Is Berliner Weisse a lager or ale?

Answered by Randy McIntyre

Berliner Weisse is actually classified as an ale, despite its similarities to some lagers. Ales and lagers are two different types of beer that are brewed using different yeast strains and fermentation processes.

Ales are typically fermented at warmer temperatures using top-fermenting yeast strains, which impart fruity and estery flavors to the beer. On the other hand, lagers are fermented at cooler temperatures using bottom-fermenting yeast strains, resulting in a cleaner and crisper taste.

Berliner Weisse is a traditional German sour wheat beer that originated in Berlin. It is brewed using a mixture of malted barley and wheat, giving it a light and refreshing character. The unique characteristic of Berliner Weisse is its sourness, which is achieved through a specific fermentation process.

During the brewing process, Berliner Weisse undergoes a primary fermentation with a specific strain of yeast, typically a Saccharomyces cerevisiae strain. This initial fermentation helps to develop the alcohol content and some of the flavors in the beer. However, Berliner Weisse is not fully fermented at this stage.

After the primary fermentation, Berliner Weisse undergoes a secondary fermentation with lactic acid bacteria, such as Lactobacillus. This bacteria produces lactic acid, which gives the beer its distinct sour taste. The secondary fermentation can take anywhere from a few days to several months, depending on the desired level of sourness.

The final product is a tart and acidic beer with a low alcohol content, usually around 2-4% ABV. It is often served with a flavored syrup, such as raspberry or woodruff, to balance out the sourness.

Despite its ale classification, Berliner Weisse shares some similarities with lagers due to its light and crisp nature. This has led to some confusion in categorizing the beer. However, it is important to note that the fermentation process and yeast strains used in brewing Berliner Weisse align more closely with ales.

Berliner Weisse is a unique German ale that is brewed using a combination of malted barley, wheat, and a specific fermentation process involving both yeast and lactic acid bacteria. Its sour and refreshing taste sets it apart from other beer styles and makes it a beloved choice among beer enthusiasts.