What exactly is a Berliner Weisse beer?

Berliner Weisse is low alcohol, tart, sour wheat beer that dates back to the 16th century from Northern Germany.  Often served with a flavored syrup of Woodruff or raspberries. The tartness comes from lactic bacteria and traditional brettanomyces yeast strain.


When I approached Josh about developing his second beer for Helton Brewing, I never thought he was going to suggest another wheat beer.  As many of you know, I’m not a big wheat beer fan but being an Arizona Brewery going into the hot summer days, I thought it would be a fantastic addition to our lineup.  As we worked on the recipe we knew we wanted to steer clear from how we brew our Boysenberry Sour, resulting in an excellent beer as described by the brewer Josh below. The color of this Berliner Weisse is spectacular.  The acidity is matched and balanced by the sweetness of the blueberries and is highly carbonated and refreshing. This is a seasonal beer, for the time being, so find some time to come down to the brewery and try this unique beer before it’s gone.


Thoughts from the brewer at Helton Brewing Company


Developing the Blueberry Berliner Weisse was a way to create and push myself to higher skills as a brewer while still creating a classic style meant to be refreshing and great for the heat of Summer.  Knowing who I am as a brewer, I wanted to develop a sour ale for Helton Brewing that was nowhere near the same profile as our Boysenberry through pH, Flavor, and had a differentiation in overall Lactic character. Plus, I cannot recall anyone ever telling me they disliked Blueberries. So that was the winner for the fruit addition. Also, knowing that I love classic styles, session beers, and anything with WHEAT! The Berliner Weisse style was right up my alley for my first kettle sour at Helton.


Having not personally brewed a commercial sour on my own yet. Aside from assisting Rob with our Boysenberry sour, I was eager to run the full spectrum. The brew day was fun and overwhelming with process knowledge. Brewing a sour for me is so ass backward in some manners; which is fine but takes practical approaches and procedures fine-tuned to manage all of your efficiencies over your split brew days. Finding the opportune time to kick the kettle sour to a boil was ultimately up to the lactic cultures and time, which was unknown with a new recipe?  


The overall brew days for the kettle sour ran smooth. Fermentation was where the point of intensity for knowledge took off. From understanding the cell counts on a low Plato beer to experiencing the pH drops during fruiting. This beer was full of great lessons. One of the main things was how the yeast took a longer period to kick off fermentation initially. This was a great lesson and conversation between Brian and I on how a lower pH and yeast play a slightly different game before active fermentation taking place. Then the second main concern was whether or not I would be able to hit the final gravity after stressing the yeast with a low initial gravity. Well, the fermentation attenuated well but I still missed the final gravity slightly. However, it was great for the final product. The finished pH was lower than expected. Which with the marginally higher extract percentage in the final beer made this a balanced Berliner both in acidity and flavor. Then top it off with the fruit and smidge of mount hood hops it came out better than I could have ever expected.

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