Berliner Weisse advice

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salty dog

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Hi All,
Have been thinking about making my first berliner weisse for quite a while but not everything has gone to plan.

My original idea was to culture some lactobacillus after making a small mash from grain (pilsner) malt. I boiled the mash I made for a full 60 minutes, chilled it, then took it over to a mate's place to experiment with using it as a mixer for some bourbons we had. That introduced a bit more head space into the bottle I had it in.

I had some other things going on so came back to it a few days later, open the bottle & there was a fizz sound. I was prepared for the worst but it turns out that it has pleasantly soured with no discernible off flavours, (to me at least).

I was pretty happy with that & made up my standard size batch of wort, (only 10 litres), added my sour culture. I have left it for 4 days, (bit longer than usual as I wasn't maintaining the really high temps that apparently lacto likes) & the whole batch has soured nicely.

However, my starting gravity when I first pitched my sour culture was 1044 which has now dropped to 1031. From an online calculator, this is a drop of slightly over 1.7%. I don't know if there are any strains of lacto that produce that much alcohol. I suspect that I have some wild yeast as part of my spontaneous culture. When I took a sample, there appeared to be quite a lot of fine carbonation in my brew which would push me even more towards the wild yeast theory.

The dilemma I have is whether to perform a boil & then pitch my clean german ale yeast like I was originally planning to or not. I can live with losing some alcohol as the style is supposed to be low alcohol anyway. I actually quite like the taste as it is at the moment too though.

I don't know how much the flavour is going to change after doing a boil & fermenting with the ale yeast.
Similarly, I don't know how much I can expect the flavour to change if I let a mix of lacto & wild yeast run it's course under controlled, (lower) temperatures.

Any personal experiences/advice?

I'll probably make a call one way or the other tomorrow as the level of sourness seems pretty good. If I can't be confident that the level of sourness won't just keep increasing to the point where it can strip the enamel off your teeth, or poopy/vomit flavours won't develop, I'll probably go the conservative route & try & kill my existing culture to give the ale yeast a clean field to play on.

I did keep some of my original culture in some bottles in the fridge. If some of you experienced guys are confident I have wild yeasts as part of my culture I am happy to be drawn into other sour beer shenanigans...maybe start heading down the lambic path?

I haven't really done any research on making lambics at home as I thought I would start with a simpler style & was a bit scared off by the idea of potential bottle bombs, bad infections, extreme wait times that might still result in terrible beer.

Anything anyone has to offer is appreciated.
Bit the bullet & boiled prior to adding my german ale yeast. The flavour was significantly less satisfying after the boil. Hope it was largely because of the loss of alcohol. Will see in a while I guess.

Any lambiv gurus out there that can give me any advice for the remainder of the culture I have stored in the fridge?
You can hear the crickets. So I will help out.

There is no right way of doing a modern Berliner Weisse.

Some people have zero boil some have one and some have two. I opt to mash then boil for 20 minutes add lacto, then let it sit for however long it takes to sour usually 4-8 days at ambient temp. Then I boil for 60 minutes and pitch yeast. However I want to do a traditional 100% lacto Berliner Weisse this year and let it age for six months.

You need to find what you like. If you liked the pre-boil flavour then just go with it. Get over the fear of unknown this is the world of sours, let nature do what it wants.

Okay - even if you have some wild yeast it does not matter, what matters is that your gravity is stable over a week or two or three. This will avoid bottle bombs. Or force over carbonate in keg and then transfer into bottles.

Lambic advice is to keep it simple 60% Pilsner 40% raw wheat. Mash, Sparge With BOILING water, you want tannins and boil 60 to 120 minutes (Top up with BOILED WATER to hit your target OG) then cool, I have two extra large 30 litre stainless mixing bowls I use as cool ships (good $2 store), that I keep in the kitchen overnight. You will pick up all kinds of nasties and enteric bacteria but that is all good, they add to the flavour, as long as you do not sample, then pitch your "Wild" store bought Brett and shortly after they will explode and make the wort too hostile for enteric bacteria and making the brew safe to drink.

If you want true wild yeast, then make a weak 1040 wort split it into 3 or 5 large jars / OR bowls lightly cover with cheese cloth and place around the house, garden, garage, your local park hidden under a bush and leave overnight. Once cool bring inside and place in a dark warm space. Leave it alone for 2 or 3 months, do not pre-sample. Once your tests show that the OG has dropped and you see yeast forming on the bottom then do a taster. You are looking for flavours your like, anything that is off or bad just throw out (Boil bad jars). Avoid green apple flavour. Anything that is left, can be mixed together into you Lambic wort and you have a true wild lambic. This allows you to find good nasties and avoid bad nasties getting into your wort. This is how I ended up with my best beer using my patented Wild Melbourne Yeast.

Finally be patient, wait six months for your first sample, then give it another six months and sample again, then consider splitting it, maybe adding fruit or something else, then wait 3 months and so forth and so on.

Ps. If you make some god awful vile spew, then you just remove the airlock and wait three months and you have pure extra strong vinegar for your fish and chips or for BBQ marinades. You can get some amazing flavours. Or you can always do that word that which starts with D and no its not dump.
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Thanks for replyingThumbsucker, appreciate it. Those crickets were getting raucous! ;)

Thanks for all the tips. I've been interested in sours/wild yeast beers since I first tasted them about a year & a half ago but it did seem a bit scary to try & jump straight into with limited brewing experience. I had settled on a berliner weisse as my first sour as it seemed like a simpler beer with less time investment for a quick souring version & less risk of anything really wild taking over my brewing equipment.

Tasting my accidentally soured wort & having it taste good only got me more enthused.

I am only bottling at the moment - no kegs, just small BIAB batches, (10L) on the stove top which gives me a chance to brew more often & try more things & try to dial in recipes a bit when I try & perfect a certain brew.

The lambic tips with the raw wheat, boiling sparge water, etc were interesting as was the vinegar tip.

I will definitely try to make a lambic at some stage. Hopefully I can come up with a good Sydney blend akin to your Melbourne one rather than collect dog pee from the local park exclusively. There is a large forested area accessible from my street which i had already been eyeing off as a potential source of wild yeast.

Thanks again for the advice.

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