Lactic acid Berliner Weisse

Sun Jun 02, 2013 5:39 pm

Berliner Weisse is one of my favorite styles, but brewing one has always seemed to be too daunting of a task. Sour mashing, large Lacto starters, warm fermenting, and having to use sour-specific equipment. I recently read a post, though, where someone said you can simply add lactic acid at bottling. This sounds exponentially easier than the traditional process.

I initially assumed that this would result in a one dimensional, "fake" tartness. I reached out to a local sour beer guru who said that most brew pubs who brew a BW brew a wheat beer and add lactic acid and the difference is indiscernible. The only caveat is that lactic acid starts to go "good" at some point. After 3-4 months, the tartness fades and a stale sour patch kid flavor enters.

I'd like to try brewing a BW by the "cheating" lactic acid process. The only recipes I can seem to find use Lacto and have either a sour mash or 15 min boil (ala BYO's). Even if you skip the sour mash, it seems there would be a DMS issue with a boil less than 90 mins because of the Pilsner malt and no Lacto.

So I'm looking for a BW recipe based off a small wheat beer which I could pitch lactic acid to. Thanks in advance for any input!
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Re: Lactic acid Berliner Weisse

Sun Jun 02, 2013 5:50 pm

I would just go with a standard 50/50 wheat/2 row (or pils) 1.032 recipe, keeping under 14 IBUs. I can't say I've tried it myself, but in theory I'd believe it'd be much like microwaving a steak. It'll get the job done, but not taste like a true BW... which I'd agree, a lot of the American breweries are doing. That's why it's such a treat when you can get an awesome example of the style. To try it, though, treat the recipe as normal ie full length boil. I still think I'd be able to pick it out in a triangle, but BW does happen to be one of my favorite styles. I'd love for someone to prove me wrong on that though.
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Re: Lactic acid Berliner Weisse

Sun Jun 02, 2013 6:13 pm

Thanks. Any thoughts on yeast? I've seen a few recipes that call for a Kolsch yeast. Lastly, does the time during the boil at which I add the hops matter as long as I'm < 14 IBUs?
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Re: Lactic acid Berliner Weisse

Sun Jun 02, 2013 11:57 pm

PhillyBrewer wrote:Thanks. Any thoughts on yeast? I've seen a few recipes that call for a Kolsch yeast. Lastly, does the time during the boil at which I add the hops matter as long as I'm < 14 IBUs?


In my experiments, solely based on 001 vs 029, the 029 is not only a pain in the ass to work with but it tends to accent hops & bring them to the forefront in the same recipes. That was using blondes, pales & browns as a baseline. Judging from those, I wouldn't use it, but I never tried it in a BW type beer. Not saying it won't be worth a try, but that's what I was getting in side-by-sides's off the same wort, same ferm temps, etc. My best BW results were to cool to 90ish, pitch pure lacto, allow it to cool naturally for ~36 hrs & pitch the 001. There's a dozen ways/techniques to make a BW though.

For my recipe I've always put the hops all in at 60 min. You're not looking for hop characteristics in the final product, just a touch of balance.
Last edited by Ozwald on Mon Jun 03, 2013 4:42 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Lactic acid Berliner Weisse

Mon Jun 03, 2013 4:18 am

We have a local brewpub that brews sours with lactic acid / acid malt.

The difference IS discernible. Its like the difference between fountain Coke and SodaStream "Cola Mix". If you've never had real Coca-Cola, you probably wouldn't know. Ignorance isn't really bliss - a great Berliner, however, is.

If you keg, brew a clean BW base (1.030, 70/30 German pils/wheat malt or so, no hops), ferment with a neutral ale strain, keg with a pitch of Lactobacillus, store as warm as you can, wait 6-8 months. That way, the only soft parts you expose to Lacto are on your keg.

If you bottle, you could try dosing the bottles with lacto slurry. At bottling, pour a packet of lacto into a sanitized glass measuring cup. Use a cheap plastic syringe ($3 from CVS) to dose the bottles with a few mL of slurry.
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Re: Lactic acid Berliner Weisse

Mon Jun 03, 2013 5:04 am

Remember that Weisse is definitely a beer 'of youth'. It should be consumed fairly quickly so that it doesn't have a chance to show age. Although lactic acid flavor is a hallmark, its also known that the flavors imparted by Brett are an appropriate component of Weisse beers.
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Re: Lactic acid Berliner Weisse

Mon Jun 03, 2013 12:53 pm

I recently attempted to add some lactic acid to a lambic I made that was not quite sour enough. I absolutely did not care for the lactic acid and could taste and smell the "buttery-ness" of it. I will never use lactic acid again to add to the sourness of a beer. I wonder if they use pediococcus to produce the lactic acid as there seems to be a definite diacetyl note that it contributed to the finished product.
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Re: Lactic acid Berliner Weisse

Mon Jun 03, 2013 12:59 pm

Hey brewinhard!
Is there any chance the negative experience you had is due to the fact that there's more going on in a lambic and perhaps the Brett, etal flavors didn't meld well with the lactic acid? I'm by no means a BW expert, but it seems possible that adding pure lactic acid to a light, clean beer could result in different perceived flavor profile than adding it to a more complex beer.
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