Monday, February 8, 2010

Some Like It Hottenroth

Who's in the mood for a low alcohol, sour ale that's made using a wild bacteria culture? I'm guessing there aren't too many hands raised, but the truth of the matter is that these are all elements of a rare style of beer from Germany called Berliner Weisse.

The Berliner Weisse, as you may have guessed from the name, has roots in the city of Berlin and it's surrounding area dating back to about the 16th century, and is brewed with a large proportion of wheat. The beer tends to stick to the lower end of the alcohol by volume (ABV) spectrum, typically coming in around 3.0% ABV (to compare, most macro beers like Budweiser, Coors, etc tend to fall in the 4-5% ABV range, while most "sessionable" craft beers come in around 5-6% ABV), with the sour flavor created either by secondary fermentation in the bottle or by adding lactobacillus during the brewing process.

While a Berliner Weisse can certainly be enjoyed on it's own, it is often paired with flavored syrups, with raspberry and woodruff being two of the most popular choices.

The style is still somewhat difficult to come by, yet a growing number of craft breweries in the United States have been diving into it to offer up their own take. One such stab at the style is Hottenroth from The Bruery, a less than two year old establishment out of Southern California that has been cranking out an array of incredibly solid and flavorful beers since day one.

Hottenroth pours a light golden color that is mostly clear but has a slight haze to it. The mid-sized head quickly dissolves leaving no residue on the glass. Interesting. This one looks very much like a beer, yet at the same time doesn't. Very difficult to explain.

The aroma is incredibly tart and sour, with a bit of a funk to it. Green apple, a touch of lemon and maybe a bit of grass and wheat are present. There's not a ton going on here, but the tartness is very cool, especially when mixed with the apple. This carries over into the flavor which I really enjoyed. There is a LOT more tartness, with the beer being sour to the point of puckering your lips after each sip. Green apple blends in well throughout. Lemon notes are kept on the backburner for the most part but are definitely there as citrus plays a part throughout. Wheat chimes in toward the finish of each sip, which gets a bit bready at times, especially as the beer warms up a bit. There is certainly a lot of funk here too, but it fits in well.

This is good stuff. I can't really compare it to much else as the only Berliner Weisse that I can recall sampling in the past is the Dogfish Head Festina Peche and the last time I had it was years ago in a small sample glass at a beer festival. As the Hottenroth stands, it does a lot with a little. I really loved the overall sourness throughout. Could I drink this one or this style in general often? Probably not, bit it is most definitely a nice treat to have every now and then. I urge you to seek this one out and in fact seek out any beers from The Bruery, as I've had the pleasure of trying four or five different styles from them thus far and they've all been top notch.

Hopback, beer, Berliner Weisse, Germany, lactobacillus, The Bruery, Hottenroth, California