The Reinheitsgebot states that beer can only contain malt, hops and water (plus that magical fourth ingredient, yeast), but that only applies until the brewer packages it. Adding other ingredients when serving the beer is acceptable, and in the case of Berliner Weisse, traditional. Berliner Weisse is aggressively, face puckering-ly sour. To cut the tartness and add some sweetness, syrups, usually raspberry or woodruff flavored, are added by bartenders and drinkers.
Woodruff is an herb that is not commonly used in America. I don’t know much about it. Raspberries, on the other hand, are used in a lot of beers as they have a strong and delicious flavor that comes through with, relative to some other fruit, a fairly small amount of berries. They have a bad reputation in some circles for this reason. Raspberry wheat beers are often associated with “crafty” corporate brewers attempting to get in on the “microbrew trend.” But that doesn’t make them all bad.
The raspberry syrup added to traditional Berliner Weisse doesn’t just add fruit flavor, it is full of sugar and makes the otherwise very dry beer very sweet. When mixed correctly, it balances the lactic sourness, but it can easily be overdone. I am a fan of dry, crisp beers in general and while I appreciate what syrup can do, and what the Reinheitsgebot has done to keep German beer from becoming tainted by corner cutting corporate penny pinchers, I wanted something different.
Sour beers are more often associated with Belgium than Germany and framboise is the style that is the most popular here in America. Adding fruit to beer in Belgium is no taboo, it is tradition. And American tradition is taking elements from older cultures, mixing them up and calling the result our own. So my Raspberry Berliner Weisse is pretty thoroughly American.
By adding raspberries during fermentation, I added tons of fruit flavor. I also fed the yeast, which in turn gave the beer a bit more alcohol and kept it dry. The ale yeast went to work on the sugar in the raspberries and, reinvigorated, actually dried it out further than the batch without the berries.
I actually brewed a ten gallon batch of Berliner Weisse, lactic fermented, as I documented in yesterday’s post, then after pasteurizing it, split it into two five gallon batches, one with raspberries, one without. Both got Kölsch yeast. The half without the berries fermented for a few days and activity stopped. I bottled it about a week after racking it onto the yeast. The raspberry half I gave another few days, then racked off the berries and gave another few days before bottling. With the berries floating in there, it was hard to see if there was any fermentation activity. After racking the second time, nothing seemed to be happening, so I didn’t wait long.
The process was the same that I talked about yesterday, except for the berries. For a five gallon batch, I added 60 ounces of raspberries in the form of five 12 ounce packages of frozen fruit. I put them all in a pot on the stove over low-medium heat with just enough water to cover them and stirred it constantly until it reached about 165º to sterilize them, then added them to a bucket fermentor, added yeast and racked the beer on top of it all. See yesterday’s post for the full recipe, if you missed it.
This beer was fantastic a week after bottling. I know, you’re supposed to wait two weeks, but I generally open one bottle after one to check in and it was already great, which isn’t usually the case. I was nervous that it would over carbonate because I generally wouldn’t bottle so quickly with a fruit beer. I’m never sure how much of the sugar in the fruit is actually accessible to the yeast or how dry the beer will get. My worries proved to be unfounded, but the beer was at it’s best as young as possible. It hasn’t gotten over carbed, but the fruit character has already diminished after only about a month.
I’ve heard and read from several sources that you should use real fruit for flavor and fruit extract for aroma, in unison. I have never gone for the extract and I’ve never regretted it until this beer. The fruit character, both flavor and aroma was fantastic when the beer was young, but the aroma faded fast and beer is hurt as a result. I don’t know if fruit extract would have helped or if this is just a beer that needs to be drunk as quickly as possible, but I’ve already forsaken the Reinheitsgebot, so why not go all in and try it?
I’m still happy with this beer overall, and will be happy to serve it at Beans and Brews in a few days, but they won’t know what they are missing by getting to the beer a month too late.