Beer Review: Neshaminy Creek’s Cherry Berlinerweisse

Name: Cherry Berlinerweisse
Brewing Company: Neshaminy Creek Brewing Company
Location: Croydon, PA
Style: Sour – Berliner Weisse
ABV: 3.5%

Tart, yet refreshing. A flavorful beer that makes you pucker, but sweet enough to make you want more.

A warm day by the pool is a perfect way to enjoy this beer.

From Neshaminy Creek’s page for the beer:

German-Style Summer Ale Conditioned on Tart Cherry Juice from King Orchards of Michigan.

Refreshing and tart with a balanced Cherry and cracker-like malt backbone, simple yet well defined, we’ve never brewed a beer this perfect for the Summer before, and we hope you agree..

This past weekend, Neshaminy Creek Brewing was hosting the Trenton Punk Rock Flea Market. My wife and I went, having had a good time when visited the Flea Market in the past when they set up in (shocker!) Trenton. With Trenton being just a short ride over a bridge to Pennsylvania, the Flea Market has set up shop at Neshaminy Creek Brewing in Croydon, PA in the past. So, considering how much I’ve enjoyed Neshaminy Creek’s beers and the Flea Market had a day set in August at Neshaminy Creek Brewing, we knew we were going. I also knew I was going to walk out of there with something to take home. Keeping with a theme of lower ABV beers I’ve been following, I grabbed a four pack of this beer upon my wife’s suggestion. She knows I like the style and figured it would be a good summer beer. She doesn’t drink beer, but she’s extremely observant of what I like and when I ramble on about beer.

Short story: my wife was right about the beer. Long story: let me expand upon that.

I’ve had my fair share of Berliner Weisses, about 20, not nearly as many as I’ve had of Pilsner, Stouts, or IPAs. But enough to have a good idea of what I like in the style, what to expect. That’s just a precursor for where I come from when it comes to the style.

There was a huge pop when I cracked open the can. The funk aroma coming of the beer was welcome and gave me an indication that this beer was crafted fairly well. The beer pours out a reddish pink, which is exactly as expected given the beer was made with cherries. So far, so good.

First sip is potent, tart cherry. Maybe the most tart of any beer I’ve had with cherries. The yeast and acidic bacteria at play in the beer likely enhanced the natural tartness of the cherries. This is all good.

The tartness lingers throughout the progression of the flavors, but becomes less pronounced once the sweetness takes over. This beer is supremely tart, but extremely flavorful aside from the tartness. Fortunately, the tart/sour components don’t overpower the other flavor elements even they if are the most prominent elements of the beer. Many Berliner Weisse beers have some kind of sweet fruit – or traditionally in Berlin, a sweet syrup is added as I pointed out in my feature on the style – to balance the tartness. Using a fruit that exhibits both components – very sweet and tart, is a fine way to hew along that tradition and plays well into the base elements of the beer.

I probably should have let the beer sit in the fridge or on ice a little longer than I did, I was too eager to try it. Although the beer came from a fridge at the brewery, that fridge was constantly being opened and closed as the brewery was VERY packed with people, customers who were buying cans of beer, so the beer wasn’t at optimal coldness to begin with AND I’m about an hour drive from the brewery. Long story short (too late), I may have enjoyed it more were it colder, and it may have taken a little longer to warm outside if the beer was colder when I poured it. Be that as it may, the beer was still quite good.

I wanted to give this beer the full chance to shine, so I had a second can the following day. Just like the first can, it popped big time, the sugars and yeast making for quite a bit of pressure and a big fluffy head. I tasted even more than what I expected from the interpretation of the style – the tartness of the cherries popped a little more and carbonation was more fizzy. Both pleasing elements of the beer. It isn’t a beer you can chug (and really, who wants to chug a beer with this much flavor!), but with the low ABV, it is a flavorful ale with a low enough ABV (3.5%) that having three in quick succession would likely not knock you on your rear end.

Neshaminy Creek Brewing Company’s highest profile beers are their IPAs, particularly The Shape of Hops to Come, one of the most acclaimed Imperial IPAs from the East Coast. However, in Cherry Berlinerweisse, Neshaminy Creek has brewed a flavorful, sour & tart Germanic inspired ale that shows off a similar level of complexity and a beer well-suited to warm weather and poolside sipping (as my picture above shows).

