How to Brew Lichtenhainer

by Steve Thanos | Updated: July 17, 2021

Lichtenhainer is a sour, smoked, low gravity German wheat beer. This beer is refreshing, yet quite complex with its high attenuation and carbonation.

Originally brewed in northern Germany in the city of Thuringia. 

Staying Relevant

Northern Germany had dozens of top-fermenting beers that were ignored. This was thanks in large part to the popular lagers that were being produced in Germany during the end of the 19th century.

Along with Gose, Lichtenhainer were able to stay relevant at the end of World War II.

Popularity in Germany

Lichtenhainer was popular in many villages in Germany including: Ammerbach,Eisenach Ziegenhain, Winzeria, Wöllnitz, Lichtenhain, along with Thuringia. The height of its popularity was towards the end of the 19th century. 

Young Beer

Much like Kellerbier, a Lichtenhainer should be served young. The raw flavors in this beer should not be considered a fault.

The smoke and acidity of this beer should be in balance and be the flavor in the forefront of this beer, with the wheat playing a supporting role. 

Wöllnitzer Weißbier 

The last Lichtenhainer was brewed in Wöllnitz at Brauerei Ed Barfuss Söhne in 1983.

Then in 1997, a brewpub in Wöllnitz began brewing a Wöllnitzer Weißbier in the Lichtenhainer style. 

Style Profile for Lichtenhainer

Appearance

Lichtenhainer are deep yellow to a light gold in color. It is unfiltered and contains good carbonation.

The head is white, rocky, and persistent. Fair clarity, with some haziness. 

Aroma

The aroma consists of fresh smoky aroma, light whispers of sourness, medium-low fruity esters (apples or lemon). Also aromas of moderate bready-grainy malt.

The smoker character is stronger than the bready malt notes. 

Flavor

Moderately strong fruit flavors (lemons or apples). Moderate intense clean lactic tartness. Smoke flavor is similar to aroma, medium strength.

Dry finish with acidity and smoke in the aftertaste. Low bitterness. The balance comes from the acidity and not from hops. The wheat character is low. 

Mouthfeel

High carbonation. Medium to medium-light body. The acidity is tingly. 

Tips for Brewing your own Lichtenhainer

Grain

This grist for a Lichtenhainer is usually Vienna malt and Pilsner malt. Oak-smoked wheat malt may be a good choice, as it does not impart an intense smoke character like beechwood or cherry-smoked malt may sometimes provide.

The Vienna and Pilsner malts will give the nice biscuit and graininess that should be in the background in this beer.  

Hops

Since the hop profile for this style is pretty small, one addition at the beginning of the boil is all you really need.

Noble hops such as Tettnanger, Halleertauer, or Spalt would be pretty authentic. 

Yeast

There is a wide selection of yeast to choose from for this style.

They include the following:

  • White Labs: German Ale/Kolsch  (WLP029).
  • Wyeast: Wyeast German Ale (1007), Lactobacillus (5335). 

Lichtenhainer By the Numbers

  • Color Range: 3 – 6 SRM
  • Original Gravity: 1.032 – 1.040 OG
  • Final Gravity: 1.004 – 1.008 FG
  • IBU Range: 5 – 12
  • ABV Range: 3.5 – 4.7% 

Martin Keen’s Lichtenhainer Recipe

Grain

  • 40%           3 lbs       Oak-Smoked Wheat Malt
  • 40%           3 lbs       Pilsner Malt
  • 20%           1.5 lbs    Munich Malt

Hops

  • 1 oz         Saaz – Boil – 15 min

Yeast

  • 1.0 pkg   German Ale Yeast Wyeast #1007
  • 1.0 pkg   Lactobacillus Wyeast #5335

Transcript: If you like your beers to be obscure, smoky, and difficult to pronounce. Well, I got you covered.

Hello. My name is Martin Keen, I’m taking The Homebrew Challenge to brew 99 beers in 99 weeks. Today I’m brewing Lichtenhainer, which is a sour smoked German wheat beer.

Now, I think this is one of those beers that you, you brew for the exclusive reason of impressing your friends. Hey, what do you got on tap today? Well, actually I’ve just brought up my latest batch of Lichtenhainer. It’s one of my best yet. Just got that sourness to smoke ratio just right.

Oh, it definitely does smell a little bit smoky. That’s the smoked wheat that’s in there. This is bringing back memories.

So the smoke bears, Why? Figure if we’re going to do this, let’s go all in. So I’ve gone. 95% smoked malt specifically, uh, that is cherry wood smoked malt, 10 pounds of this.

It’s not overpowering, but it’s a smoky. I’ll be mashing this one at 152 Fahrenheit, 67 Celsius.

I do enjoy reading the comments section in the BJCP guidelines for these styles. This one has two comments for Lichtenhainer.

  • One is it’s served young. So a bit like Kellerbier.
  • Second comment is it’s smoke and sour is a combination that is not for everyone.

So let’s talk a little bit about how to make one of these beers. Now the original gravity for this bit is 1.038. So about a 3.8% beer. So quite a light beer, at least in terms of alcohol.

