Style Profile: Berliner Weisse

Posted on May 25th, 2010

Now that the warmer weather is finally here it’s a great time to start drinking wheat beers. The light, yet full-bodied flavor of most wheat brews make it the perfect way to chill out on a hot day. While most fans of craft beer are familiar with hefeweizen and other popular wheat styles, there’s a good chance you’ve never heard of Berliner weisse, an oft over looked wheat beer. Today we take a quick look at this tasty brew.

Like many wheat beers Berliner weisse is cloudy, light and slightly citrusy with little to no hop flavors. What makes this style unique is the distinct tart and sour flavors that are also present. Much like unsweetened geuze lambic, Berliner Weisse has a refreshing tartness to it that can make your mouth pucker. Because many find the sourness too intense the beer is often mixed with fruit syrup just prior to serving. Raspberry and green apple are by far the most popular syrup flavors, but there are others out there. To get the sour flavors many brewers will now introduce certain bacteria strains to the brew, as with wild ales or geuze but traditionally the tart flavors were derived from a unique secondary fermentation process.

True Berliner Weisse is only produced in Berlin, Germany. Under German law only beer produced in the city limits of Berlin may call itself that. Although in the past the style was extremely popular today there are just two breweries that still produce traditional Berliner Weisse, Berliner Kindl and Schultheiss. In addition to these two breweries there are plenty of other foreign producers of the style. Dogfish Head produces a version of it known as Festina Peche, which has some peach syrup flavorings pre-mixed into it. A more tradition version by a American craft brewer is Hottenroth Berliner Weisse by The Bruery.