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Berliner Weisse

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All about Berliner Weisse

What is a Berliner Weisse?

Deliciously tart, effervescent and decidedly sour, Berliner Weisse is a really approachable sour wheat beer. Sourness levels can vary, but the best descriptor for that sour character is a bright, refreshing lemony flavor that never strays into freakishly funky territory. Rather than repelling you with sourness, a Berliner’s citrusy acidity, light body, and low alcohol content encourage you to take another sip. Add to that a white dough grain character, a lovely pale straw color and a classy head of white foam and Berliner Weisse is hard to argue with on a hot summer afternoon.

Berliner Weisse souring

With almost no hops and a relatively basic recipe of wheat and light malts, Berliner Weisse is an unblinking showcase in sourness. The sourness key is a strain of bacteria that brewers introduce to the product before the yeast go to work. These friendly lactobacillus “bugs”, which aren’t allowed in “clean” beers, produce lactic acid that results in a nice, tart flavor. The yeast completes the fermentation, yielding a dry, sour beer whose easy-going alcohol content makes it particularly quenching.

Berliner Weisse pairing and drinking

What’s this sour beer’s “sweet spot”? A specialty for spring and summer, Berliner Weisse’s sourness nods towards lemonade, but without all that sugary sweetness. It’s a good compromise if you want something sour but don’t want too much of the “barnyard” funk that can come with some barrel-aged sours. At 3-4% alcohol, it’s light on the tongue, so it complements snacks like pretzels or bread, soft cheeses and marmalade. Refreshing Berliner’s a solid cool-down after a workout and makes a reliable gardening assistant, too.

Berliner Weisse glassware

Berliner’s fluffy white head looks great in a chalice glass, where the extra surface area gives it room to roam.

Berliner Weisse in the modern world

Berliner Weisse once dominated Berlin, but nearly became extinct there, bumped off as lagers came to rule Germany. Curious craft brewers reinvigorated the style at the end of the 20th century and now often use the Berliner-type souring method as a canvas for lots of zany, delicious experiments with fruits, herbs and anything else that captures their interest. You might find raspberries, blueberries or even pomegranates added to your Berliner. You’ll also find similar types of sour beer under the name “Kettle sour”. Try a classic example or see what funky things craft brewers have are doing with it! Click these links to search  for Drizly in your city, and look for Drizly’s partner liquor stores near you.