When summer is at its zenith, the only antidote during those long hot days is a refreshing pint of low-alcohol beer. Pale ales, session IPAs and hefeweizens are common styles, but one that has lately been capturing the attention of local brewers is the Berliner Weisse, a tart German-style wheat beer that falls on the approachable end of sour styles, typically falling between a light and crisp 3 to 5 percent ABV. (The tartness comes from fermenting lactic acid bacteria in addition to yeast.)
A handful of Texas breweries have been producing it just in time for the upcoming scorching months. Here are five solid Berliner Weisse-style brews from this state to seek out in bars and stores:
Austin Beerworks Einhorn: This summer seasonal is a staple of the style (and because it was one of the first among Central Texas breweries, it’s also a bit of a pioneer that established the bar for the rest). Always highly anticipated (and not out quite yet this year), Einhorn has the snap of lemon that has defined the style, with a burst of effervescence on the tongue that gives way to a spark of astringency. At only 3.5 percent ABV, it’s one of those beers you’ll find yourself downing again and again and feeling only refreshed afterward.
Freetail Brewing Yo Soy Un Berliner: As Freetail’s Scott Metzger announced on Twitter the other night, the San Antonio brewpub’s Yo Soy Un Berliner is becoming a canned summer seasonal (and boy, is that can a beaut). “Wanted to do a canned Berliner for a long time,” he said in a later tweet. “Apparently I wasn’t alone! A good time to be a German-style sour ale drinker!” But even if Berliner Weisse brews are taking up a lot of shelf space this year, make room for Yo Soy Un Berliner.
Independence Brewing Redbud: As I wrote last month in a canned beer round-up for Austin360, this new brew from local brewery stalwarts Independence, Redbud (named after a beloved Austin watering hole) is “a striking example of the German style, unfolding slowly like a flower, with a soft citrus nose and a crisp acidity that blooms into a tart, easy-drinking treat. Redbud’s sour soul won’t make you pucker; instead, you’ll relish the dance each sip makes on your tongue.”
Live Oak Berliner Weisse: My first taste of Live Oak’s latest release a couple of weeks ago made me wish, yet again, that the Austin brewery would hurry up and start packaging their beers already (which will happen with the opening of a much larger brewing space in East Austin). That’s because the Berliner Weisse is exactly the sort of clean, perfectly balanced beer I’d want with me on a river float or a backyard barbecue. It’s a stand-out of the style so well done that no aspect has gone unconsidered. Even the logo lettering features the authentic spelling with the ß where the two s’s should be.
Saint Arnold Boiler Room: One of my favorite beers from this longtime Houston brewery, the 3.5 percent ABV Boiler Room is one of their newer beers, a disarmingly light-bodied brew packed with flavor. While it might not completely scratch anyone’s itch for a good tart punch, it’s still got notes of berry and lemon and a subtle funk. The Boiler Room isn’t as overtly sour as Einhorn, say, but its balance makes it a bottle you’ll turn to for liquid relief after a hot day outdoors.
I’ve also got to mention Black Star Co-op’s Waterloo, a sour mashed Berliner Weisse fermented with 252 lbs. of apricot (and served at the brewpub in a 20 oz. schooner). Black Star tapped Waterloo on April 25, but cross your fingers that 2015 hasn’t seen the last of it.