Fearful Symmetries

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31 August, 2015

Dan Carey's Thumbprint Is All Over This Beer: Berliner Weisse by New Glarus Brewing

The grand parade of Berliner Weisses continues today with Dan Carey's take on the style from New Glarus.

This is the fourth or fifth Berliner Weisse that I've reviewed this summer. If you'd have told me back in, say, 2008 that I wouldn't have to wait too long before I had this many to choose from, I'd probably have called you crazy. I just couldn't see sour beers having that great of an audience. Hence why I tend not to prognosticate. This light, bubbly, sour wheat beer, this "Champagne of the North", is readily available here from multiple breweries throughout the summer and probably throughout the year.

As best I can tell either Carey first brewed Berliner Weisse for the limited-release Unplugged series back in 2008 or that year was the last time it was brewed before going into hiatus. Either way it returned in 2013 and has been a Thumbprint (i.e. - the new name for Unplugged, MTV references having become passé a long time ago.) release ever since.

Berliner Weisse pours a yellow/light gold color and is hazy. As you'd expect from a beer called the "Champagne of the North", it was quite effervescent. My glass was adorned with a big, pillowy white head with lots of bubbles going up the glass. I do believe that last year's batch was criticized for being overly carbonated.

Brewmaster Dan Carey puts his own touch on his Berliner Weisse by adding grape juice to the beer. Prior to the beer's resurrection in 2013, Pinot Grigio and Riesling grape juice was added to the beer although it seems that only the latter has been used since the reintroduction. I caught that grape in the nose as well as the lemony sour aroma from the lactic acid bacteria. Faint but still present was a bit of graininess from the Wisconsin white wheat. I wonder why white wheat was used here instead of red wheat. What's the difference in wheat varieties for brewing?

The taste mimics the aroma. At first I discerned the mellow grape and then the lemony sourness. The grape flavor was not very strong but one can certainly taste it. I suppose it counters the tartness a little bit with a touch of sweetness. A surfeit of carbonation adds some dryness and that fine alliterative Wisconsin white wheat is present as well with a bit of grainy flavor lingering in the background.

Berliner Weisse finished with some of the lemony tartness hanging around as well as that dry, fizzy carbonic acid bite. My glass was left with some good Schaumhaftvermoegen.

This year's batch seems to be less tart than in years past. I don't write that to imply that this Berliner Weisse isn't tart or is in some way compromised, but rather that it seems just a bit less pucker-inducing than previous batches. This batch also tastes lighter to me; there is less body here. Previous iterations just seemed to be fuller tasting all around – more sour, more grape, more grain. Not that they were imperial or doppel versions of the style, mind you, but they tasted bigger to my palate.

Is this new diminutive version a problem? No, not really. All of the requisite flavors are still there and Dan Carey still sets his Berliner Weisse apart by his use of grape juice. It's probably an even better summer thirst quencher now. On the other hand, the fuller tasting version had its virtues as well. It was more of a sipping beer whereas the lighter iteration is more for quaffing. Plus I think the heartier version fared better with heartier fare. This one pairs better with lighter foods such as…

Junk food pairing: Pair New Glarus' Berliner Weisse with lighter junk foods such as Cheddar Cheese Almond Nut-Thins or a nice, greasy plain Kartoffelchip.

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|| Palmer, 4:11 PM


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