What the heck is a Berliner Weisse beer anyway?

What the heck is a Berliner Weisse beer anyway?

As my beer journey continues, I continue to have so much fun trying or retrying beer styles I’ve either never had or dismissed. But, with that, I’m finding myself wanting to know more about styles, and by that, not just reading a textbook definition, but really uncover the heart and soul of different styles, and talk to the brewers who make beers within them.

This summer, I’ve chosen to dig into a few specific styles including Berliner Weisse.

Recently, I tried for the first time, a beer aptly named, Berliner Weisse Ale from Missouri Beer Company. On that day, I was simply looking for a beer to have on the patio on a hot day. It hit the spot and made me wonder more about this style, which I’ve had before, but never quite understood.

What is a Berliner Weisse?

I reached out to Dave Johnson, of Missouri Beer, to try and get a better understanding of the style, and his version of it.

At the soul of this style is a German wheat beer that is light in body, tart on the palate and is low alcohol. Research shows me that it’s a classic style that dates back at least 2 centuries, where I find it referred to as “The Champagne of the North,” by troops under the command of Napoleon. On the pour, a Berliner Weisse should be pale in color, and perhaps a bit hazy or cloudy as they are often unfiltered.

As a brewer intrigued by old, traditional styles, Johnson brewed his Berliner Weisse true to style, but with a variance in his process. “I think the only thing that isn’t traditional is the kettle souring process,” said Johnson.

The challenges of brewing a proper Berliner Weisse compared to other styles lies in the time required.

“You have to mash and lauter one day, cool it down, and pitch the lacto when the temperature is right. Then it has to sit overnight to sour, this can take 12 hours or longer. When the Ph is the level I want it then you boil it to kill the Lacto and sterilize the wort. The last batch I made was a 3-day affair,” said Johnson.

The result is summer beer that delivers on being refreshing and a thirst quencher. For me, they’re perfect for the patio and on the days when I just won’t want the hop and bitterness of a bigger IPA, but also not the sweetness of a Radler. Sour beers don’t usually come off as refreshing, but that is where the uniqueness of this style wins out. And, as it turns out, I learned from Johnson, that like a spirit, there is more than way to enjoy a Berliner Weisse. Many people drink this beer only when it’s tamed down a bit with a shot of sugary syrup. For the moment, I’ve only enjoyed it straight up.

My Favorite Berliner Weisse Beers

Luckily, there a quite a bunch of locally brewed options to choose from. Here are a few you can try as well.
  • Passion Fruit Prussia | 4 Hands Brewing Company
  • Lei-A Tropical Berliner Weisse | Logboat Brewing Company
  • Ku’damm | Urban Chestnut Brewing Company
  • Sloe Clap | Third Wheel Brewing Co.

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