Friday, August 21, 2009

Berliner Weisse for kids?

This bottle of Berliner Kindl Weisse has hung around in my fridge for quite some time now. I didn't worry about it going bad, the lactic acid content took care of any spoilage issues, but also the right moment to drink it just didn't present itself. It is a style of beer I've been eager to try for quite some time with the promise of a sharp tang and low alcohol content. Sadly this brand of Berliner weisse left me a tad unsatisfied.

What little I now about Berliner Weisse is this:

  • Low abv (2.5 - 3.5%)
  • Very low IBUs (3-8), no aroma hops are added, and often the beer isn't even boiled, with the hops added during the mash.
  • A good measure of of unmalted wheat is used in the grist.
  • There should be a pronounced lactic character without any acetic notes.
Everything you need to know about this history of this beer can be found at Ron's, of course. I was keen to see if it really measured up in the taste intensity stakes, like Cantillion's Lambic and I thought I was in for a treat if there is any truth in the stories about barman in Berlin looking at you curiously if you don't drink the stuff "mit schuss", the idea being that it is intolerable without some syrup to ease the palate somewhat. From the off I was determined to drink it without any flavour additions but need not have worried as this particular Berliner weisse is very tame indeed - almost to the point of a slightly sickly blandness. The lactic character is there alright, but it doesn't bite and leaves a vacuum on the tongue where you might expect the pleasant acidic tingle to satisfy. The carbonation wasn't as high as anticipated either - three to four volumes of CO2 are common, but the malt was reasonably with a grainy/bready contribution.

This lack of flavour and intensity has led me to believe that I have got a form of Berliner Weisse Lite on my hands. The cheeky sprog on the label makes this seem even more likely. Perhaps Barry can shed some light on this beer from his newly adopted home in Germany?


The Beer Nut said...

What you're describing sounds like the Berliner Kindl experience to me, though I've never had it straight.

Is it fair to expect more of an intensity at that ABV?

BarryM (Adeptus) said...

Nope, you got the real deal. Well, you got the major brand, and I sometimes wonder if it is not as intense as it might have been, based on similar stories of raised eyebrows when ordered neat, and my own experience of the beer. The first time I tried it neat was at a bar here in M√ľnster after I saw a woman drinking the green Woodruff (Waldmeister) version. I ordered it neat, got a bit of a look, but then it's not Berlin. I was expecting a complete shocker in sourness, but didn't get that. However, the second time I tried it (I bought a 6-pack) I found it pretty enamel-stripping and refreshing. I have a high sourness tolerance though.

I tried the Raspberry one a couple of years ago actually, but have little memory of it. I think I'd prefer to add my own shot rather than getting it pre-mixed, but I did quite like the Waldmeister version.

As far as I am aware, Berliner Kindl is the only brand produced in Berlin now. There was Schultheiss, but I understand both breweries were bought by the Oetker Group, and the only kept the Kindl brand going. I'll have to ask some of my jam doughnut, I mean Berliner colleagues. I read something somewhere (yeah, that helps) of the style being produced elsewhere in Germany, but I'd have to go look.

Thom said...

I hadn't thought about the abv dictating the acidity, but now that I think of it, the lactic acid is produced from the avaialble extract so if there's not much extract the acidity may wll be low. That's assuming this stuff is brewed authentically, with the use of lactic acid producing bugs and not dosed with lactic acid afterwards.

Thanks for info Barry. Perhaps Berliner weisse isn't the flavour punch in the palate it is widely believed to be.

I'm heading to Berlin next month so perhaps I'll get to try some more.

Boak said...

We didn't find it mouth-puckeringly sour - it's a bit more like one of the Timmerman lambics. Very refreshing.

Thom said...

I can't say I found it refreshing. It definitely lacked in flavour, and not just the sour aspect. It is a low strength beer, I suppose and it can be hard to make them satisfying.