Sunday, May 12, 2013

NHC 2013: The Great Berliner

This post reflects upon my Berliner Weisse that made it into the second round of the National Homebrewers Competition (NHC). I've entered the NHC the past 3 years, and this is the first year that I have advanced any beers to the second round, so I must be either becoming a better to-style brewer (or I'm beginning to game the system in some fashion). I hope my reflections and the scans of the score-sheets I received from the competition are helpful to others interested in doing a quick Berliner.

This post describes the technique and recipe I used for my Berliner Weisse that I call "The Great Berliner." This is the first Berliner Weisse that I have ever brewed, and my Special Lady Friend and I both think it turned out really good, especially after a few weeks of cold aging. I have tasted this around in with a few of my brewing friends with mixed feedback: some noticed a slight "tinny" flavor at the back end (and I could taste this too, until I aged it further); others complained that is was too sour, or not tart enough; and then many weren't "sour people" at all, and were appalled not only by the beer I brewed but by the fact that such beers are acknowledged in style guidelines. At this last response I would usually chortle, twist my moustache, and take another sip.

To make this beer I used a "sour worting" technique that I read about in an article called "More Funk Less Fuss" by Matt Lange in the March/April 2011 issue of Zymurgy. (FYI: the American Homebrewers Association has made all back-issues of Zymurgy available to its members on its website. This alone is worth the membership fees, in my opinion.) I'll summarize the technique here, but the article does go into great detail, and discusses other beers that can be made in a similar fashion.

Yes, you do want to add that to your beer!
The lacto starter was powdery and fluffy on
top. The sirplate was not stirring, but just
maintaining a proper temp.

First I made a sour starter using a handful of grain in some starter wort. I used aciduated malt because I had it on hand and has an increased amount of lactobacillus on the grains, and I used about a liter of 1.030ish wort. I let that sit warm for a few days until it started smelling nice and yogurty. According to the article, it helps if you keep the temperatures up in the 100º F -115º F range -- I have a heated stirplate, so this was not a problem. After a few days it should smell tart and sour. If it smells like vomit, do not use it to make beer! (This is always a good rule of thumb, regardless of what ingredient we are discussing...)

On brewday #1 I mashed and sparged as usual, using a low mash temp (148º F or so) and collected all the runnings into the boil kettle. I then heated mine to boiling to kill any organisms that may be lingering from the mash, and then cooled to ~110º F. (I've also heard of a no-boil technique of souring, where you do not kill off any bacteria or yeast in the runnings and just let them run hog-wild. I might try that next time, but I wanted to somewhat in control the first time.) When the wort was chilled to 110º F, I pitched the sour starter, which was strained to remove the floating grain still in the flask. Using a few fermwraps on the outside of my keggle, I kept it at 110º for 48 hours.

Fermwraps taped to keggle.
Fermwraps and keggle insulated.

Looks tasty, no? This is after approximately
36 hours of souring.

After 48 hours, the inoculated wort was starting to make our house smell like a sweet-tart factory. I tasted it and found it to be what i thought was sour enough. I took off the fermwraps, lit the burner, and proceeded with the rest of the brew. Pretty easy.

Here's recipe for the Berliner I made:

4 lbs Pilsner (Best Malz) (2.0 SRM) Grain 1 53.3 %
3 lbs White Wheat Malt (2.4 SRM) Grain 2 40.0 %
8.0 oz Munich Malt (9.0 SRM) Grain 3 6.7 %
0.50 oz Hallertauer [4.10 %] - Boil 60.0 min Hop 4 6.9 IBUs

Est Original Gravity: 1.034 SG Measured Original Gravity: 1.033 SG
Est Final Gravity: 1.007 SG Measured Final Gravity: 1.008 SG

And below are the scoresheets from the first round of the NHC. (I was a bit disappointed that I did not receive feedback from a more advanced judge, but the comments on the second sheet are thorough and appreciated!)

1 comment:

  1. Congrats on making it to the second round. I really like you technique. Might have to try your way on my next Berliner.