Neshaminy Creek has always had very eye-catching artwork on their cans and when they did a “rebrand” earlier in the year, they reached out to their longtime artist JP Flexner to help out. The art on the can below is shows a battle between (I’m guessing) the yeast, lactic acid bacteria, and cherries that give the beer its complex flavor all tamed by a brave undersea diver who just might be a brewer.

Cool can, tasty beer. What more do you need?

Neshaminy Creek Brewing Company’s beers are available in PA, NJ, MD, and DE.

Recommended link to Untappd 3.75-Bottle Cap rating.

Draught Diversion: Styles in Focus – Berliner Weisse

Draught Diversions is the catchall label for mini-rants, think-pieces, and posts that don’t just focus on one beer here at The Tap Takeover. We hope you don’t grow too weary of the alcohol alliterative names we use…

Since I reviewed a Berliner Weissbier earlier in the week (White Birch Raspberry Berliner Weisse), I figured I write about the style in more detail. As the name would imply, the style originated in Germany like many styles of beer, Berlin specifically. As it so happens, the previous two styles upon which I focused originated in Germany, too (Bock and Dunkelweizen). I didn’t quite plan that, but clearly my leanings towards German styles is more evident than ever. Be that as it may, the “Weisse” is a reference to the color of the beer, often a pale white, and not the wheat. When served at breweries in Germany, the Berliner Weissebier is traditionally served with sweet syrup; (and likely still is) Raspberry and Woodruff for Red or Green respectively. Woodruff is a flower extract whose syrup is also used for brandy, jelly and soft drinks. I had a couple at local breweries (Jughandle and Flounder) and both offered Raspberry, as well as Lemon and Elderflower syrups.

 

Although some breweries have the beer as part of the year-round portfolio, the beer is a great summer style as evidenced by the seasonal nature of probably the most well-known Berliner Weisses produced in the US, Dogfish Head’s Festina Peche. It is also one of the most long-standing beers in their line-up, appearing annually in the summer since 2007. It has been too long since I’ve had this one, but I could go on about Dogfish for quite a long time.

I like to think of the Berliner Weissbier as a cousin to the (currently) more popular and prevalent Gose style ale. As I said in my review this week, both are sour ales with German roots, both have some wheat component in their malt bill and most varieties of both have some kind of fruit additive to balance out the sour and tart nature of the beer. One of the primary differences is that most, if not all, Gose beers have salt added to the brewing process where the Berliner Weisse typically does not have the salt. I like both styles quite a bit, but if I were to hand a person unacquainted with sour beers, or even wary of sour style, one to try, it would definitely be a Berliner Weisse. It is more approachable and less face-puckering than a Gose.

Dear Victory Brewing: Please bring this beer back

For the Berliner Weissbiers I’ve had and seen in bottles/cans, many have had some kind of fruit syrup/puree flavoring component. A couple of years ago, one of my favorite breweries, Victory Brewing, brewed and bottled a Berliner Weisse as part of their experimental Blackboard series which was brewed with Elderflower. I would love for this to make some kind of return from Victory. One of NJ’s iconic breweries, River Horse, brews a tasty Cherry Berliner Weisse, too.

Some other Berliner Weissbiers I’d like to try:

Like the great majority of beer from The Bruery/Bruery Terreux®, this beer is available only in 750ml bottles and draft

 

Last year and a few weeks ago, I wrote about summer beers and I touched on a couple of Gose beers, but I now realize Berliner Weisse style should have received some attention and at least one slot in the 2018 Summer Sixpack. One of the best-selling and best rated beers over the last couple of years is Dogfish Head’s SeaQuench Ale, a beer lauded for how thirst-quenching it is. Although categorized as a Gose on untappd, SeaQuench happens to be a blend of three German styles including Berliner Weisse.

For a quick reference here is a List Berliner Weissbiers on Beer Advocate and a more exhaustive overview of the style over at All About Beer.

