BERLINER WEISSE

AKA:
"Ein Rotes" (a red one), "Ein Grünes" (a green one), "Mit Schuss" (with a shot of sweet syrup)

Pronunciation guide for English-speakers:
"Bear-leeh-nuh Vice-uh"

Definition:
Berliner Weisse is a sour, tart, fruity, highly effervescent, spritzy, and refreshing ale that holds only a fraction of a percent market share in Germany as a whole but is stll fairly popular in and around Berlin, especially on hot summer days. Berliner Weisse is relatively low in alcohol, only 2.5—2.7% by volume, and it is usually taken with a shot (a "Schuss") of raspberry syrup or woodruff-flavored syrup to cut the brew's tartness. By law, Berliner Weisse may be brewed only in the German capital, because, similar to the Kölsch ales of Cologne and the Trappist ales of Belgium, the name enjoys the legal protection of an appellation d'origine contrôllée.

Related beer styles:
Weissbier

Berliner Weisse—The People's Champagne
Berliner Weisse is an unusual beer brewed only in Berlin. It's on old beer whose lineage dates back at least to the Middle Ages. Today, Berliner Weisse is usually made from roughly 25—30% pale malted wheat, but in times past, it may have been made with as much as twice that amount. The rest of the grain is always barley malt—brownish in the old days, but pale Pils-like today. The result is a finished beer with a dark-yellowish color. It is extremely spritzy-effervescent, but very low in alcohol, which is why it falls into the German beer-tax category of a Schankbier, a sort of session beer. However, about two centuries ago, Berliner Weisse was made in any strength. It could be even weaker than a modern Schankbier or as strong as a mighty Bockbier.

All Berliner Weisse nowadays comes exclusively in a squatt, 0.33-liter (11.16-fl. oz.) bottle. There is no draft Berliner Weisse. The Berliner Weisse dates from a time before glass beer bottles. In those early days, the effervescent brew was sold in earthenware crocks closed with string-fastened cork stoppers to contain the beer's powerful carbonation. The crocks were often buried in sand during three months of conditioning.

There is no residual sweetness in a Berliner Weisse whatsoever, which makes it an ideal summer drink. A Berliner Weisse can be very refreshing, especially on a hot afternoon, when you might be sitting in an outdoor pub or cafe at the Kurfürstendamm, Berlin's showcase avenue, watching the elegant passersby parading their latest couture. Berliner Weisse ought to be served in a wide-rimmed, bowl-shaped chalice, about twice the size of the bottle, because Berliner Weisse will foam almost like champagne. The only remaining Weisse brewery in Berlin, Schultheiss, issues its own Weisse specialty glassware to its on-premise outlets. When Napoleon occupied Berlin in 1809, he dubbed Berliner Weisse the "Champagne of the north." More down-to-earth Berliners just called it "the workers' sparkling wine."

Because of its tartness Berliner Weisse is almost never consumed straight. Instead it is drunk "mit Schuss," that is, "with a shot" of raspberry or woodruff-flavored syrup the former being readily and the latter being next to impossible to find in North America. Add about of a jigger of syrup into the glass and pour the Berliner Weisse over it. Because of the syrups' colors, Berliners often order their Weisse simply by asking for a "red" (left) or a "green" (right) one. In the 19th century, Berliner Weisse was often served fortified with a shot of pure or caraway-flavored, vodka-like schnapps, a custom that has now fallen out of favor. Some restaurants now serve Berliner Weisse with a straw, a practice that is severely frowned upon by the true Weisse cognoscenti. Berliner Weisse can be stored in a cool dark place for up to five years, during which it maintains its quality and becomes gradually fruitier. It is best served at a temperature of 46—50°F (8—10°C).

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