Mannheimer Braunbier

After my research of Horner Bier, I took more interest in trying to reconstruct other historic beers. In “Vollständige Braukunde” by Johann Carl Leuchs, I stumbled upon Mannheimer Braunbier, which is, as the name says, a brown beer that used to be brewed in Mannheim.

The typical brewing process for the beer is the Rhine method which was common around Mannheim, Frankfurt and Strasbourg. The malt is doughed in by underletting a mix of boiling and cold water. The water to grain ratio is relatively low, while the initial mash temperature is 30 to 50 °C, depending on the brewer. Then boiling water is added, until stirring is easier, and the mash is constantly stirred for 45 minutes. Then wort is drawn off and poured back onto the mash until the wort is clear. When all wort is drawn off into a cooling tub, more boiling water is added to the mash, a rest of 30 minutes is done, and the second runnings are drawn off into the cooling tub. At that point, the grains are considered to be completely spent, and no small beer is made from them. During the second mash, a bit of wort is taken, the hops are added, and are boiled for 15 minutes. This is called “roasting”. After that’s done, the remaining wort is added from the cooling tub. In the cooling tub, any unclear material like flour shall remain back to make sure a clear wort is boiled. Total boil time is 3 to 4 hours, then the wort is cooled down to about 18 °C, and yeast is pitched.

Leuchs mentions two recipes, one brewed with brown barley malt, amber barley malt and sugar, the other one brewed with equal amounts of brown barley malt and amber barley malt, juniper berries, and ginger. For the latter recipe, Leuchs refers to Hermbstädt, the author of the book “Chemische Grundsätze der Kunst, Bier zu brauen“. Interestingly, Hermbstädt mentions that originally, Mannheimer Bier was indeed brewed in Mannheim, but in 1826 (the year that book was published), was brewed in Berlin, where it was enjoyed as a common, healthy, and nourishing drink. It is described as very clear.

Interestingly, Hermbstädt describes a different mash schedule than Leuchs: in total, 12000 quarts (1 quart is about 1.145 liters) were supposed to be used for mashing to produce just 2000 quarts of beer, with a boil of only 30 minutes. I don’t know how that should work, so I simply don’t believe it. Also the hopping is different: hops and juniper berries are infused in water twice, and that infusion is then added to the boiled wort. When the cool wort is added to the fermentation vessel, chopped up ginger is added along with the yeast. According to Hermbstädt, the beer was drinkable already 8 days after brew day.

Based on this information, I tried to come up with an interpretation of the beer style. I’d leave out any excessive boiling, but I’d keep essential elements like the mash schedule as described by Leuchs, and the distinct technique of hop roasting. As brown and amber barley malt, I’m simply picking Munich malt and Vienna malt. This may not be the truest representation, but it’s the closest what we can get in modern diastatic malts that roughly matches the colour description. The question of how smokey the malts for this beer originally were is not something I’m able to answer, nor am I willing to do a wild guess and produce a smokey beer. As hops, I’m picking Tettnanger as that would be a relatively local hop variety for Mannheim.

So, here’s the recipe:

  • 2.75kg dark Munich malt
  • 2.75kg Vienna malt
  • 180g Tettnanger hops (4% alpha acid)
  • 14g juniper berries
  • 4g ginger root (chopped up)

The day before brewing, smash up the juniper berries and soak them in a liter of water until the next day, then remove them.

Dough in the malt with 10 liters of water to result in a mash at 50 °C. Keep that temperature for 30 minutes, then add another 10 liters of hot water to result in a mash temperature of 68 °C. If that’s too much effort, just add 10 liters of water of at least 50 °C, then heat up to that temperature.

