Berliner Weiβe – the quintessential summer sidewalk café beer – light, effervescent, low alcohol and tart nearly went the way of the passenger pigeon and the dodo bird. Napoleon’s troops, on their way to Moscow during their ill-fated mission to conquer the world, characterized this wheat-based beer as the champagne of the north. The alcohol hovers around 3% in the traditional versions and they can have the tartness of unsweetened lemonade. The tartness encourages you to sip the stuff – at least with the undoctored versions – and with the low alcohol content you can drink it all day sitting under a tree with a book or at a sidewalk café discussing Kierkegaard, global warming or the Minnesota Twins. When I learned that in Berlin Germans would add raspberry (Himbeersirup) or woodruff (Waldmeistersirup) syrup to the beer and drink it with a straw, the image of Berliner Weiss became forever melded in my mind with Mike Meyers’ Dieter in the old SNL skit Sprockets. For some reason the image of pretentious Germans prancing about in black tights sipping flavored Berliner Weiss through a straw cracks me up. The stuff is on the wane in its homeland. While some 700 breweries produced Berliner Weiss during the 19th century, by the late 20th only two remained in Berlin.
Recently it’s enjoyed a mild renaissance. A handful of other German brewers outside of the Berlin area have stepped up with their interpretations – Professor Fritz Briem’s 1809 Berliner Weiss and the Gasthaus Bayerischer Bahnhoff Berliner Style Weiss both do exemplary work. Within the past year three excellent Berliner Style Weiss have popped up in Minnesota and others have popped up on the east and west coast.
Entrée: Grilled seafood, salmon
Dessert: Fruit desserts, fresh picked berries, panna cota
Other: Tart fruit, raspberry vinaigrette dressing, pickled vegetables, citrus salad
Drink Berliner Weisse out of a goblet like Libbey's 21 Ounce Schooner Beer glass - Buy from Amazon.com