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When the Weather is Nice, Grab Yourself a Berliner Weisse!

April showers bring May flowers, and along with it, warmer weather and brighter days; making it feel like Central New York and the people living here are finally emerging from their winter den. I know for myself, while I love the robust and comforting porters and stouts during the colder months, when the weather starts to improve, I begin to crave lighter and more refreshing beers. A Berliner Weisse is one of those craveable beers of spring and summer.

When you see or hear the word “Berliner” I’m pretty sure most folks think of the German city of Berlin, and that would be the correct place to start. While the word “Weisse” is a German surname meaning “white.” The Berliner Weisse dates back to the 16th century and originated in Northern Germany. It is a variation of a wheat beer with a low ABV of approximately 3% and normally appears slightly cloudy due to being unfiltered. Fermentation consists of a mixture of yeast and lactic acid bacteria, which gives this beer it’s distinct flavor and thirst-quenching tartness. During the late 19th century, the Berliner Weisse was the most popular brew in Berlin with about 700 different breweries producing their own versions of the beer. In 1809, it is said that Napoleon’s troops designated it “The Champagne of the North.” Eventually, its popularity took a dive into the 20th century with only 2 breweries producing this beer in the city. However, today, as craft beer has increased with popularity, so has the rise of producing variations of the traditional Berliner Weisse both in Germany and here in the United States.

Modern brewing methods typically use a lower percentage of wheat, ranging from 25-50% and the distinct tart or sour flavor produced by either second fermentation or the addition of Lactobacillus (Yes, the same probiotic bacteria used to produce yogurt!) or sometimes Brettanomyces (a form of yeast). In addition, today you will also find may different variations that include fruits and other elements added in the brewing process to make for some completely unique and exciting Berliner Weisse brews!

If you’re anxious to try a refreshing Berliner Weisse, here a few of my favorites…

Zuerst by Buried Acorn Brewing Company, (Syracuse, NY), 3.4% ABV – This mixed fermentation brew is barrel-aged in French oak for 6 months and reflects a more traditional Berliner Weisse. This fantastical beer is light and clean with funky fruit and herbal notes but overall tart. It’s a great beer for your taste buds to really dive in and taste something unique. At the time this article was written, it is currently on tap at the brewery, so get your buns over there and check it out!

A great second choice Berliner Weisse with traditional flavors is the American Berliner Weisse by K2 Brothers Brewing, (Rochester, NY), 4% ABV. Made with Chinook hops, the Brothers brew is light, tart, and bubbly with slight apple notes. While this is not currently on tap per the brewery’s website, I’m hopeful that on my next trip to The Flower City, I’ll be able to pop in have a pint of this lovely beer.

 

Lime Berliner Weisse by Resurgence Brewing Company, (Buffalo, NY), 4.5% ABV, is one of my recent favorites that I’ve discovered, and I’m hopeful to be able to regularly get my hands on this beer so that I can drink it all summer long! Tart, lots of lime, and very carbonated, it’s extremely refreshing on its own but would also beautifully compliment so many of your Mexican and Tex-Mex dishes. (Just give me all the tacos, guac and salsa, please!) Look to your specialty beer shops, like Branching Out Bottle Shop at Township 5 in Camillus, to find cans to stock your fridge with!

Festina Pêche by Dogfish Head Craft Brewery, (Milton, DE), 4.5% ABV is another one of my favorite Berliner Weisse beers that I came across last summer. It’s light, slightly sour/tart, peach-forward (both in taste and aroma!), crisp and clean, and one of the best brews from Dogfish Head, IMO. I’m looking forward to tasting 2019’s batch, which should (hopefully) be hitting store shelves soon, as it’s only available during the spring and summer months. If not, I’ll be waving BYEEEEEE CNY, and be taking an excursion to the Delaware shore this summer! (which I highly recommend regardless!)

Another great fruit-forward Berliner would be The Passionate One by Ithaca Beer Company, (Ithaca, NY), 4.75% ABV. Tart tropical notes of passion fruit and guava are prevalent and perfect for warm weather. There is so much flavor and tons to love about this very aromatic and poignant brew. It’s basically a luau in your mouth! (Aloha!) Look for this on tap at our local restaurants and also in our local grocers – it is sold in cans. As well, Ithaca Beer Company also makes a few more Berliner Weisse beers including Cayuga Cruiser which is brewed in the more traditional style without added fruit, and fruit Berliners Blueberry Soiree, Raspberry Soiree, and Früt – all worth checking out.

And now, the best for last … If you’re really up to trying a totally different and unique Berliner Weisse, then you’ll want to sample Raspberry Blush by Mikkeller Brewing, (San Diego, CA), 4% ABV. This is, hands-down, one of my favorite brews on our entire planet Earth (and perhaps the galaxy)! Brewed with raspberries and coffee, the pour is bright pink with an aroma of coffee. Upon first taste the beer is slightly tart and raspberry forward but then finishes with coffee, and perhaps with even some chocolate or caramel notes in there too. It sounds so weird, but it’s legit amazeballs! Find brew in cans at your local beer bars, and specialty beer shops around town. In addition, Mikkeller also brews Double Blush, which is pretty much the same, except that it boasts a higher alcohol content at 6.5% ABV and is considered an “Imperial” Berliner Weisse.

Are you salivating yet? As luck would have it, you now have a variety of enjoyable Berliners to choose from to quench that thirst! Cheers!

Kristin Merritt
Just a brief introduction that I’ve joined the Table Hopping crew as your new craft-brew-loving gal who will be bringing you your monthly pour of beer education and the low-down on all things beer related in the immediate CNY area and beyond. Along the way I hope that I can give a few recommendations for your grocery lists, event suggestions and local hotspots for an afternoon out with friends or planning a date, and if not for nothing, perhaps enlighten you with some random knowledge that you can amaze your teammates with at trivia night – or at least give you and your pals a suggestion on what to drink at the bar! I have some mighty large shoes to fill that my friend and fellow Syracuse Women of Craft Beer member (& founder), Gloria Rakowsky, left for me, but I hope that my style (and shenanigans) will keep all y’all coming back for more each month. Cheers!