Then do a Vorlauf until the wort is clear, and lauter. Sparge with hot water. Take the first few liters of the first runnings, and bring them to a boil together with the hops, and boil for 15 minutes. Then mix that with the remaining runnings and boil for 90 minutes. At the end of the boil, add the juniper berry infusion, and chill the wort to about 20 °C. Add chopped up ginger to the wort, and pitch an ale yeast. Depending on your brew kit’s efficiency, the resulting beer should come out with about 13.5 °P, 80 IBU and 5.5 % ABV. The bitterness is obviously crazy high, but with some aging, it should subside and smooth out.

As for brewing that, I have no immediate plans to do so. I’m currently planning to brew a Berliner Märzen-Weisse inspired by a historic recipe, about which I will post here soon. If you’re brewing Mannheimer Braunbier though, I’d love to hear about any results.

12 thoughts on “Mannheimer Braunbier”

  1. Just found your blog whilst looking for more info on a beer from Coesfeld which also uses both hops and juniper berries, of which I heard from Lars over at larsblog.
    Have you encountered something of this sort?
    Love what I have read so far.
    Is there any way I could get a read of that book by Leuchs?

  2. In the book you mention in this post there is also a reference to white beer from Mannheim. There are less details about this beer, but still it seems interesting especially becuase of used additives.

  3. This beer is mashing as I write. I must admit, I will not be using 180g of 3% Tettenanger the book recommend (more like 45g) I’m also using 15g of ginger, because I like ginger.

    Do you know of anyone who has made this recipe verbatim? Does 4g of fresh ginger do anything? I’d guess that’s a bit less than 1/2 a teaspoon.

    PS> I really like your book, thanks for the effort!

    1. I have not brewed it myself, nor has anybody reported to me that they’ve brewed it, so I’m very much looking forward to hearing about how your brew turned out!

  4. Hi my name is Dan, i am the owner /brewer of a tiny pico brewery in north saanich bc.. we brew historical brews every month, just made a Mannheim brunbier today, smashed the juniper berries with a hammer and soaked them in vodka

  5. Howl brewing made one today…pico brewery in north saanich bc, smashed the juniper berries with a hammer in the parking lot and soaked them for 24 hrs in vodka(added to boil)

  6. I’ve just brewed this Mannheimer Braunbier. Currently fermenting.

    I will be honest…I didn’t follow the recipe 100%, primarily I saw little point in throwing 180g of a fine noble hop like Tettnang into the copper for purely bittering purposes. I substituted Magnum which is my bittering hop of choice when I want some nice clean neutral bitterness…I also reduced the bitterness level slightly down from 63IBU to 50IBU (personal choice…was concerned that 60+ IBU might be a bit too much….trying to strike a balance between historical accuracy and modern drinkability!!).
    For some reason I went with 20g of Juniper berries….perhaps that was what was in the bag and it seemed a waste to throw away the odd 6g.
    No indication of yeast in the recipe so I used SafAle K97 German Ale yeast which I’ve found to be a good dried yeast for Alts (even used it in a Biere de Garde).
    Had a brief taste today whilst checking gravity and is very pleasant…looking forward to this when its been bottled. Lovely dark gold/light amber colour. Will report back in a few weeks time as to how it tastes out of the bottle!!!

    1. That sounds great! I wouldn’t worry about not strictly following the recipe. The recipes mainly contain noble hops because that’s most likely the closest to what brewers used to use in the 19th century and earlier. Since a lot of them mostly used it for bittering, substituting with a bittering hop variety is perfectly fine. Same for the yeast… it’s basically impossible to know what actual brewer’s yeast they used back then. Any German top-fermented yeast is a good approximation. Very much looking forward to your report what it tastes like!

      1. What do you think a suitable carbonation level would be??? I’m thinking about something similar to what I would carbonate an Altbier.

        1. It’s incredibly hard to find out the carbonation level of historic beers. I would personally carbonate it at the same as British cask ale, at around 2 volumes, but approaching it like an Altbier and going for a slightly higher carbonation is equally fine.

  7. Bottled the Braunbier today….went for a carbonation level of around 2.3 volumes. Give it 4 weeks or so and I should be drinking it!!!!

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