For Round 9 of the Knob Creek sour barrel project, we brewed a Berliner Weisse. This was the simplest recipe I’ve brewed: 60% Pilsner malt, 40% Wheat malt, 1.040 OG (our actual was more like 1.035). No hops: hops inhibit lactobacillus and there’s no hop character needed for the style.
Spencer and I brewed a quadruple batch (23 gallons) – this included an extra 5 gallons to be shared by the group, covering the angel’s share and making for fuller take-home portions. I thought I’d get by with reusing the yeast cake from a batch of cider; that failed to take off so I pitched a fresh packet of US-05.
The clean beer filled the barrel in January and emerged nicely soured in July, still with a pleasant bready note. I added fruit to my two shares:
Batch 80.1 – Rhubarb Berliner Weisse
Added five pounds of rhubarb I’d frozen the previous month. Mostly green, but with a little red to give the beer a faint pink tint.
2019-08-14: bottled after a month on the rhubarb. Trying to rush it a little here … the beer was still quite cloudy and my clumsy racking did not help. Rhubarb pulp kept clogging my bottling wand so, in keeping with the spirit of this batch, I removed the wand and roughly filled bottles from the spigot hose. I have some rhubarb pulp in many of the bottles.
Used 120g sucrose, targeting 2.8 vol CO2 in 4.5 gallons. Ideally I’d end up more like 3-3.5 vol CO2 but I figure I may get some more attenuation due to pulling off the rhubarb prematurely. On the other hand, the calculator I used probably overestimates residual CO2 given that this beer was in a barrel, where, compared to a carboy, more CO2 nucleates to the rough surface and comes out of solution. We’ll see. I used heavy German half-liter bottles just in case I get high pressure. I also should have added an acid-tolerant wine yeast at bottling but didn’t.
On the plus side, this beer tastes lively and distinctly like rhubarb!
Batch 80.2 – Blueberry Sage Berliner Weisse
I had planned to add 8 lbs of Michigan blueberries, on sale at Meijer.
I pureed and added them 2 lbs at a time, and was only able to add 6 lbs before I had to remove beer to fit in more fruit. My dad would describe this as trying to put ten pounds of mud in a five pound sack.
Pureed blueberries take up about one pint per pound, so 6 lbs = 0.75 gallons maxed out the vessel. This was an extremely pale beer and turned purple immediately upon receiving the six pounds of blueberries.
You’d think I’d have learned my lesson about what happens when you fill a carboy to the top with fermentables, but no. Shortly after this the airlock blew right off. I also threw in a small amount of oak cubes I wanted to use up; those did about two months.
Going wild at bottling
After a couple of months on the blueberries, I bottled 2019-10-19. Primed with 133g table sugar aiming for 2.8 vols CO2.
At bottling, I blended in a tincture I’d made of sage. It was about 4 oz vodka and 4 oz (by volume) of fresh sage leaves from my neighbor. In 2017 I’d tried Mikkeller’s blueberry-sage Berliner Weisse and it was great. At bottling today, I tried to figure out how much sage to add. The sample of the blueberry beer was one-dimensional: tart. I tried a ratio equivalent to about 3 tsp tincture to 12 oz beer and while it was a little too sage-y, it was much more interesting than the plain beer. So I pressed as much liquid as I could from the sage leaves and dumped it in to the bottling bucket. My reasoning was that it would be under-saged no matter what; we’ll see if it comes through.
Last addition: halfway through the bottling I tipped in a leftover 2 oz of natural raspberry flavor. Why not. Those are larger format bottles (hefty German 0.5 Ls) so I can tell them apart.
And there you have it: blueberry raspberry sage Berliner Weisse. It’s bright pink. Wish I could say this was the oddest beer I’ve made but there are at least two that top it: some spin on a Witbier a long time ago that was likened to “This is so contemporary” – I think it was a barrel-aged black Witbier with coffee – and my amazing coffee-infused barrel-soured black raspberry stout that actually lived up to the hype (and whose non-coffee version won a gold at the Michigan beer cup).
This could be undrinkable, could be good. Come to think of it, I should have added coffee to this too.
Lastly, a milestone: my four-year old is now strong enough to cap bottles by himself.