The wife and I made a trek over to Next Door Brewing
over the weekend. I needed a beer after agreeing to bid rather more than I had wanted on a house. Id' heard tell that there was a Berliner Weisse available along with a trio of flavored syrups. It was barely above freezing outside so it was not exactly optimal weather for a light, low-alcohol, high-quaffability brew but occasio praeceps
At its most popular, there were reputed to be several hundred breweries making Berliner Weisse. But the ever-increasing popularity of lagers, the spread of the formerly Bavarian-only Reinheitsgebot
, and various wars led to the style's decline. Today I believe there are only one or two larger breweries still making the bier along with a smattering of microbreweries doing their level best to revive the indigenous style.
I have read that the practice of adding a shot of syrup ("mit Schuss
") originated sometime during the bier's heyday, the 19th century, and was common by 1900. Traditionally drinkers are given the choice between raspberry (Himbeere
) or woodruff (Waldmeister
). Next Door, however, offers raspberry, mango, and Blue Curaçao. While there, we looked up just what the heck Blue Curaçao was and discovered that it was the flavor of the peel of the laraha, a citrus fruit found on the island of Curaçao. Why the liqueur is colored blue remains a mystery.
I ordered a flight of four samples: the straight Berliner Weisse and one each of every syrup.
The unadulterated bier was a hazy light yellow. There was no head but I could see a goodly number of bubbles inside the glass. Taking a whiff, I caught the expected citrus sourness characteristic of the Lactobacillus-laced style. Unexpected, however, was a rather strong floral scent that was slightly sweet. I was reminded of rose hip jelly. The beer menu noted that the bier was dry-hopped with Huell Melon hops, a newer German variety, and I presume that was what I was smelling.
That sweet floral scent was also found in the flavor along with a strong lactic tartness which gave a nice acidulousness. Despite a big hop flavor, the bier was not bitter and I could discern little grain flavor. (I'm not sure how much wheat Next Door used.) But it had a nice light body that made me yearn for a summer day.
: Raspberry. A nice light red color and the bier tasted like fresh raspberry juice. The syrup definitely added a touch of sweetness but it also lent a really nice tart flavor as well. All in all, it didn't dull the bier's natural tartness very much and instead added more. Well played, Next Door. That floral hop flavor lingered in the background and complemented the fruitiness very well.
: Mango. Hard to tell that it had any syrup in it by sight as it looked very similar to the unadulterated bier. Again, it had a nice fresh, fruity flavor but this was sweeter than the raspberry. But it had a somewhat restrained sweetness; this did not taste like sugar water by any means. The mango worked really well with the floral hop flavor again.
: Blue Curaçao. It had that turquoise hue that made it look like mouthwash. This syrup was much more subdued than the other two. The bitter orange flavor was really mellow while the syrup generally was not very sweet. I really enjoyed the gentle bitterness here. This one seemed to dull the floral hop flavor more than the others but it was still delightfully present.
The addition of Huell Melon was a stroke of genius. I thoroughly enjoyed the sweet floral aroma and flavor it provided. It added another dimension to the traditionally light, tart, and fizzy bier. (It comes in at 3.8% A.B.V.) I adored the fresh fruit flavors of the syrups as well as their restrained sweetness. Each added something different to the mix – tartness, a heightened (yet still fairly restrained) sweetness, and bitterness. I am really looking forward to the warmer weather as Next Door promises a rotating selection of syrups. Personally I am keen on tasting their take on woodruff syrup.
Junk food pairing: I recommend a hearty plate of poutine with your Berliner Weisse from Next Door. It's tartness and acidity make for a nice contrast to the food's smooth fattiness as will any fruit syrup you choose.
Next Door gets credit from me for serving half-pints. This allows for more sampling and accommodates those times when a full beer is too much. Less waste. And so, in addition to my Berliner Weisse flight, I also got to check out Pilot Pils #2.
It featured New Zealand Moteuka hops which lent a rather nice citrus flavor and bitterness. I felt it had the hoppiness more like a Czech pils than a German one but it was not as hoppy as a full-on version of the former. It had a nice bready flavor but felt that it should have been more like cracker. It just tasted heavier than I expect from a pils. And it needed more carbonation. Not many bubbles to be found and precious little of the fizzy taste. It should have been a bit drier, to my taste. On the other hand, I really liked the hops and the level of hoppiness here.
EVEN MORE BONUS CONTENT!!
My wife ordered a pint of the Märzen and I had a sip. It was tasty. Very tasty indeed. I really liked the malt flavor which was nice'n'toasty, full of Maillard reactiony goodness.
Labels: Beer, Berliner Weisse, Next Door Brewing