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For those who have made one, please describe your most successful attempt at producing a nice tart traditional Berliner. Please include ingredients, but most importantly, process in your response. Prost.

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  • What books and websites did you check? What recipes have you tried? What happened? What results were you looking for specifically?
    – Robert
    Jan 29 '16 at 2:07
  • I've not attempted one yet. I've read a smattering of sources on the subject. I get the feeling that sour mash is the most successful approach, but wanted to hear from people here who have experience.
    – chabeck
    Jan 29 '16 at 2:10
  • mod note: there's a couple of close votes on this, but I'm going to opt to leave it open. Berliner is a style that does have particular, objective, processes to produce, and it's hard for me to dismiss those as "too broad" or "subjective".
    – jsled
    Feb 3 '16 at 14:38
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There's a few ways to get to a Berliner Weiße:

  1. Sour mash: introduce lactobacillus to the mash, hold around 120°F (and ideally anaerobically) for 2-3 days to sour. Boil and ferment normally and neutrally.
  2. Kettle sour: perform the mash, introduce lacto to the wort, hold at temp, boil and ferment.
  3. Lactic acid sour: introduce lactic acid either to the kettle or post-fermentation.
  4. Lactobacillus fermentation: use a lactobacillus culture either in primary fermentation or post-primary.

A benefit to pre-fermentation souring is that any lactobacillus culture is killed by the boil, and thus won't impact "cold-side" equipment. A drawback is that early souring can drop the pH low enough to interfere with fermentation (though I haven't experienced this, even with wort pH down to 3.3).

A downside to "natural" mash/kettle souring is the process difficulty of keeping a volume of mash or wort in a temperature range for multiple days.

A downside to "natural" mash/kettle souring is the possibility for other bacterial infections or mold to take hold.

A downside to lactobacillus fermentation is very long fermentation timeframes.

I've had success in years past with a sour mash in a normal insulated cooler mash-tun, with boiling-water infusions twice a day. The temp ranges all over the place, but generally stays in a reasonable range for lacto. Purging the headspace of the cooler with CO₂ also helps promote lacto, instead of other things.

This past year I had success transferring the mash into a corny, which I submersed into a water bath inside my keggle, and used a RIMS tube to maintain the water bath temperature (and thus the mash temperature). As a side effect, I could purge the corny headspace with CO₂ through the input port.

In both scenarios, I've fermented with 1056/US-05 without issue in a normal timeframe. Also, in both scenarios I added a couple of reserved cups of the dry, crushed grain to the ~120°F mash as the source of the lactobacillus.

Ingredients: 75% pilsner, 25% wheat. 9-15 IBU neutral hops (Liberty).

See also this 2000 BYO article about sour mashing.

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