The Extra Sour Berliner Wiese #homebrew

UPDATE 2/21/2013 : pH measured 3.4, after being left out over night in a glass (i.e. no CO2)

I thought I did not like sour beers, until I had one, specifically a New Glarus.  It was awesome cherry with a sour to balance the sweet.  I then tried a Petrus Oaked Pale Ale which I really enjoyed  So, when, sometime later, I ordered “something like a Petrus, you know not too sour…”   was met with “Like Petrus, but not too sour?!!!!” I discovered I really like sours, apparently.  What I really discovered was that I like sour, but I m not fan of “funk.”  I think I just smell or taste it stronger  than many other people, so it overwhelms the beer.  Up until then most beers described as sour also had lots of funk (at least to me).

I am also a sucker for odd and more “natural” brewing techniques, and the idea of doing a sour mash by using naturally found Lactobacillus was too tempting.  Note, I did not try the beer first, I decided brewed it first.  It happened that James over at was also doing this, and the ran a podcast on it, as well a video.  I have links at the bottom.

I then bought a bottle of Full Sail’s limited release and shared it my Sister when she visited.  That’s when I discover she likes sour beers too!

My plan was to BIAB and just add a cup of 2 row to get the bugs in there.  The main tricks are to cut off O2, and keep the temp close to 120F.  This should keep the Acetobacter or Clostridium out.

Recipe is at  The following is my motes and a diary and links:

8/24/2012 Mash day

  • Shot over 150 by a ways
  • BIAB Mashed,  Did not get a sample afterward, added 1 cup of grain to water when it cooled to 120F
  • Put the whole kettle into blue cooler with a water bath at 120


  • I sealed the top of the pot with cellophane



  • Added hot water to bring outside to 120 a few times.
  • Used the autosiphon as a bilge pump
  • Souring smell leaking out (which means air in) is very nice.
  • I then got smart and added CO2 to top.



  • Water at 90 again, seems to be set point.  Drained most water, added tap water at 112, then 4 kettles full of boiling.  Temp was at 120 when I checked, expect that it will drop.
  • Souring smell is nice still.
  • You can see some white, but mostly grain near top.  I wonder if keeping so much water blocks O2 from getting there, or is there O2 in the water?  Maybe I should boil the water first.
  • Definitely will need to build a heat stick.

8/26/2012 9:49:20 PM :

  • Sour mash smelled sour and sweet, fellow homebrewer Jason says like Honey, dead on.

Brew Day!  ( I cannot now remember if I brewed at night or the next morning)

  • Boiled, added hops for 15 minutes.
  • 8 Brix on going into fermenter, 1032, oddly what I expected at mash.  Which is higher than I expected….
  • Tasted, sour is spot on, exactly what I expected from smell!  Very excited.  The honey taste is very much like a cough medicine mom used t make, 1/2 honey, 1/2 lemon and a shot of whiskey (honey coats the throat, lemon cuts the honey, whiskey opens the bronchial tubes, still more effective than anything else I have tried).


  • Pulled a sample and a bottle for road trip to Denver added 2 carb drops to a 750ml bottle.
  • B1004 FG, lots of bubbles, moved carboy downstairs.  Was a bit warmer lately then I would like.


  • Tasting with sister and mom:  WOW IS IT SOUR.  Honey taste is mostly gone, but comes back when it is flat.  At first I was like, this sip is nice, then ok I will try another, and push it away, and then, I was finishing my glass, the bottle and fighting my sister over Mom’s….


  • Went to New Belgium brewery.  Tried La Folie for the first time.  Slightly less sour than my Berliner Weise…  But tastes a lot like it mixed with our barrel brew….  Hmmm…  I still have a keg at home….


  • Brought it home brewers meeting, for some, too sour for the style, for sour lovers, there is no such thing…


  • Mixed 1/3 and 1/4 with the barrel brew and brought it to the home brewers dinner, overall a huge ht.  We should have soured the barrel 🙂

Links to research:

Basic Brewing Video:

Basic Brewing Podcasts:


Heat Stick #1 #homebrew


The heat stick is an easy concept.  Think of it like a wizards staff of heat, or light saber!  Simply put, take an electric heating element from a water heater, attached a power cord, place the element at the end of a pipe, epoxy the connections, and add a few fittings.

The sticks are then added to the water or wort, plugged in, and heat happens.  You can heat all sorts of things with it, including Sous Vide pots, water buckets, hot tubs, etc.  You can use this to boost heating  for stove tops, or even use it to boil, though you might want more than 1, or a bigger one.

 Some notes of caution

  • This is electricity, it can kill you,  This is a lot of electricity
  • This thing gets hot, oddly not as hot when in the liquid as you might think (the heat dissipates into the liquid quickly, but the element is still hot
  • If you run the element dry, for any length of time, it will fry (literally it overheats in seconds)

DYI or buy

You can build your own, or buy one from Amazon as a "water bucket heater."  The ones form Amazon are around $40, a fellow homebrewer reports that it requires a deeper pot to maintain immersion than he wanted, but it works.

Water heating elements range in power.  It is tempting to go for the biggest one possible but over 1500 watts will require a 20 amp circuit, and you likely only have 15 Amp circuits around the house.  They pull a lot of steady power, so it needs to have a heavy duty, and preferably short cord, on a circuit with little else on it.  If you are building an electric homebrew system, where you can dedicate power outlets, you can go 240 and serious wattage.  I would never plug 2 into the same circuit (note, not just same outlet, but same circuit!).

I was able to buy all of the parts in 1 Home Depot run, building takes 30 minutes.  It does take a few days to build since you have to let the JB Weld cure for 24 hours.  Note, JB weld is rated to 600 deg F, and is food safe once cured.  Some of the other products in Home Depot did not meet both criteria.  The aquarium sealant I used for other projects is not rated for high temps and one of the example project  links  below had to rebuild because of that.  Total costs was under $30, and if you ignore the JB Weld, probably under $20.  I did not need a power cord as I have many heavy duty server cords to cut up.

Here are a few sites with instructions for building:

I was not sure what I wanted for the top end, so I did everything else first.  This means I could not run the power cord through a cap (with a hole drilled).  My choices:

  • Put  the element at a right angle so it does not touch the bottom, this also means it might touch my BIAB bag
  • Use a J fitting so I can hang it over the edge of the pot
  • Went with a 16 inch sink fitting for more room, this was a bad idea as it is too tall to use the J fitting in my pots, next time I will do 12 inch fitting
    Testing, and more Testing

I put it together and JB Welded it.  After a day I set it in a pot.  No leaks!  Then I ran a heat test.  It seemed to do a degree a minute from 60F to 100F.  I got to 140F when I had to stop.  I left it in there.  A few days later when I pulled it out, to my surprise water came out the tube .  I retested to see if water poured in the top (since I had not added the J fitting yet).  It leaked, very slowly.  I think the JB Weld had cured away from the threads.  I reapplied JB Weld and it worked.  Lesson:  Test leaks for days, after heating.


I will have to control this via a relay.  I could potentially use the STC-1000 box, but at 1500W continuous, it seems a bit much to push through there.

What’s it doing now

Helping heat my hot tub of course!



%d bloggers like this: