One of 2016s hippest brewing trends has been the Berliner-style weisse. It’s a beer that is a little bit sour (the main trend of the year); it’s low in alcohol (an inevitable reaction to the booze-bonkers Double IPAs and Imperials of recent times); and it’s a style that offers lots of scope for experimentation. And these days brewers can’t stop experimenting.
But while new brewers are rapidly trying to create the latest Berliner-style hit by filling their pots full of new fruity and hoppy flavour combinations, one brewery – Berline Kindl – has been knocking out its old-school sour weisses pretty much the same way for centuries.
Back in the 1800s Berliner Weisse was the most popular drink in the city with an astonishing 700+ breweries churning out the stuff. Napoleon’s thirsty army guzzled it while trashing the city in 1809 and referred to it as the Champagne of the North. It was big business. But beer has been subjected to the whims of fashion long before the current bearded brewing brigade starting fondling handfuls of American hops, and the Berliner Weisse all but disappeared, with Berliner Kindl’s being the only one to remain from its heyday.
Order your Berliner Weisse in Berlin and they’re probably ask you if you want it green or red. This is because locally it’s often mixed with a sweet syrup – the most common being woodruff (green) and raspberry (red). Which in turn provides the inspiration for all those modern fruity versions.
I’m drinking mine without any such sweet frippery. A straight up Berliner, just the way it was brewed, and it’s a very unique beer to savour. The aroma is like a mild German wheat beer, as if caught from a distance by a gentle breeze, and comes with some estery yeasts. Those esters turn into full sour notes on the tongue and hit the gut in the way a sharp cider does. It’s a light beer at only 3%, so there’s not much body and it takes a little while for the beeriness to come through the initial sour burst. But the beeriness is definitely there, tinted with banana as you might expect from a German Weisse.
Lots of beers pride themselves on their refreshing qualities, but few can match a Berliner Weisse for abilities in the cooling thirst quenching department. It’s practically a beer cordial and it’s obvious how a shot of syrup would give it a new life without ruining any of the brewing work.
The Berliner Kindle logo is a blonde walnut whip-haired infant, clambering out of a hefty looking beer jug – a prize-winning design illustrating the phrase “this is a child of Berlin”. Berliner Kindl Weisse is now the old man of the Berliner-style and, thanks to beer fashion, has a whole bunch of new young pretenders following in its footsteps.
Brewery: Berliner Kindl, Berlin, Germany
Beer name: Berliner Kindl Weisse