07 August 2013

Know Your Styles: Berliner Weisse

Urban Chestnut's Berliner Weiss 
As we approach the end of one of the best summers I can remember in Indiana a beer style I've had an affinity for is the Berliner Weisse style. This once obscure style at one time was brewed by over 700 breweries in Berlin, but it has been on the decline in Berlin for many decades.

This is a style that is finding a big home here in the United States, however.  At the Indiana Microbrewers Festival I was very pleased to see a number of breweries taking on this wonderful summer style.

The beginnings of this style are murky at best.  I've found articles saying there are references to it as far back as the 1500's.  The style peaked in the 1950's in Germany and has nearly been shuttered with only three larger scale breweries producing the beer in Berlin. This was also a very popular style in the United States after the Civil War with German immigration to the United States, but the style died with Prohibition.  The good news is that with the innovation in the American market we are starting to see this style all over the US, and some of those even making their way to packaging to the consumer.  Most likely though if you see a Berliner Weisse available it will be directly at the brewpub or brewery.

At is core Berliner Weisse is a wheat beer with usually 50%  or more wheat malt.  Traditionally it is very low in alcohol.  It is usually sub-4.5% ABV, but you will find some Berliner Weisses with strength above that.  They are slightly tart and acidic with an almost yogurt-like sour punch up front, but they are crisp and refreshing on the finish. It is one of those beers that you want to have several in a sitting on a warm day.  If you are really lucky that would be in a beer garden somewhere with plenty of good friends and conversation.  As a kid lemonade defined a summer drink for me, but now as adult this beer fits that mold for me.

Sometimes you might see places that will mix Berliner Weisse with syrups.  You might see woodruff and raspberry syrup quite often.  That was really so that people could control their level of tartness before modern temperate control and brewing technology.  I actually prefer my beer without the syrups now, and I think they taste just great.

Bottled versions you can buy in Indy:

The Bruery's Hottenroth  and 1809 Berliner Weiss (Professor Fritz Briem).
A real rarity is Three Floyds I < 3 Deesko.  Love the beer and the label art.  

Be on the lookout though for this style when you are at your local brewpub.  Hopefully you will see one before the summer is over.

This is a style I hope we continue to see more and more from in the coming years.




  1. Just a heads up: Upland will be brewing a Berliner Weiss soon as part of their Up Cup program. Tom Wallbank won this year's competition with his 'Breakfast' Berliner Weiss.

  2. Black Acre also has their Berliner Weiss (Ol' Fritz) on currently. I strongly suggest the Woodruff syrup, it is very unique.

  3. 1809 Berliner Weiss was the beer that turned me on to the style. I admit that when I ordered it, I had no idea what I was in for, but I very much enjoyed it!

  4. Sun King's Shake Up, while not a pure Berliner Weisse, is along the same lines as a real Berliner Weisse. A very nice, tart beer. Also, Union Brewing in Carmel did a Berliner Weisse on cask that was very good. And I agree with Rod that the 1809 is excellent.

    I'm with you on this style--It's one of my favorites and what I want to drink most of the time when it's hot outside.