Friday, May 24, 2013

Weisse Weisse Baby

Review of Westbrook's Weisse Weisse Baby podcast
  [link to podcast page]

Westbrook Brewing released their Weisse Weisse Baby Berliner Weisse style beer last month, and it has finally made its way to New York. We picked up a 750ml bottle of WWB at Good Beer ($9.99 retail) this week and gave it a try.

Berliner Weisse is not a very common style, but we've had the opportunity to enjoy a number of them, both in Germany and in the U.S., both commercial beers and homebrews. Two of our all time favorites were a Strawberry Berliner Weisse at Dieu Du Ciel brewpub many years ago, and one we helped brew in the the Brooklyn backyard of our beer pal Bill "Salty Dog" Coleman ages ago. I think that's when he coined the name Brooklyner Weisse well in advance of another better known brewery from that borough!

Westbrook's 4% a.b.v. version of the style was assertively tart, refreshingly sour, and brightly effervescent, with ticklish, prickly carbonation. It poured out with a rich white foamy head that dissolved quickly into the beer, leaving only a meager residual head. Its color was a medium straw hue, expectedly hazy.

Weisse Weisse had a slight lactic note in the nose, with a hint of fruitiness and a slight cider quality, with some wheat malt notes as well. The flavor achieved a level of sourness that was deliciously balanced, melding with the somewhat cereal-like wheat malt flavor, and only a hint of hop flavor and bitterness, if that. This will definitely be found in our fridge on a regular basis once we enter that long stretch of 80+ degree weather known as summer in the city!

A difficult style to master, Berliner Weisse is at once both mild in all beer characteristics and tart/sour. Berliner Weisse is made with wheat malt (about 50% of the mash), and the wort is never brought to a boil. Since the bittering agents in hops aren't fully activated in sub-boiling temperatures, there are other ways one can get some bitterness out of the hops: one is to add hops to the mash -- useful when doing a decoction mash; another is to add the hops in a separate boil kettle, used when doing an infusion mash.

The sourness in the beer comes from lactic acid. Lactic bacteria is generally among the wild organisms naturally existing on the grain husks. Since the wort isn't boiled, many of those organisms (bacteria and wild yeast) can survive the brewing process, and, thus, figure into the fermentation, and can radically influence the characteristics of the beer. Berliner Weisse is not entirely spontaneously fermented, like lambic -- ale yeast is pitched into the cooled wort to ferment the beer, though it may be competing with some wild cousins.

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