Monday, August 13, 2012

[A Beer a Day] Berliner F'n Weisse! Style of the Summer: Oarsman | Bell's Brewing | Kalamazoo, MI ✦ Festina Pêche | Dogfish Head Brewing | Milton, DE ✦ Waterloo | Black Star Co-Op & Brewery | Austin, TX

A subject I harp on about all the time on here is the matter of weather, because frankly, subjective temperature so judiciously determines my mood when deciding which liquid I am going to kill myself slowly with on that day.

Because I live in a place with weather that is so spectacularly shitty for up to a full 6 months, I'm kind of a miserable fucker because the kiln of Austin lures me away from drinking stouts, porters and barrel-aged mood-boosters every day.  For those untrustworthy non-drinkers, I'd imagine it being similar to the denial of coffee until the mercury recedes to somewhere below 160°.  

Oh, suuure, you say: ICED COFFEE!! *HEEEEEEEEE*  

But I'd suggest that you'd be some kind of a fucking asshole to recommend such a thing to a hardened chain drinker of delicious, hot, morning narcotics.  The same rule applies in regards to the iced coffee of beers: Never Stouts, which is my definition of everything on the planet that is not a damned stout.

I've somewhat come to terms with drinking lighter-bodied, weaker-potency beer in the summertime, because one would have to be a dismal sort of wanker to deny himself (or hers-) 12oz (or 16-) of bipartisanship while the imperial dark beers take whisky-barrel baths during hot months. 

My trick over the years has been to pick a style and really abuse it with the tough-love style of an Ike Turner.  A few summers ago, it was the pale ale that I was rodgering in the dark corner of the pub, then later, IPAs.  Last summer, I got real freaky with saisons.  All were fantastic summer flings.  

But during the course of this summer, I felt like I really met THE one: a refreshingly tasty little tart that had me trolling the beer walls and bottle shops of Austin like a rival's unprotected Facebook account.

Berliner Weisse beer has been making somewhat of a Leo Manzano-style comeback lately, hustling for life from the long-since-forgotten annals of records-keeping.  This is due to a number of theories I dreamt up in my head, the most obvious reason being that Americans have become fashionably obsessed with the craft movement in The States.  More craft breweries stateside means more competition, and therefore, more competition means more creativity with styles.  Thus, the sudden resurrection of a nearly-lost, five-centuries-old German beer making recipe, cos, well, some brewer had to eventually open up a book.

See also: climate impact, global warming, Al Gore, and the need for Never Stouts.

Berliner Weisse beers are like the champagne of beers, only you can't call it that because that title has been reserved by a few effete assholes at MillerCoors.  But indeed, its is very much effervescent like a nice sparkling wine, and rife with sour notes like lemon, pineapple, and granny smith apples.  Berliner Weisse are typically very low in alcohol (in comparison to its craft brethren, at least) which is great when you want to do things other drinky things later on in the day.  It behaves more like a refreshing lemonade or a shandy than their alcohol-by-volume counterparts in pale lagers.  They are imparted with sourness via lactic acid, or lactobacillus, and take a careful hand to make all of these characteristics coalesce with something more than the grace of Olympic backflopper, Stephen Feck.

This summer, they appeared to pop up all over the place -- which is great for a woeful summer person like myself -- and also appeared to make several pants around town very happy based on their popularity.  I wrote an earlier review on local celebs, Austin Beerworks', iteration of a Berliner Weisse called Einhorn, which kicked off the whole Berliner gang bang in general.  I'll say it confidently, Einhorn was easily in my top three favorite beers this year, Never Stout, or not.

I was unofficially introduced to the Berliner Weisse style two summers ago in Detroit by my beer buddy Antal.  At that time, Bell's had only produced their Berliner Weisse for only a few months with intentions of it being a perennial.  Two-and-a-half years later, its one of the veterans of the style in the USA.  That should give you an idea of how really nouveau this style really is.

Because it was my first -- and you know the saying -- it was automatically by default my OHMERGERG FERVERERT BERLENER EVAR!, until it appears my memory aggrandized it to a reputation it could not live up to when I found it again this summer while leisuring up in the Mitten.

Oh, for sure, it was good.  Delicious, even.  But not quite up to the standards that the boys at Austin Beerworks had recently set.  In fact, I was even thinking that maybe the recipe changed a bit to include a sample of brettanomyces, as the tart is also packaged with a horse blanket character.  It was not as refreshing as I remembered, and certainly not as crisp or sour.  The barnyard funk was, in this guy's opinion, superfluous.

ABV: 4.0%
Acquired: Foods for Living, Lansing, MI

Dogfish Head is a brewery who would naturally tackle a rare style, but then turn it on its ear with enhancements and bolt-ons.  It is quite a lovely beer, but nothing you'd want to marry and have it meet your parents.  In fact, drinking it is probably the kind of information you'd want to keep from your friends as well.

While Festina Pêche is indeed delicious and refreshing like a true Berliner Weisse, it cheats a bit by adding peach juice at bottling to balance the tartness.  So, while you're staying faithful to the style with your personal stout forbiddance, Festina Pêche is traipsing around trying to lure even the most discriminating of corn beer drinkers. You kind-of don't trust it all the way.

So, in a game of Fuck-Marry-Kill ... this one will probably max out in the hay.

ABV: 4.5%
Acquired: Spec's

I was saying in the pub recently that we are a lucky lot to be residing in a beer-smitten city, and one which reciprocates with brewers who love to give us great beer in return.

This is Black Star's Waterloo Berliner Weisse, and as you can see, majestic in appearance and baroque in vessel.  This version actually preceded Einhorn by a full year, which makes it the grandfather of Austin Berliners.

And like Einhorn, Waterloo is wonderfully satisfying and invigorating -- perfectly tart and acidic and fruity at just the right moments.  The best part is, you can feel free to drink six or eighteen of these in good conscience and in good conscious.  The thing steers like an Audi.  Lesser contemporaries fall by the wayside.

ABV: 3.5%
Acquired: Black Star Co-Op & Brewery

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