Monday, March 5, 2012

Delbrück-Berliner Weisse

In January I stopped at The Bruery in Orange County to grab a quick flight.  I wanted something sour, almost dirty.  The bartender gave me a list of 7 sours that they had on.  My first pour was their house Berliner Weisse, Hottenroth.  A tribute beer for Patrick's grandparents.  This beer floored me.  Absolutely amazing.  Clear, crisp and refreshing.  They didn't have any bottles, but they did offer growler fills on this beer.  It was a no brainier, it was coming home with me.

Since this style is all-but extinct except for a couple breweries in Berlin I started to collect information on Berliner Weisse's history and how I can attempt it's recreation in homebrewing. 

Scouring the internet for information the only piece that keeps coming up over and over are misconceptions about the processes concerning brewing of this beer.  From what I can tell you have a couple of very opinionated homebrewing camps.

  • Traditional,  No Boil Method:  Uses a decoction method.  Starts at about 120 then to 150.  Sits overnight.  (Up to 48 hours) Sparge out into a fermenter/carboy.
  • Store bought Lacto Method:  Mostly Uses Wyeast 3553.  Mashed normally @150.  Add 10 IBU's to mash only.  Typical German hop. No boil or 15 minute boil.  Add Lacto  for 1 to 2 days.  Longer the more sour.  Then add a clean Sac yeast.  (3:1 lacto to sac yeast ratio.)
  • Self Souring Method: Mash normally at 150 degrees.  (Reserve 1 cup of grain)  Hops in Mash.  Sparge/rinse the grain.  No boil.  Add reserved grain to the carboy.  Strain after 3 days into kettle.  5 min boil then add primary Sac Yeast.
Now what style is best?  I have no idea.  I think the style that is best is adapting your equipment, storage, wife, etc to work with one of them.  From all the information I've gathered the Lacto (delbrucii) yeast needs a healthy starter at around 97 degrees for a week to recreate this beer style.

Below I am going to document my Berliner Weisse journey with the processes I used to attempt to recreate this style:

Recipe Formulation:

I wanted to stay as traditional as possible on this beer.  Most recipes that I've founds are at about 30-40% Wheat Malt with the remaining German Pilsner.  Since wheat is not my favorite style, I decided to stay on the low end of the spectrum, coming in around 31%.  The hops should be of German heritage.  I didn't have anything old that fit the bill directly, but some old Williamette should do the trick.  Honestly, that is about it on the recipe.  Simple and direct. 

Berliner Weiss


Type: All Grain
Date: 3/24/2012
Batch Size: 7.00 gal (1 5G and 2 1G)
Brewer: Chris Lewis
Boil Size: 6.87 gal Asst Brewer:
Boil Time: 60 min Equipment: My Equipment
Taste Rating(out of 50): ## Brewhouse Efficiency: 80.00
Taste Notes:

Amount Item Type % or IBU
4 lbs Pilsner (2 Row) Ger (2.0 SRM) Grain 66.67 %
2 lbs White Wheat Malt (2.4 SRM) Grain 33.33 %
0.50 oz Williamette [5.50 %] (60 min) Hops 9.7 IBU
7.20 oz Malto-Dextrine (Boil 5.0 min) Misc
1 Pkgs Safale American (DCL Yeast #US-05) [Starter 50 ml] Yeast-Ale
1 Pkgs Lactobacillus  (White Labs #WLP677) [Starter 50 ml] Yeast-Wheat

Beer Profile
Est Original Gravity: 1.030 SG
Measured Original Gravity:  1.030 SG
Est Final Gravity: 1.008 SG Measured Final Gravity: TBA SG
Estimated Alcohol by Vol: 2.87 % Actual Alcohol by Vol: TBA %
Bitterness: 9.7 IBU Calories: ## cal/pint
Est Color: 2.5 SRM Color:

Mash Profile
Mash Name: My Mash Total Grain Weight: 6.00 lb
Sparge Water: 7.59 gal Grain Temperature: 72.0 F
Sparge Temperature: 168.0 F TunTemperature: 72.0 F
Adjust Temp for Equipment: FALSE Mash PH: 5.4 PH

NO BOIL - Bring to a 210 and shut off.  Pitch at 90 degrees

Mash Notes:
Carbonation and Storage
Carbonation Type: Kegged (Forced CO2) Volumes of CO2: 2.4
Pressure/Weight: 21.6 PSI Carbonation Used: -
Keg/Bottling Temperature: 60.0 F Age for: 28.0 days
Storage Temperature: 52.0 F

No boil. Mash only. Lacto added at 90 Degrees.  Lacto Starter for 5 days at around 100 degrees.
Created with BeerSmith


The name of this brew is Delbruck.  Named after Max Delbruck (1906-1981) the German biochemist that Lactobacillus delbrückii is named after. Delbrück isolated this Lactobacillus bacterium while he was head of the Institut für Gärungsgewebe (Institute for Fermentation Tissue) in Berlin, between 1932 and 1937.  So in tribute I will name this after him. 

