Berliner Weisse is a sour wheat beer that’s technically only produced in Berlin. Napoleon once called it “the Champagne of the North”. While there are plenty of breweries throughout the world that make this style, true Berliner Weisse beer is brewed solely by two small Berlin breweries, Berliner Kindl and Schultheiss.
Berliner Weisse History
Though the style is now near extinction in it’s city of origin, even though it used to be a hugely popular beer. Its exact origins are unclear but the two most popular theories involve religious refugees, known as the Huguenots, and an experimenting brewer.
During the 17th century, the Protestant Huguenots migrated to Berlin from France and Switzerland to escape religious persecution. People believed that they learned about new brewing techniques and ingredients on their journey, which then led to the creation of Berliner Weisse.
Another theory involves a man named Cord Broihan, a Hamburg brewer who was known for experimenting with different brew styles. One of his beers, the Halberstadter Broihan, may be one of the first versions of Berliner Weisse, which then led to other brewers mimicking his techniques.
Berliner Weisse Key Ingredients
The two key ingredients that give Berliner Weisse its distinctive flavor are wheat and pilsner malts. The Berliner Weisse style has low hop content. Therefore, a traditional recipe of this been only has low-alpha hop varieties.
Another fundamental ingredient in this style is Lactobacillus, a type of bacteria that provides many sour beers with its sharp tart flavor. Of course, proper brewing techniques are essential in order to achieve a true Berliner Weisse.
Aroma and Flavor
Naturally, the dominating fragrance of this sour wheat beer is sour and acidic. Most brews also smell mildly of Brettanomyces, a type of yeast, which also adds to the traditional Berliner aroma.
The Brettanomyces also contributes to the beer’s bready, wheat flavor. Besides the strong sour taste, a typical Berliner may also have mild fruity and hop notes.
Hopefully, Berlin breweries will start to realize the popularity of this style unique to their hometown. We hope they start experimenting more with this style. The flavorful, yet light, beer is the perfect way to cool down on a hot summer day.