Berliner Weisse

The Kernel Brewery – London Sour 3.3% ABV

“Sour beer?” I hear you say in a Peter Kay “Garlic. Bread?” or “Cheese. Cake?” tone of voice…

Well, it IS the future, I’ve tasted it.

Actually, strictly that’s not true. I have tasted it, and in my opinion it’s delicious. However, sour beer has been around for years, so it’s not technically ‘the future’, although it is currently enjoying a small revival thanks to both beer drinkers and small breweries happy to experiment.  Admittedly a beer with sour characteristics is often showing signs of off flavours, it maybe be past it’s best, infected or just poorly made. Intentionally sour beers are difficult to produce, the uncertainty of the effects of wild yeast strains or bacteria mean that a great deal of skill and experience is required, the beers are often aged and blended in order to produce a consistent product.  Until recently it has been predominantly Belgian breweries making sour beers, Lambic, Gueze and Flanders Red Ales brewed by established breweries such as Rodenbach with years of experience and tradition behind them. One notable style of sour beer from outside of Belgium is Berliner Weisse, a sour wheat beer around 3% ABV dating back to the !6th century and historically brewed in Northern Germany, typically Berlin. At it’s peak around the 19th century it was the most popular alcoholic drink in Berlin being produced by over 700 breweries. Whether drunk on its own, mixed with other beers or drunk with added fruit syrups, Berliner Weisse can be an acquired taste.

The Kernel London Sour

One of my favourite UK breweries, The Kernel, from Bermondsey in London has recently widened it’s repertoire with a selection of sour beers. Their London Sour – Berliner Weisse is very much in keeping with it’s German cousins. When I asked brewer Evin O’Rourdan about pairing his beer with food the succinct and tongue in cheek response was simply “I like it with everything.  I often pair it with other beers.  Makes them more palatable“.

A pale hazy beer with a thin white lacy head. The initial aroma is surprisingly clean, crisp citrus with only a gentle undertone of the typical farmyard or ‘horse-blanket’ nose associated with sour beers. The first sip is puckeringly sour, sharp and tart like a barrel aged farmhouse cider. Almost no bitterness but a lovely gentle spritz to scrub the palette.  On it’s own this beer isn’t going to be for everybody, but pair it with seafood, especially ceviche and it’s an entirely different experience. Alternatively add a drop of blackcurrant, cassis or even Chambord and the beer is transformed, the sweetness from the fruit dulls the aggressive sourness and you’re left with something reminiscent of a delicious Belgian fruit beer, sweet and sour, the beautiful beer equivalent of yin and yang.

The Kernel Berliner Weisse is currently on sale at The Thatchers, there is only a limited amount though, so if you want to taste the future, you better get down here, sharpish.


4 thoughts on “Berliner Weisse

  1. You realise this *isn’t* Berliner Weisse, right? Berliner Weisse is a legally “protected designation of origin” (PDO) and can only be brewed in Berlin, like Champagne can only be made in Champagne and Stilton in… well, actually Stilton can’t be made in Stilton – it got the name because it was *sold* there. It can legally only be made in Derbyshire, Leicestershire, and Nottinghamshire.

    That’s why Kernel officially calls this London Sour, and Bayrischer Bahnhof calls its version Berliner-Style Weisse. Oh, and Kölsch is a PDO as well, which is why Thornbridge calls Tzara “our Köln style beer”.

    Oh, and Berliner Weisse was just one of a family of sour beers historically brewed in Northern Germany. It may not even have originated in Berlin.

    Uh-oh, I feel a blog-post of my own coming on… LOL!

    1. I do appreciate that, and was aware of the PDO in Germany and the reason why The Kernel choose to call their beer ‘London Sour’. However, there are several breweries outside of Germany brewing Berliner Weisse (not Berliner Weiße) beers and naming them as such (Funky Buddha & Cigar City to name just two).

      I believe Berliner Weisse is actually thought to have originated in Hamburg, although for my short blog I didn’t delve in to the intricacies of German Brewing history, I look forward to reading a more in depth look at German Sours…

  2. Yeah, that’s right – Hamburger Ale is thought by some to have been the progenitor of Berliner Weisse.

    I just checked though – there’s an EU online database of these things – and while Kölsch *is* covered EU-wide (as a PGI not a PDO, but the effects are much the same), Berliner Weisse and Altbier are only protected in Germany.

    So Thornbridge is on safe ground with its Berliner Weisse – as long as it doesn’t export it to Germany! And I was wrong, kind of. Oops. But I learnt from it… (-:

    You can’t tell I’m supposed to be working, can you?

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