The Berliner Weisse is a traditional style of wheat beer that’s been gaining popularity with local craft breweries and beer fans alike. The style is a perfect accompaniment to warmer weather and backyard barbecues. Light, pleasantly tart and low in alcohol, the Berliner Weisse is an approachable beer that fits the L.A. lifestyle and climate.
The beer style was developed in Germany centuries ago, but the heyday of its popularity was during the first half of the 20th century when the tart ale became popular in Berlin’s outdoor cafes. The beer is made with about half wheat and half barley, and in addition to traditional ale yeasts, brewers add a souring bacteria to unfermented brews.
This results in a thirst-quenching and hazy beer that’s light in alcohol -- most examples land around 3% ABV -- with a dry, acidic finish and vivacious carbonation. Berliner Weisse can range from mildly tart to face-twistingly sour, and the most bracing examples were traditionally served with the option of a sweetened syrup to cut the sour kick.
The style is seeing a resurgence among craft brewers, and there are Berliner Weisse beers available in bottles or as draught-only options from many local craft brewers. The Bruery bottles Hottenroth, an example with moderate sourness and just over 3% alcohol by volume; Strand Brewing in Torrance just released its Ito Weisse in bottles for summer; and Temecula’s Black Market Brewery makes 1945, which is available in 22-ounce bottles. Golden Road Brewing, Angel City Brewery and Beachwood Brewing all offer draught-only Berliner Weisse beers, and this weekend Hangar 24 will be launching its new Kirschen Berliner Weisse that was brewed with locally grown Bing cherries.
Born in Berlin, L.A.'s sister city, the Berliner Weisse was once brewed by hundreds of breweries before it nearly went extinct. Thankfully, the style has become a popular summertime brew for Southern California craft brewers, and the last few years have seen more than half a dozen different versions pop up on local tap lists. The brisk, refreshing and thirst-quenching qualities make the Berliner Weisse a brew that is most at home when enjoyed al fresco, and Los Angeles provides ample options to experiment with Berliner Weisse beers over the holiday.