Everybody knows how long and harsh Berlin winters can be. And so it is no wonder that as soon as the days become warmer and longer, Berliners flock outside to the city’s many parks and beer gardens to enjoy the sun with some cold drinks. Nowadays, Pilsener, Radler or Weinschorle are most people’s drinks of choice but not too long ago, Berliner Weisse was the absolute favorite. And although it has surpassed its peak of popularity, you will still be able to spot one of the colourful drinks now and then.
Berliner Weisse, short for Berliner Weißbier, is the name of a group of top-fermented beers which are usually brewed from a mix of wheat and barley malt. The beer has a slightly cloudy, light yellow color and a somewhat sour taste.
But rather than the type of beer itself, it was a mix drink which made Berliner Weisse famous far beyond the German capital’s borders. This beverage with its distinct color is known as…
The mix of the beer with raspberry or woodruff syrup, dubbed Berliner Weisse “rot” or “grün” (red or green), makes for a refreshing summer drink.
To mix the drink, you first pour 2cl of the desired syurp into the glass and then top it up with a bottle of Berliner Weisse. Make sure to pour it with an energetic move in order to form a beautiful foam crown. After all, German beer lovers are not amused by a stale looking beer without foam! Very unusual for a beer in Germany, Berliner Weisse mit Schuss is typically drunk through a straw. However, we advise to refrain from this for environmental reasons!
Not only Berliners love this summery beverage. A widely spread legend even states that Napoleon’s soldiers called it “Champagne of the North” after they had tried it for the first time.
Origins of the Berlin original
The consumption of Berliner Weisse mit Schuss was very uncommon for a long time. People would drink the beer together with a shot of caraway liquor or Korn, at most. From the 19th century only, bars started serving the beer mix which was prepared from scratch. Later on, bottles of ready-made mixes started being sold in stores, restaurants and bars. The range of mixers was quickly expanded to other botanicals such as black currant, cherry or elderflower.
Berliner Weißbier in its purest form, however, has a way longer tradition dating back to the 16th century. In the 1700s it even became Berliners’ favourite drink. During those times, Pilsener-style beer was still unknown. And so there were countless breweries solely specialized in producing the distinct wheat bear. Around 700 bars across Berlin specifically sold the local beer specialty.
In the early days, the official glasses used for Berliner Weisse were big cylinders which contained more than two litres. These had to be held with two hands and were highly impractial so that smaller versions were soon produced. Today, the most common glass is a hemispherical cup with a long stem.
Unfortunately, this beer brewing method had lost in importance and popularity over many years. But evoked through the craft beer movement, Berliner Weißbier is finally seeing a little renaissance. Breweries like BRLO or BrewBaker have created their own versions of Berliner Weisse and are thereby making it attractive again for a younger crowd.
Nothing here yet – do you know of anything similar from other countries? Let us know!