Straw to Pale / 2 – 3 SRM
Very Low to Low / 3 – 8 IBU
ABV 2.8 – 3.8% (OG 1.028 – 1.032 with FG 1.003 – 1.006)
very low hop accentuating light malt
Despite what you might have read on a certain macro lager label, Berliner Weiss is the original Champagne of Beers—when Napoleon’s army occupied northern Germany, they were said to have given this style a similar moniker, calling it “Champagne of the North.” The history of the style is a bit cloudy (like some Berliner Weiss). Some believe that the Huguenots, a group of protestants fleeing France through Belgium, brewed wheat beers with influence from the Lambic brewers in Belgium. Others claim that its descendents are likely the Broyhan beers that originated in early sixteenth century Hanover. Though the Broyhan beers traditionally didn’t include wheat, they were pale and lightly acidic according to the sources we’ve got, which sounds a lot more like a modern Berliner Weiss than the other description. What’s confusing here is that Berliner Weiss can have some of the character you expect from brettanomyces, but it’s not one of the primary yeast contributions to the style. Lambic, on the other hand, is all about wild yeast and the complex flavor profiles it can provide. Another trend we’ve seen throughout this blog is that when beer styles travel, they take on the local customs, blending into whatever scene they’re new to. Pilsner, when brewed in Germany, became more bitter and drier due to local ingredients (the water being one) and preferences. When IPA became popular in America, it was hopped with local hops that had more citrus, pine, and resin character than the original English versions did. It wouldn’t be surprising, then, if when the Broyhan beers travelled even a bit north, where wheat had been common in beer grists for a very long time, wheat was added to fit local customs. Whether or not that’s the real story, there’s another topic important to this style: production. Early references that named “Berliner Weiss” specifically don’t mention it being acidic (the possible Broyhan lineage notwithstanding). The refreshing quality of these beers meant that they were produced with very little hops, which, aside from providing pleasant balancing bitterness to most styles, act as a preservative against many of the bacteria that can sour beer. With so little hops, when these beers were placed in barrels, they wouldn’t have had the preservative capacity of more highly hopped beers, and lactobacillus would have been able to eat away some of the remaining sugar. When lactobacillus uses sugar anaerobically, it doesn’t produce the same byproducts as saccharomyces—carbon dioxide and ethanol—instead, it produces carbon dioxide and lactic acid, gradually acidifying the beer. Now that it’s common for this beer to have lactic acidity, brewers approach how they achieve that acidity in a lot of different ways. Some traditional producers in Germany have a fairly complex process involving pitching ale yeast and lactobacillus into wort, blending, aging in oak, and then reblending before packaging (some American brewers do follow similar traditions, like August Schell in Minnesota). Other producers add brettanomyces strains to the fermentation either right away or after some aging for a lightly funky product. The most common American process involves what’s called kettle souring, which means that after the grain is mashed and run off, brewers add a lactic acid culture to the warm wort before boiling, then allow it to sit for up to 24-36 hours. This allows the bacteria culture to acidify the wort, which is then hopped and boiled at the lower pH (this is how Black Flannel produces its Berliner Weiss). Finally, there are the syrups. Though it’s uncommon to see Berliner Weiss served this way in the states, when you order one of these in northern Germany, you’re likely to be offered an ounce or two of raspberry and woodruff syrup in the glass, which adds another layer of complexity to the beer, along with a very subtle additional sweetness. At Black Flannel, we make a slightly stronger (and slightly less acidic) than usual version of this style that we’re really proud of. If you stop by mid-summer, it’ll almost certainly be on our list along with house made syrups for you to try out the traditional serving style.
Aroma – Lactic acidity, light wheat bread.
Appearance – Pale, usually fairly hazy with high wheat content.
Flavor – No hop bitterness, malt is balanced by acidity,
Mouthfeel – Light body, pillowy mouthfeel, high carbonation.
Serve fresh in weißier glass at 38º
A very pale, refreshing, low-alcohol German wheat beer with a clean lactic sourness and a very high carbonation level. A light bread dough malt flavor supports the sourness, which shouldn’t seem artificial. Any Brettanomyces funk is restrained.
