet or sour. While I don’t think commercial breweries need yet to worry about the competition — I am happy to say that I’ve scratched my Florida weisse itch.

Specific Fruits:

While I may have been disappointed with a few fruit additions that I thought would be incredible, the Passion fruit has been included in each batch and a consistent winner. Like Galaxy or Citra® hops to a haze bomb NEIPA, this bad boy of a [comically expensive] fruit feels like a cheat code. The passion fruit flavor is far and away the most prevalent flavor each time, and I’m not complaining. This delicious fruit lends itself perfectly to the fresh, tart, aromatic beer I strive to create. Below are my VERY thorough, scientifically tested reviews of some fruits I’ve sampled (more sarcasm).

  • Guava – there are a number of commercial beers that knock this flavor out of the park. For my experience, I have not been able to add enough guava to capture any discernible flavor. In my experience, the fruit pulp carries too mild a taste for me to see how it imparts anything. Maybe there’s a better process for including this. I’ve also thought of implementing guava paste instead – but I am nervous about other ingredients inherent to the product – pectin, potential preservatives, etc.
  • Lulo – Online accounts describe it as a mix between rhubarb and lime. I have not used enough of this to have a strong opinion, though I would love to try it again soon – maybe more on its own
  • Passion fruit – the best. I simply love the flavor of this fruit and think it lends itself perfectly to this style
  • Mango – delicious fruit, adds a mild flavor when implemented in this manner. I always add it, but it always plays second fiddle to the passionfruit
  • Cherry – I added pitted bing cherries (in retrospect I should have left them in) to a batch and loved it. They imparted a beautiful deep red color and prominent cherry flavor
  • Lime – I haven’t used lime juice, but I did microplane roughly a dozen limes for their zest, which was then soaked in vodka to create a tincture. This added a very refreshing and strong lime flavor – I’d like to experiment with this more in the future.
  • Prickly pear – no discernable flavor via this process, and I didn’t add enough to provide any color changes
  • Red Dragon fruit – very similar to prickly pear for me. To me, this is a very mild fruit. If enough is added I could see where it would create a beautiful reddish pink color to the final product
  • White dragon fruit – see above but with no color changes
  • Peach – I actually haven’t added this to a berliner style beer. However, I did make a milkshake IPA once that incorporated ~1.5 pounds of peaches per gallon. The beer turned out exquisitely with a heavy peach flavor and sweetness
  • Kiwi – I didn’t even notice that I added it. I may not be using this properly, but kiwis, a fruit that I love on their own, didn’t add anything for me