Monday, February 17, 2014

Brew #5: Meyer Lemon Berliner Weisse

My body craves whatever is not in season so it led me to a nice refreshing Berliner Weisse in the middle of winter. After a previous attempt I did some internet research and talked to some other homebrewers that have had success with the style.  It seemed that the quickest way to get a nice balance of sour was to sour mash.  The problem with sour mashing is that introducing oxygen into the mash can result in some unappetizing vomit flavors.  I read that someone had great success mashing in a corny keg and purging with carbon dioxide but I didn't want to introduce any bacteria in my kegs (not yet at least!).

It struck me one night while reading a cookbook that I should mash in a sous vide sort of way.  After brainstorming I figured out that I could get a big ziploc bag (5 gallon) and put the wort in it at 110 degrees F with a handful of unmilled pilsner malt to introduce the Lactobacillus.  I put the ziploc bag into an igloo cooler filled with 110F water (filled from my tankless water heater) and used the water to squeeze all the air out of the bag.  I refilled the water before and after work each day and found that I only lost about 2-5 degrees each time.  I also opened the bag to squeeze out the air and get a whiff.  The wort was slowly smelling delicious, nice and sweet, lemony and grainy.  After three days I tasted it found the sourness was to my liking.

At this point I did a quick 1-2 minute boil, chilled then pitch a packet of Safale 05.  The yeast fermented quickly in the upper 60's.

At bottling I decided that since this beer was fermented in two separate 1-gallon jugs that I should use the opportunity to experiment.  I had a couple idea that I'd like to explore later like a black tea infused berliner weisse (Arnold Palmer?) but instead took inspiration from the two lonely Meyer Lemons growing on my backyard tree. I wasn't sure of the best way to extract the Meyer Lemon flavor so I tried something that they use with other cocktails: Nitrogen Cavitation.  This is a technique that I first learned about from David Arnold's blog and it's a fast way to infuse liquids with the flavors of porous materials.  It's not really a viable technique for commercial brewers but it's perfect for 1 gallon homebrewers and it has endless possibilities.

Not paying attention to anything I've learned I peeled the rind off of the two lemons and loaded them into an ISI Whip device and filled it with my fermented berliner weisse.  I charge the vessel with one nitrogen canister and shook it up for about a minute then let it sit for another minute before evacuating the gas.  I then strained the beer into a measuring cup and watched it bubble for awhile before adding it to the bottling jug.

How did it taste?  It was one of the most refreshing berliner weisses I've  ever tried.  The version with no lemon was excellent in its own classic way but the Meyer lemon version had a smooth sourness and the full floral flavor profile of the Meyer lemon was captured.

Aroma: Floral, lemony, sweet graininess.  No apparent off flavors (i.e. vomit).

Appearance: Very pale straw.  Hazy.  Large head that dissipated quickly.

Taste:  Smooth sourness with floral Meyer lemon character upfront.  Slight grainy sweetness in the aftertaste with a subtle layer of lemon that lingered.

Overall:  One of the top two beers I've ever made.  I wish that all two gallons were of the Meyer lemon variety because a bottle of this doesn't last long.  It's similar to a grown up 7-Up with a Meyer lemon twist.  I can wait to use these techniques on some different types of beers.

Berliner Weisse (sour mash)
Batch Size: 2 gallons
OG: 1.034
FG:  1.008
IBU: 3.3
Boil Time: 1 Minute

1 lb 8 oz Pilsner Malt
14 oz      Wheat Malt
2 oz        Acid Malt (at end of mash)
2 g          Liberty (4.3%) in Mash
Safale 05 Yeast


  1. Hey D-Form,

    Like the idea of the sous vide to hold your temperature to culture your Lactobacillus. Also like your choice of lemon. Meyer lemons are my favourite variety.

    Have you ever tried fermenting with lemon juice as part of the batch?

    I'm an amateur brewer but tried the following beer which is what got me inspired. Unfortunately, having tried it a few times, it was wildly variable. First time it was tart, lemony & refreshing, whereas the last time it was only mildly acidic without any real lemon flavour.

    I'm still bottle conditioning. Any tips for higher pH brewing, especially wrt ensuring that some sort of yeast or CO2 producing microbes are still active enough to carbonate the beer?

    1. Never tried fermenting with lemon juice as part of the batch. I like the idea of the rind since the aroma is what I'm usually after. I do make ginger ale with a ton of lemon juice but I haven't established a good recipe yet.

    2. Thanks for replying D-Form. Appreciate it. I did notice it was quite a while ago that you blogged about this.

      If I manage to get myself organised & experiment with lactobacillus & lemons enough that I am happy with a recipe I'll try & remember to post something in case it is of interest.

      I also have an immature lemon myrtle tree that I am hoping to use as an addition to a brew at some stage.