This method is perfect for brewing any beer that you would like accompanied with a clean tart character. It is especially well-suited for brewing Berliner weisse, a sour German wheat beer. Nickel Brook’s Uber Berliner Weisse is now a regular offering and a great local take on the classic German style. I haven’t had another Berliner weirs from Ontario that is as clean and tart as theirs. The description on the bottle actually gives some clues on how they brew it.
Nickle Brook Uber Berliner Weisse Clone:
• 5.5 Gal., all grain
• Mash at 148F for 60 minutes
• 30 minute boil
• OG: 1.042
• FG: 1.008
• ABV: 4.2%
• 50% Weyermann Pilsner Malt
• 50% Weyermann Pale Wheat Malt
Additional Souring Supplies Required
• 1L or 2L flask or jar for yeast starter
• 1 pack Pilsen Light DME for starter
• Electric brew belt
• 0.25oz German Tettnang Hops @ 30 min
Yeast and Bugs
About three days prior to brewday, propagate a starter using Wyeast 5335 or White Labs WLP672 Lactobacillus Brevis to achieve a pitch rate of about 10 million cells/ml. A 1L starter, 1.020 wort, using Pilsen Light Dry Malt Extract (DME) kept at around 90-120F will do well for a five gallon batch. Do not aerate. A small krausen/pellicle will form.
On brewday, mash and collect your wort into your kettle. Boil for a few minutes then chill down to 120F.
Pitch the lacto starter into the kettle. It’s not ideal to have wort sitting at a higher gravity for an extended period of time but the big dose of lacto causes a quick pH drop to protect the wort from unwanted microbes. CO2 Blanket the top of the wort with CO2 to remove O2 and prevent the growth of the notoriously nasty bugs Clostridium and Acetobacter (puke and vinegar, remember?) If you don’t have CO2, cover the surface of the wort with sanitized plastic wrap to keep the air out.
Hold for three days at 100-120F using an electric brew belt or hot water bath. In ideal conditions, Lactic acid production will drop the pH levels to a puckering 3-3.3 (normally beer is around 4.2).
Boil to pasteurize and kill the bacteria. Try not to overdo it with the hops during the boil, keep IBUs under 8. Hops don’t really vibe with lactic acid.
Chill the soured wort, transfer to your primary fermenter and pitch Saccharomyces yeast to ferment out the rest of the beer.
I spoke with Ryan Morrow, brewmaster of Nickel Brook Brewery, to see if he could provide any more tips for the homebrewer. He echoed the sentiments that CO2 during the souring process is absolutely key for a clean product, as well as picking a good yeast. He stopped short of providing the exact yeast strain but from the description on the bottle, we can guess that it is likely WLP351 Bavarian Weizen Yeast or 3638 Bavarian Wheat Yeast. With this information, we will deduce a recipe and see if we can clone the beer.
• White Labs WLP672 Lactobacillus Brevis
Prep 1L starter three days prior to brewday. Pitch into wort pre-boil to kettle-sour and hold at 100-120F for approximately three days or until pH drops to 3-3.3.
• WLP351 Bavarian Weizen Yeast
Once the lactobacillus has dropped the pH to the appropriate levels, pitch the WLP351 and ferment at 68F for 7-10 days. Other Yeast Considerations and Batch Splitting Experiments
• Wyeast 1007 German Ale Yeast and 5526 Brettanomyces Lambicus