Now, the characteristic ingredient that you need in this beer style is Oak smoked wheat. And that makes up 40% of my Grist. I have another 40% of 2-row German Pilsner. And then the remaining 20% is made up of Munich malt.

Lichtenhainer is a beer with his origins in the region of not too surprisingly, Lichtenhainer, Germany, near Dresden. It was most popular during the end of the 19th century.

Outside of a few brew pubs, you’ll struggle to find any commercial examples today. A recipe going back to 1915 describes the beer as weekly soured from lactic acid bacteria, and only very lightley hopped.

The mash has done and it’s time to move on to the souring portion of this brew day. Now, what I did was once the mash was complete, I removed the grains and then brought this wort up to a boil. I’ve seen varying guidance on what to do here.

Kettle Souring

I’ve seen some people say that you can just bring this up to sort of 170-180 Fahrenheit and pasteurize it. Um, and I’ve seen other people say you should bring it to a boil so that you’re not risking any infection.

I ended up bringing this to a boil and kept it out a boil for 15 minutes. At that point, I then chilled the wort down to about 95 Fahrenheit or 35 Celsius. Um, just a few degrees above that right now.

So it’s now time to do the souring for that. I have a trusty packet of lactobacillus. This is wyeast 5335. Now brewers, yeast that produces alcohol, lactobacillus this produces lactic acid.

Now you could take this lactobacillus and put it in the fermentor with the finished beer, along with your yeast at the end. I prefer though to sour my beers in the kettle. I like kettle souring because it means it will keep the bacteria out of the fermentor. And just within here, I’m just worried about some sort of infections with later beers.

So my kettle souring process, what I did was I used a lactic acid to get the pH of this mash down all the way to 4.5. So I just added a little bit of lactic acid, took a pH reading. I did a bit more and so forth. I ended up getting it to 4.4, so close enough. So with that in place, I can now add in my lactobacillus into this wort.

That should go to work now and start souring this beer further. I’m going to leave this at 95 degrees. I’ve just left my heating element on just going to close up this top here. We don’t want any extra oxygen getting in. Um, I’m just going to keep an eye on this.

I think I’m going to leave it for about three days. And once the pH drops into the threes, they’re like 3.7, 3.8, something like that. Then I’ll move on to the next stage.

Just checked my pH. It’s been two and a half days since the mash, and I’m already at 3.6. So I’m going to cut this off here. And I’m bringing this up to a boil that will kill off the lactobacillus and prevent any further souring. And it now gives me an opportunity to add my hops.

Not much in the way of hops in this. I’m going for eight IBU of bitterness. And I’m getting that through Saaz hops. Also, this is going to be a really short boil, just 15 minutes.

It must be said that that really quite distinct smokey smell while they had here in the mash is, is not so present anymore. It’s definitely been replaced by a bit of that funk of the souring. So it’s gonna be interesting when it comes to tasting to see if this beer is more sour or more smoky.

Anyway, it’s time to add the yeast. And for this, I am adding German ale. This is wyeast 1007. I’m going to ferment this one at 68 Fahrenheit or 20 Celsius.

So that’s it gonna let the yeast do its thing, see you at the tasting.

Tasting Time has arrived, built this one up last week. So smoky and sour. I don’t know how this is going to turn out at all. Hmm. I’m kind of scared, pretty curious myself. So, okay. So first of all, appearance looks very innocent. It doesn’t look like we’re about to have our taste buds shocked at all.

Okay. Let’s see if we get any smoke on the aroma. Yeah, I do. I smell smoke. I don’t. You don’t know? I mean, nothing like the, uh, the rauchebier. Yeah. So you asked one thing is I was like building up to it. It’s going to be like that again.

Try it, give it a try. Let’s say, sorry.

Oh, pucker. It’s not even the pucker, I could taste a little bit smokeyness came through, oh, this is a, this is as advertised.

It is a little bit of bucket to it and it’s very smoky. Right? Are you okay? It makes me upset. It makes you upset. Why does it make you upset? Because I’m really liking the sour beers recently and souring the passion fruit was like absolutely delicious.

And it’s like, I want to drink this, but I know my body’s not going to let me because of the smoke because of the smokiness.

Now it’s a lot better smokiness wise, then the last sour, uh, smokey did. Cause that was just the whole bottle of smoke. Yes. Whereas this is a lot more subtle, so I could see how somebody would like it if they’re into like smokey-ish beers sort of thing.

Well, on that note, um, thanks for the beer. Well, you’re welcome. Would you like some more? Maybe later? Uh, so next week Martin has a pretty fun beer coming up, which happens to be, uh, just outside of where I’m from. Maybe an hour’s drive.

And until next week, Cheers. Cheers. You got to drink some now,… I will.

Okay.

I am the former President of my homebrew club, Plainfield Ale and Lager Enthusiasts (PALE) in the western suburbs of Chicago, IL. I brew on my BIAB system with my incredibly patient and understanding wife, adorable 9 year old daughter, and 12 year old brew dog.