A sharply sour character is dominant (moderate to moderately-high). Can have up to a moderately fruity character (often lemony or tart apple). The fruitiness may increase with age and a light flowery character may develop. No hop aroma. The wheat may present as uncooked bread dough in fresher versions; combined with the acidity, may suggest sourdough bread. May optionally have a restrained funky Brettanomyces character.
Very pale straw in color. Clarity ranges from clear to somewhat hazy. Large, dense, white head with poor retention. Always effervescent.
Clean lactic sourness dominates and can be quite strong. Some complementary doughy, bready or grainy wheat flavor is generally noticeable. Hop bitterness is undetectable; sourness provides the balance rather than hops. Never vinegary. A restrained citrusy-lemony or tart apple fruitiness may be detected. Very dry finish. Balance dominated by sourness, but some malt flavor should be present. No hop flavor. May optionally have a restrained funky Brettanomyces character.
Light body. Very high carbonation. No sensation of alcohol. Crisp, juicy acidity.
In Germany, it is classified as a Schankbier denoting a small beer of starting gravity in the range 7-8 °P. Often served with the addition of a shot of sugar syrups (mit schuss) flavored with raspberry (himbeer), woodruff (waldmeister), or Caraway schnapps (Kümmel) to counter the substantial sourness. Has been described by some as the most purely refreshing beer in the world.
A regional specialty of Berlin; referred to by Napoleon’s troops in 1809 as “the Champagne of the North” due to its lively and elegant character. At one point, it was smoked and there used to be Märzen-strength (14 °P) version. Increasingly rare in German, but some American craft breweries now regularly produce the style.
Wheat malt content is typically 50% of the grist (as is tradition with all German wheat beers) with the remainder typically being Pilsner malt. A symbiotic fermentation with top-fermenting yeast and Lactobacillus (various strains) provides the sharp sourness, which may be enhanced by blending of beers of different ages during fermentation and by extended cool aging. Hop bitterness is non-existent. Decoction mashing with mash hopping is traditional. German brewing scientists believe that Brettanomyces is essential to get the correct flavor profile, but this character is never strong.
Similar to a Standard American Lager, but with more character.
OG: 1.028 – 1.032
FG: 1.003 – 1.006
ABV: 2.8 – 3.8%
IBUs: 3 – 8
SRM: 2 – 3
Bayerischer Bahnhof Berliner Style Weisse, Berliner Kindl Weisse, Nodding Head Berliner Weisse, The Bruery Hottenroth
Original Gravity (°Plato) 1.028-1.044 (7.1-11 °Plato)
Apparent Extract/Final Gravity (°Plato) 1.004-1.006 (1-1.5 °Plato)
Alcohol by Weight (Volume) 2.2%-4.0% (2.8%-5.0%)
Bitterness (IBU) 3-6
Color SRM (EBC) 2-4 (4-8 EBC)
Brewing process varies greatly depending on the producer. Some sour wort in the kettle after mashing, some age for extended periods allowing bacteria to acidify it over time. In some of the traditional Berlin producers, blending is still common before packaging. See the history section for more on different production methods.
AT THE BREWPUB: Pretzel and Pub Cheese
SMALL PLATE: Kale Caesar or Grilled Endive Salad
CASUAL DATE: Salmon poached in lemon, olive oil, herbs
FROM BF DISTILLING CO: Black Flannel Distilling Vermont Common Whiskey
NEW: The Lumineers
OLD: Beethoven, Symphony No. 6, Pastorale
Put 1/4 of a habanero pepper in the bottom of an old fashioned glass and top with mango puree. Muddle together for 5-10 seconds, then use a spoon to remove the habanero pepper. Top with Berliner Weisse, then garnish with sliced mango and habanero (if desired).
We use a kettle souring process to brew our Berliner Weisse, which sits in the Vollbier (regular strength) alcohol range at around 4.7%. After mashing, we bring the temperature of the wort down to around 100oF, then pitch lactobacillus to bring the pH of the beer into our desired range, which is just a touch above traditional examples. We hop this lightly and boil regularly, then ferment with a clean American yeast strain. At the pub, we offer a range of house made syrups to try with this beer, giving folks the most traditional possible experience.
Lactic acidity up front with raw wheat bread dough behind in the aroma, this pillowy beer is approachable by sour enthusiasts and newcomers to sours alike.