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Beer Reviews

Berliner Weiss

New Glarus Brewing Company
New Glarus, WI

Style: Berliner Weisse

Eddie’s Rating:
one beerone beerone beerone beerone beer   (Recommended)

Pair With:
Of all the commercially available world styles, Berliner weisse may very well be the most arcane. As its name implies, it is a wheat beer popularized in northern Germany during the late 1800s, top fermented with conventional yeast along with a blend of lactobacillus cultures. That’s right: bacteria. This leads to a low-alcohol, teeth-curlingly tart beer, so tart, in fact, that traditionally Berliner weisse is served with flavored syrups to make the sourness tolerable. That tartness, however, lends a bone dry finish to the beer, and Berliner weisses are known for their unsurpassed thirst quenching abilities, making them a near perfect summer refresher, if you can get past the sourness.

This seemingly unique brewing process is similar to some wines, especially Champagne, leading Napolean’s troops to dub the beer “the Champagne of the north.” Which makes it less weird, I guess, that New Glarus brew guru Dan Carey used grapes in his take on this esoteric but intriguing style, which he dubs Berliner Weiss (sans the “e”).

Berliner Weiss pours extremely pale with a fizzy, respectable head that slowly calms down into a sheen of clinging foam. The nose radiates sharp acidity and sub-notes of crab apples. The flinty-hard, mouthfeel intros in a citrusy, sharply acidic bite that threatens to completely dominate the sip. This transitions into a tiny hint of malt sweetness before the coup de grace, a tart chop of unripe apple sourness that sabrages the end off of the sip.

Light and tongue-numbingly crisp, New Glarus Berliner Weiss is undoubtedly a thirst quenching foil for hot Midwestern summers. Although sour enough to throw less adventurous souls into a serious freak-out, this beer is nowhere near the most sour I’ve ever had—that honor would belong to Cantillon Rosé de Gambrinus, a beer sour enough to make your face pucker ala Bugs Bunny dosing opera singer Giovanni Jones with alum powder. No, I think Dan Carey and company pulled some punches here to keep things square with the natives. For that reason I’m giving this otherwise wonderful, supremely refreshing brew three mugs. Highly recommended, but that doesn’t mean it couldn’t have been so much more.

Reviewed by Eddie Glick on July 16, 2008.
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