A few years ago, early on in my beer studies, when I first came across the definition of a Berliner Weisse, I became somewhat fascinated with the idea. It was something I’d never had before. It’s a German sour brewed with up to 50% wheat, mostly pale malt, and Lactobacillus in the secondary fermentation stage. (Side note – Lactobacillus is a form of lactic acid bacteria. You may be familiar with it from the world of yogurt.)
Anyways, for a Berliner Weisse, the combo of the ingredients results in a very sour ale with a low ABV, around 3%, light in color and body, with a nice spritzy quality to it. A refreshing beverage for this time of year. Traditionally in the German pubs, a Berliner Weisse was served, “mit schuss” or with one shot of fruit syrup (Raspberry or Woodruff are the traditional offerings) to cut through the sourness.
Last October was the one and only time I found a Berliner Weisse on tap, brewed locally, and served with the option of both traditional syrup flavors. This was at Geneseo Brewing Company. Delicious. Last summer Destihl popped up with Lynnbrook, a Berliner Weisse brewed with Raspberries. My first canned Berliner Weisse, and while I did enjoy it, it was a bit too sour for me to consider it sessionable.
Now, in this 2016 summer season, the style with fruit added into the brew has blown up in popularity and I couldn’t be happier. American brewers are kicking it up a notch (shockingly enough) and they are a bit higher in ABV than tradition dictates but delicious none-the-less.
Listed below are my top 3 favorite Berliner Weisses, with fruit added, so far this year:
- Tallgrass – Raspberry Jam – 4.3% ABV
Now this is a fantastic beer. It has everything I want from a Berliner Weisse, the color is beautiful, the carbonation is spot on with an effervescent quality and a nice, thick white foamy head that lasts for days. The Raspberry isn’t too overpowering, its nicely balanced with the hint of sour you get on the back end from the Lactobacillus. I would definitely call this sessionable. It is a great way to introduce people to sour beers as its accessible and palatable. 2. Smuttynose – Blueberry Shortweisse – 5.1% ABV
I am always blown away at what some brewers come up with as far as blending different flavors together to make something amazing. The tart of the blueberry combined with the sourness of the lactic acid combine to make a nice little beverage here. This is definitely the most sour of the 3 listed but I think it’s very well balanced.
3. Dogfish Head – Festina Peche – 4.5%
Dogfish’s Festina Peche, brewed with peach juice, is the breadiest of the three. The fruit flavor is so very delicate that the grain bill is more of a highlight here. The sour is present at the end, but no one thing dominates over anything else in this brew. It’s pretty impressive, really, and another great way to introduce hesitant beer drinkers to a sour.
Oftentimes I meet people that are just absolutely turned off by the idea of a sour beer, depending on any number of things from bad experience to bad information. Many times it just takes a little bit of knowledge and curiosity to expel these past, often false, impressions. The sour beer spectrum is just that, a spectrum. There is no one style, not all sour beers are super puckery, these 3 beers prove that. I always encourage to try something new, push the boundaries of your tastebuds, and keep growing that palate. You never know what you may discover.