Gluten-Free Berliner Weisse

Gluten-free home brewing is a new challenge for me. While some of the main concepts remain the same, it’s not as plug and play as some might think. You really can’t just swap pale malt for pale millet or buckwheat for wheat. The ingredients are different, the conversion of starch to sugar is different, the mash temps are different, etc…

When pondering over experiment number one, I decided to go with a simple gluten-free Berliner Weisse. Mainly because acquiring sorghum syrup is easy. Secondly, because the cost of gluten-free grain is expensive. I wanted my first batch to be a low grain bill. Plus with the souring and the use of flavor additions, I could potentially cover up any mistakes. I went through months of research on the subject. It’s what I do. Despite all the research I needed to get my hands dirty in order to understand it better.

I went through a lot of different recipes to gather ideas and help along the way. I did settle on a recipe from glutenfreehomebrewing.com as my main base. This is where I purchase my gluten-free items and they have a fair amount of resources to help.

Recipe Design

For this recipe, I did a partial mash. Sorghum naturally is a bit on the sour side so I wanted to highlight that flavor. Millet is a nice pale barley type grain while buckwheat is an ok substitute for wheat. Mainly the buckwheat is there for head retention.

  • 2 lbs. Pale Millet
  • 2 lbs. Pale Buckwheat
  • 6.6 lbs. Sorghum
  • 1/2 tsp A-Amylase Enzyme
  • 0.75 oz. Noble hops @ 15 minutes
  • Goodbelly Probiotic Juice
  • Mangrove Jacks West Coast Yeast

Some notes about this recipe I feel are important to address. First, the amount of sorghum was high. I did not originally plan on using that much sorghum. The sorghum comes in 3.3 lb. tubs. I was planning on weighing out a total of 4.5 lbs. What changed was I did not feel I had a good enough efficiency and starch conversion from the mash. It was one of those things where do I add too little and have a beer at potentially 2.5% or pitch too much and it turns out to be an Imperial Berliner Weisse at roughly 5.5%?

Ultimately we decided to go big or go home. Also, the enzyme while vital to starch conversion, I feel like I probably should of added a little more. After the fact, I had read that the BIAB method can require more enzyme to be effective. For brewing, I brought my strike to 163 and mashed for 45 minutes. Then followed up with a 170 mash out for 10 minutes. Did a quick boil, shut off to add sorghum, and then back to boil again for a hot break. It was about a 15-minute boil. After cooling to 100 degrees I pitched my probiotic juice.

In theory, you only want about a cup of juice for a 5-gallon batch. The juice was kind of bland though and I decided to dump the whole 32 oz. carton in, (just the juice, not the actual carton, that would be weird). It had Blackberry and Pomegranate flavor which I thought would be a nice addition anyway, so why not.

Then the bad happened

After the fact, I came to learn that this particular Goodbelly juice has up to 2% barley malt in it. Why?!! Why would you put barley malt in juice? How frustrating is that?

The whole point was for a 100% gluten-free Berliner Weisse so my wife could have a light summer beer. Thankfully it is only 2% in the carton and gets diluted down with the 5 gallons of beer. However, to be extra safe, I had to go out and get some Clarity Ferm to try and help pulls those proteins out of submission. We will see how she reacts when she tries it but I think I put enough due diligence to get that gluten out of the beer to be safe.

Not planning to use that brand of probiotic again. The future plan will be going back to yogurt or capsules of lactobacillus acidophilus. But to my enjoyment, after 24 hours we had a PH of about 3.6. I was ready to get this beer finished and fermenting.

Brought back up to a boil for 60 minutes. I added my hops at 15 left and then chilled. Eazy peazy gluten-free Berlner Weisse squeezy. Yea, that makes sense. Unfortunately, this is where another bad part came in. I had ordered some clean German ale yeast and instead West Coast style came. The company sent the wrong yeasts. I had not really paid attention to that until brew day and got my starter going. So I was left adding in a different strain of yeast than planned on, added my Clarity Ferm, and did my shake shake shake dance for oxygen.

Now we wait

In the end, this really is not as much of a gluten-free Berliner Weisse as I had intended. It looks to be promising though. Truth is though, I have never been the type of beer brewer that has to follow strict guidelines. I’m a farmhouse brewer 100% and very much like to brew by feel, taste, smell, and emotion. So while it may be not according to tradition 100%, I will chalk it down to feeling a little funky that day.

Currently, it is bubbling away like crazy. 4 days in and it’s not slowing down yet. As soon as primary is done, the plan is to through in a ton of hibiscus to the fermenter and after a few days with that, we will keg her up. In a few week’s time we will add some taste notes for you.

The Pool Boy

A lover of all things food and beverage related, Ron Nattress is on the constant hunt to learn and experience all he can. A man of many hats, he takes his passion from grain to glass to readers.

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