Berliner weisse — the working person’s Champagne

Beer offers some wacky and wonderful flavours like the sour taste of Belgian lambic or Germany’s even rarer Berliner weisse.

Any decent liquor store carries at least one lambic beer. But I’ve not seen Berliner weisse at all in Australia nor tasted any local attempts at brewing the style.  Even a search on Perth’s encyclopaedic internationalbeershop.com.au drew a blank.

I’ve come it across judging at the International Beer Awards and have tried it in several Berlin cafés. There it’s generally served with a dash of raspberry or woodruff syrup, giving an alarming red or green hue.

The sweetness of the syrup offsets the sourness of lactic acid, produced deliberately by the use of lactobacillus culture during fermentation.

As a top-fermented wheat beer it would have lighter body and higher acid than traditional beers even without the lactic element. The tart combination earned it the soubriquet arbeiter sekt – working man’s champagne.

Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2007

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