Berliner Weisse in America
Berliner Weisse in America
A once ravingly popular style of beer, originating in Berlin, Germany, faded to near disappearance less than a decade ago. Today the style is making a nice comeback in the American craft beer market. Practically impossible to find in America just a few short years ago, American craft brewers are embracing the style as consumer thirst for sour beers continue to rise.
Berliner Weisse is a low alcohol sour wheat beer, which is tart and refreshing. A perfect beer for a hot summer day to quench thirst. The style comes from Germany where at one point there were dozens of breweries producing the beer, which was in high demand. Consumers would drink the beer as brewed, or sometimes add woodruff or fruit syrup to help tame the sourness. The sourness in Berliner Weisse beer comes from a lactic-fermentation using lactobacillus, which creates a clean sourness after a period of aging.
Craft brewing of sour beers has been on a steady rise for the last decade as consumer demand for the style has increased. Belgian Lambic Style beers fermented with wild yeast and barrel-aged (with fruit most of the time) sated the public thirst for sour beers. Berliner Weisse followed and is continuing to grow in popularity.
In Austin, you can find Berliner Weisse beers from two local brewers, Jester King, and North by Northwest Brewpub. Jester King’s version, called Bonnie the Rare is golden colored with a tart and refreshing flavor. The beer is brewed with wheat and pilsner malts, and low in alcohol at 3.7% abv. North by Northwest produces a Berliner Weisse summer seasonal release. The beer is a straw-gold color with notes of lemon citrus and a crisp sour flavor. Low in alcohol at 3.5%, it makes a very refreshing summer beer. Austin Beerworks offers Einhorn, a seasonal summer Berliner Weisse which is tart and refreshing in the Texas heat.
The Bruery, located in Southern California produces an excellent year-round Berline Weisse called Hottenroth. Tart and light-bodied, the beer uses a minimal amount of hops, has a refined sourness, and is low in alcohol, at 3.1%.
In Portland, Oregon, The Commons Brewery produces a summer seasonal Berliner Weisse. Light, refreshing and tart, the beer is at 3.4% abv. Bu Weisse is also available in Portland, from de Garde Brewing, a small artisanal brewer located in Tillamook, Oregon. Bu Weisse is very low in alcohol at 2.1% abv., but packs a nice tart flavor with crisp wheat and citrus notes.
Dogfish Head offers the most widely available Berliner Weisse beer, their seasonal Festina Peche. The beer is fermented with peaches, adding a nice fruit flavor to the tartness of the beer. Moderate in alcohol, at 4.5% abv, and very low in hop bitterness.
Perhaps the most aggressive brewing of the style, is taking place at a new brewery outside of Boston, Night Shift Brewing, which launched in March of 2012. The brewery offers four seasonal Berliner Weisse releases each year, each with special flavoring. The four beers are; Mainer Weisse – flavored with Maine blueberries and cinnamon, Cape Codder Weisse – flavored with cranberries and oranges, Somer Weisse – flavored with lemongrass and ginger, and Ever Weisse – flavored with strawberries, kiwis, and hibiscus. The beers created so much demand in their initial release that the brewery reverted to selling limited quantities via sour beer futures, allowing customers to reserve bottles on future releases.
We hope to see many more regional craft brewers embrace the style and produce it locally for a growing base of sour beer fans.