You will have to excuse me. I’ve been in quite the sour mood these days. Don’t worry, it’s nothing you’ve done. In fact, I’ve got no one but myself to blame.
It’s not self-loathing, by the way. I’m talking about sour ale.
An acquired taste for most folks, sour ale is tart, crisp and — in my book, at least – thoroughly refreshing. The acidity makes the mouth water and tells the brain that, “If my mouth is watering, then I must still be thirsty. Have some more.”
This taste for tart has had me visiting a lot of Belgian ale. Trust me, there’s enough material there to fill this column for the next two years. The American craft brewers are starting to pick up on this, too, with much success. Either way, I think we should look elsewhere; somewhere not usually known for this style. Gonna get into my German roots and reminisce over an old friend: Berliner Weisse.
Our group of mischief makers had wandered into a beergarten just off of the Kurfurstendam. A massive Ferris wheel beckoned us down the strasse and what we found behind it was another eye-opening moment in my cultural education. They were serving something called “Berliner Weisse” with a choice of one of two syrups added. We figured two things: One, we’re in Berlin so we’d better drink their beer, and Two, we keep seeing people put funny stuff in their beer all over this country so “when in Rome…”
I chose the Waldmeistersirup, which is made from woodruff and tasted like earthy, yet sweet, apple and herb. We sat down at communal tables underneath the trees full of lights strung branch to branch and tasted our first “sophisticated” beer. It was light years away from any other beer we had tried on that trip.
Those syrups are neat to try for comparison, but I recommend eschewing the additive and going for it straight up. In fact, the only reason the syrups have ever been used in Berliner Weisse is because some find the tart flavors to be too intense.
Not the case for Dr. Fritz Briem’s “1809” Berliner Weisse. The sourness is there, but controlled, refined. Unboiled wheat mash gives this beer a gorgeous cloudy golden yellow color with a huge rocky head that settles quickly. The ale yeast and lactobacillus help the wheat give off funky scents of bread dough, lemon juice, cream and must. The body is light and crisp with excellent citrus, coriander and a faint touch of banana in the finish. Reminiscent of a carbonated sauvignon blanc, 1809 is fizzy, tart refreshment.
That’s no grimace on my face… it’s a sour smile.