Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Berliner Weisse with Blackcurrants

summer blackcurrantsThis summer J and I spent a few weeks working on my aunt and uncle’s farm back in the U.K.  Its very small, basically subsistence, although they do sell some eggs to locals and my uncle runs butchery classes (people buy a whole or half pig, and come to the class to butcher it after its been slaughtered).  As a life-long vegetarian, all of that is a bit wasted on me.  But they also grow lots of fruit and veg, and part of our work while we were there in high summer was picking some of these crops.

This year, there were a lot of berries and currants: more than we could pick or use, though we did our best, making various jams and shrubs and liqueurs.  I wanted to find a way to use some of this in my beer, but bringing fresh produce back across the ocean with us was not an option.  Luckily, my uncle had a drier, and a quick search of the customs website suggested that bringing dry fruit into the country should not be a problem.

I decided the crop I was most likely to use would be blackcurrants.  At the time, I had in mind to use them in a clone of Russian River’s Consecration IMG_1523that I had made earlier that summer.  The original actually uses Zante currants, which are something else entirely, but I thought the jammy flavours of the blackcurrants would work well as a substitute.  About half of what I brought back went into this beer (its still in secondary), and I decided to save the rest for a berliner weisse.  My thought was again that the sharp but fruity sourness would blend well with the dry and refreshing character of such a beer.

A few months later I brewed a straight-forward berliner weisse with brett trois (featured in this post), and the saved some of the yeast cake for this beer.  I used the same process I have before, based loosely on Kristen England’s technique in Brewing with Wheat (minus a decoction): a single infusion mash at 149°F, mash out at 170°F, then cooled without a boil and pitched with a large amount of lactobacillus and some yeast.

At a few months old, the beer is drinking very well.  Most of these will stay stashed away for the summer, although I hope the sourness doesn’t increase too much between now and then because its perfect right now.  Maybe I’ll do a side-by-side tasting of these two berliner weisses, along with some of my earlier attempts, in a month or two.

IMG_1730[1]Appearance: Hazy, muddy orange.  Some pinkish notes when I hold it up to the light.  Not the prettiest beer.  Full head that dissipates to a thin layer after a minute or two.

Smell: Blackcurrants very prominent, mingled with earthy funk from the brett in nose too.

Taste: Sharply sour at sides of mouth, but not unpleasantly so.  Then what I perceive as a jammy sweetness that lingers on the tongue, even though the beer stays sour and is very dry.  Quickly moves to back of throat, currants again with an almost metallic note.  J described it as briny.

Mouthfeel: Sour, fairly high carbonation, and dry---but still coats the mouth and lingers at back of throat.

Drinkability & Notes:  I’m really pleased with the way this one turned out: it should be very refreshing and drinkable come summer.  Early on the currants added a very sharp, malic acidity, but that’s mellowed somewhat (I believe the lactobacillus can convert the malic acid into lactic acid) leaving a sour but drinkable beer.  The funk in the nose might be off-putting for some, but when I swirl the glass it mingles nicely with the fruitiness of the blackcurrants.

Estimated O.G. 1.032    
Measured O.G. 1.030    
Measured F.G. 1.002    
ABV. 3.6%    
Mash: 149°F    
50% Pilsner      
50% Wheat Malt      
Crystal Mash Hop 1.4 IBUs (8g @3.5%%)
Brett Trois (WLP 644) Lactobacillus    

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