Most homebrewers say that this beer is down to 1.004 or so within a week or so.  The normal thought is to bottle it.  I really want to keg it and have it on tap, that choice will have to be made when the time is right maybe a 50/50 split?

If you are interested in this style of beer go out and buy a Hottenroth by The Bruery.  It is a clear, great beer.  Normally released in April each year.

Thanks to a slow work day and to the great reading provided by the links below I have an idea of my future process for this beer.

Starter Process:

3-16-2012  Making the"starter" tonight with the White Labs WLP677.  I am going to use the normal starter method 1 cup DME : 1 Pint of water. Going to try and find the warmest location in the house to leave the flask.  No aeration or stir plate to keep the oxygen levels low.

WLP677 Lacto Yeast

Cleaning the 1 gallon jug for the starter

Red tape is on everything that touches Brett, Lacto or Pedio
3-21-2012 Added 1/2# of German Pilsner malt (not Milled) for some added natural Lacto.  that exist on the grain.  The reason behind this is that I want the White Labs Lacto to be firmly established before introducing a wild strain.

WLP677 starter after 5 days

Another look of WLP677

The German Pilsner to be added

German Pilsner

Ready to add the grain

1/2 of German Pilsner added to the WLP677

WLP677 With German Pilsner day 3

Top shot of the Pilsner/WLP677 Lacto starter

I plan to strain off the grain right before adding it to the carboy with a pasta strainer. 

Brewing: 3/24/2012

Mash @120 for 30 mins and then raise to 150 for 30 mins.  Hops inside the mash only.  Sparge to collect 6.5 gallons of wort.  This will be collected in my boil kettle.  Bring wort to 210, cover and let cool to 95 degrees.  I used my chiller to get to 100 and then turned off the water and pumped into the carboy.  I filled one 5 gallon carboy to about 4.5G and 2, one gallon jugs. 


With the wort at 90 degrees I added my Lacto starter.  I will let this have 1st crack at the sweet liquid.  I am feeling 3 days of a solid lacto/wild fermentation.  At this point I will add WLP001.

Berliner-Weisse at 12 hours

Berliner-Weisse at 12 hours

The brew day went very well with no issues.  Luckily, I am in the position to have a good amount of control on my mash temp.  So rising the mash from 120 to 150 was a breeze.  In total it took about 10 mins with the march pump and the burner on.  What I didn't expect was to over shoot my sparging, ending up with about 4.8 gallons in my smaller 5.5 gallon carboy and two, one gallon jugs of extra wort.  Somehow I was smart enough to have three, one gallon jugs cleaned and sanitized before I was in this situation.

Update #1

The beer is at 2 weeks and I wanted to jump in and taste my creation.  The first tasting notes are here.  Even though I pulled it from the carboy a little early, I was just way to excited to sample this beer. 

Berliner-Weisse @2 weeks

5 gallons of Berliner-Weisse after Sac yeast was added.

The beer tasted clean, crisp and light but I think it is missing the "Over the top punch factor." that I was expecting.  I think a combination of over sparging the mash and having a couple to many homebrews compounded this problem.  Lowering the gravity a little to much.  I did end up collecting 2 extra gallons of wort in 1 gallon containers lucky enough. 

Jug #1:

I tossed in a tart cherry syrup into this jug.  It was about 18 hours into active Lacto fermentation.   I added 1/4 cup total.  ( I will have to weigh that out later)  I added the WLP001 at 2.5 days like the original batch.

Jug #2:

This is my sour base.  I never added the WLP001 to this wort.  Just the original Lacto strand.  With the expected beer a little soft on the tartness for the style I am planning to add in this gallon to taste.  Once I have the correct ratio I will blend them.  If I have more than the 5 total gallons, I'll bottle them as a test batch.  The rest will be kegged and served at home. 

