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Monday, August 12, 2013

New Glarus Brewing's Thumprint Berliner Weiss

  • Style: Berliner Weiss
  • ABV: New Glarus doesn't generally release their ABV, but many Beliner Weisses are under 5% (most hovering around 3%) and I don't see this one as being an exception to the norm
  • Ease to locate:  You know the drill.  Ease to find if you live or can travel to Wisconsin (or know someone who lives or travels to WI.  It's good not to be a hermit, my friends.).  For the rest of you, I'm working on a scratch and sniff version of this blog.  It should be ready in 2 to a zillion years.  Meanwhile, here's their beer finder
  • Color: clear, lightly golden, straw yellow with hints of pale green.  So pretty.
  • Head: Two finger white foamy head that leaves fluffy lacing
  • Aroma: Sour scent of fermented grapes, tart notes of wheat grains, sweet cereal grains and a layer of lemon zest acidity 
  • Mouthfeel: Light and effervescent
  • Finish: Long and dry with a pleasant lemony taste lingering on the tail of the sip
  • Food friendly: Light summer meals.  Consider dishes that would normally get paired with a white wine (think Pinot Grigio or Prosecco) such as chicken, white fish and cream based pasta dishes.  Try it with buttery cheeses like brie to cut through the creaminess of the cheese

Never say never.  Yes, its an awesome Bond flick. Also apparently, a what I can only assume is an unbearable, Justin Beiber "song".  And yeah, I put the word song in quotation marks. Just because it has systematically arranged letters set to random musical notes doesn't necessarily make it a song.  (Please don't mention the quotation marks thing on Twitter.  I understand that Beiber owns all of Twitter.)  But more than an excuse to watch Sean Connery being his suave, Scottish self, it's a good rule to live by in general.  I thought that I hated sour beers.  Last year at a beer event during Chicago Craft Beer Week, someone handed me a tasting glass and told me to try what was in it.  Let me just say, you really ought to give a girl a heads up before she is going to try a sour beer for the first time.  And up to the beginning of this summer, I hadn't touched one since.  My connection in Wisconsin smuggled me back a four pack of New Glarus' Berliner Weiss in May because, well, that's what connections tend to do.  I, in my ignorance, didn't know what a Berliner Weiss was.  But I did know that I like shiny red foil and that I definitely love New Glarus.  I enjoyed my first snifter.  And greedily coveted my second third and sixth bottle (luckily connections also get you more of the good stuff if you ask politely.)  Imagine my surprise when I did a bit of research and discovered that it was a dreaded sour.  And thus the gateway to Sours opened and swallowed my soul.

                                                                         I can't quote Army of Darkness and not post a clip.  To be relevant, you can imagine that I'm Ash and my snifter is the Boomstick.  Shop Smart.  Shop S-Mart.

German in origin, Berliner Weiss is a relatively obscure beer that is beginning to make a current foothold in the American craft beer market.  Back in the 19th century, it was considered one of the most popular beers in Berlin (I'm going to let you figure out just how it got it's name.  Try not to strain yourself.)  It's brewed with a quarter to fifty percent of wheat grains. Traditionally the beer is soured in a bottle conditioned second fermentation or by the introduction of a bacteria called Lactobacillus (which is a strain that converts sugar to lactic acid. Also used in making yogurt or sourdough bread.  Now you know and knowing is half the battle.)  It's known for being highly carbonated and often contains sediment (second fermentation in a bottle will do that to a fella.)   In Germany, it's common to add fruit syrup to the beer.  Luckily for me, American Berliner Weisses often brew their beers with fruit forward notes and take the DYI option out of the equation.  I was able to try a Guava Berliner Weiss made by Cigar City in June that made me consider a move to Tampa just to have a second glass.  Then I remembered that I'd probably be expected to root for the Dolphins if I lived  there.  Not.  Gonna. Happen. 

Maybe it's the snifter, but it just looks refreshing, right?
My Berliner Weiss poured a relatively clear, lightly golden, straw yellow liquid.  There was a hint of very pale green around the edges when held to the light.  It sported a pure white, two finger head that left huge fluffy lacing all around the glass.  The head itself fell gently to the surface after a few minutes and disappeared a bit less than midway through the drink.  The lacing, however, stuck around for a while in all of it soap bubble gorgeousness.  It sort of reminded me of sunshine in a glass.  Just so summery and refreshing to look at.  I could smell the sour scent of fermented white grapes easily, but not overpoweringly so by any means.  The tart aroma of wheat and some bready yeast reminded me that this was definitely a wheat based beer.  The sweetness from cereal grains balanced out the sour aroma.  There was a well placed a zip of acidity from lemon zest that rounded out the aroma nicely.  As expected, the taste followed the nose note for note.  It was sweeter than I had expected (from my previous experience with sours at least) but the sour grape quality made no bones that this was a sour beer. The fermented wheat gave the needed tartness to water down a puckered mouth, but was also nicely balanced by the brightness from the lemon zest.  Abundant carbonation helped to keep the mouth feel light and fizzy.  A long, pleasant finish lingered, ending with a bit of citrus on the tongue.

Soapy, fizzy, foamy bubbles.  The best kind.
They have good heads on their shoulder's at New Glarus.
 I have seen the light and it is truly refreshing.  There is a huge part of me that feels foolish for not embracing the world of Sour beer because of a bad (horrible, life questioning, not to be overly dramatic but possibly made me consider just playing it safe and drinking only Blue Moons from now on) experience with just one.  There's an even bigger part that's very glad that I gave New Glarus a chance to usher me into the fold with such a warm weather friendly beer.  I would serve this Berliner Weiss with lighter foods, such as summer salads or creamy pasta dishes (pasta with salmon and cream sauce  and a simple garden salad with balsamic dressing? Yes, please.  More.)  I'm not a fan of avocados personally, but I think that this beer would also pair wonderfully (and cut through the fruit's creaminess) with this salad of chicken, avocados and oranges.  But even on it's lonesome self, this is a damn fine beer to while away a summer's afternoon.  New Glarus, my taste buds are forever in your debt. 

And as a footnote, I have tickets to a large beer fest this Saturday and, for the first time, I plan on actively seeking out Sour beers to sample there.  In fact, I'll be checking out as many interesting beers of all styles as well as all the up & coming local breweries as I (and my dainty little tasting glass) can possible handle.   I'm be posting real time updates on this blog's FaceBook page through out the afternoon Saturday.  I may even tweet (as long as you guys haven't turned King Beiber against me.  Loose lips, people.)   Check it out if you're interested.