Update #2 April 15, 2012

Well the beer is kegged.  I ended up using Jug #2 as an additional source of Lacto.  (also to add some more tartness to the final product). 

Tart Cherry B-W verses Solid Lacto B-W

Tart Cherries vs Lacto only

Berliner-Weisse with an almost Orange hue

Solid Lacto vs Lacto/WLP001

Another Shot of Solid Lacto vs Lacto/WLP001

Slightly different colors from the yeasts

Berliner-Weisse before kegging

The final product is crashing in the keggor right now and I should have a final tasting on this beer in a couple weeks.  As for the tart cherry gallon, I will be updating that post differently.  It will be bottled and stored. 

UPDATE 4-3-13

I am brewing this again with some changes 


  1. Sounds great! Looking forward to hearing how it turns out.

    I brewed a Berliner using the self souring method. I was very happy with it but I'd like to give the other methods a try too.

  2. I'm really excited about this one to. I think this is a great style that is forgotten in the craft/homebrewing world.

  3. Totally. I was surprised at how many of my friends enjoyed it. Being all the way down in Tasmania we don't have access to any commercial examples. I'd love it if some local breweries gave it a go.

  4. I just did a homemade lacto starter (raw grain/hot water). It started right away nice and frothy, but has developed a pellicle after 4 days. I can't really tell by your pictures, but did your starter have a pellicle? I'm just worried that I have something other than Lacto in there.

    1. The starter did have a small pellicle in the one gallon jug. Once it was pitched the Lacto went crazy and the pellicle did not reform. It was more of a Krausen looking fermentation

  5. How long are you planning on letting it go before kegging?

    1. That is a really good question. At first it was an issue of space in the kegorator, now it is a question of how long I want to wait. The beer is really cleaning up nicely compared to the pictures above. Now that I have space in my sour keg it is about time to move it along to the draft line. I am really shooting for it to be on draft by the end of May

    2. Nice. I'm going to try a similar recipe/process within the next week and plan kegging it too. This will be my first sour beer. Anything you do differently with your sour keg? Do you have a sour only beer line? I only have two taps on my kegerator so I don't want to commit a tap to sours full-time, but will planned on having a sour corny and anything plastic (siphon, carboy, thief). Thanks for responding.

    3. As for the kegging set-up, I would use a picnic tap or plan to clean/replace the draft lines after. Plus it would kinda be a secret tap for "real" beer drinkers only. For the keg I have one sour keg but I don't think I am to worried about doing a normal beer in it afterwards as long as I replaced the seals/o-rings.

      I am going to dedicate a tap to full time sour beers. I have 4 real taps with a picnic tap inside for my bourbon aged beers.

      I also have everything that touches "sour" beers with a red piece of electrical tape around it. This helps me mark my sour products lessening the chance of cross contamination.

  6. AnonymousMay 23, 2012

    Great info! I had a few Q's if you don't mind. Did you just "eyeball" how much of your starter went into the gallon jugs vs the carboy or did you measure it somehow? Did you decant first?

    1. I just eyeballed it. The starter was big in the 1st place and with the ABV% so low I really wasn't to worried about measuring anything. For pouring the starter, I used a funnel with a screen and poured it all in. I was a little unsure about this process but I really had no other choice at the time.

  7. The author is crediting the wrong Dr. Max Delbrück in this article. The correct Dr. Max Delbrück is Dr. Max Emil Julius Delbrück (1850 to 1919). He was the uncle of the Dr. Max Delbrück to which the author is referring. Max Emil Julius Delbrück was a peer of Emil Christian Hansen (the first person to produce a pure yeast culture), which makes him one of the founding fathers of the field known today as microbiology. The two scientists battled it out in the early days of pure yeast culture-based brewing. Max Emil Julius Delbrück's method of pure culture creation was known as "Natural" Pure Culture. Delbrück's approach differed from Hansen's approach in that it was a brewery-based method of producing pure cultures versus a laboratory-based method of producing pure cultures; hence, it was considered to be a more practical approach to pure culture management. The yeast species Saccharomyces delbrückii (a.k.a. Torulaspora delbrückii or simply German Weizen bier yeast) is also named after Max Emil Julius Delbrück.

    1. Thanks for the information, uncle or not its just a homebrew beer name. However interesting it may be.


Thanks for Commenting, Prost!