I’ll end it with this – give a Berliner Weisse a try if you happen upon one in your local brewery, see one on draft at your favorite bar/taproom, or if you see one on the shelves of your bottle shop. It is a classic style with much appeal and with an ABV often below 5%, it shouldn’t set you off your rocker too much..

Beer Review: White Birch Raspberry Berliner Weisse

Name: Raspberry Berliner Weisse
Brewing Company: White Birch Brewing
Location: Nashua, NH
Style: Sour – Berliner Weisse
Style: 5.5%

From the beer’s description on untappd:

Napoleon’s troops referred to Berliner Weisse as the “Champagne of the North” due to its lively and elegant character. Today this style is described by some as the most refreshing beer in the world. Our Raspberry Berliner Weisse is fermented with a great raspberry puree. This approach brings a refreshing raspberry flavor and aroma to a German classic. We feel our approach creates an authentic interpretation of the traditional “mit syrup” or with syrup method of serving this classic summer refresher. We hope you enjoy this unique year round beer.

Although similar to the Gose style of beer, Berliner Weisse is maybe slightly less popular at the moment than the Gose. Both are wheat sour ales originating in Germany and often have some kind of sweet/fruit to balance the sour/tartness of the beer. I’ve had a little more than a dozen Berliner Weissbiers including this one from White Birch Brewing.

I was in the mood for something a little different when visited one of my local beer stores. I wanted something more than a few steps removed from another IPA or even a pilsner. I craved a beer that had a sweet and tart balance with  maybe a hint of a fruit component. In other words I figured I’d go for a Gose or a Berliner Weisse and this beer was exactly what I was looking for – a near perfect balance between the sour/tart elements natural to the beer and the highly sweet components from the raspberry puree.

But let us back up to the start of the beer, which pours very pale/white. This isn’t too surprising, after all the “Weisse” of the name refers to the color of the beer (white) and not the wheat components. I thought the beer was going to have more of a red or pink tinge from the raspberry puree added, but alas, the beer is quite white. I was only slightly nervous.

It doesn’t smell too sour or tart, but I did get a hint of raspberry so that’s a plus. That first sip really hit the spot. The raspberry balance/flavor is just right for me. I’ve had plenty of beers with an element of fruit added and the fruit can be  too overpowering. Here, the brewers at White Birch Brewing seemed to have worked this recipe to perfection since the balance is really nice. The sweetness blends very well with the sour/tart nature of the beer. Raspberry can be a tart flavor and here that works quite well. Before I knew it, I’d finished ¾ of the beer and only a half-hour had passed since I cracked open the first beer.

Let’s put it this way – I enjoyed the beer so much I immediately cracked open a second can of the beer as I was watching Thor: Ragnarok. White Birch touts this as a year round brew but for me, it is a perfect pool-side, warm weather beer.

Recommended, link to Untappd 4.25-star rating.

Untapped badges earned with this beer: Ich Bin Ein Berliner (Level 3)

Ich Bin Ein Berliner (Level 3)

The classic Berliner Weisse is crisp, cloudy, and sour. Once the most popular beer style in Berlin, it’s gained notoriety and popularity around the globe making us all proud to be Berliners. That’s 15 different beers with the style of Berliner Weisse.

Draught Diversions: Jughandle Brewing Company (Tinton Falls, NJ)

Draught Diversions is the catchall label for mini-rants, think-pieces, and basically non-review posts here at the Tap Takeover. We hope you don’t grow too weary of the alcohol alliterative names we use…

This is the first of what will be several posts featuring a single brewery I’ve visited. There are currently 73 production breweries in NJ and with state’s small size from a geographical perspective, it is quite easy to find a brewery either intentionally (by visiting the great and indispensable NJ Craft Beer website) or by accident. In my case, there are 4 or 5 micro/nanobreweries/brewpubs within about 15 miles of my house as of this writing. (More are on the way in some phase of start-up.)

Which brings me to Jughandle Brewing in Tinton Falls, NJ, soon to be celebrating their first year of brewing and selling beer. They have a great location, just off of the Garden State Parkway (Exit 102) and barely a mile from the Jersey Shore Outlets, which makes it very convenient to stop there after a day of shopping at the outlets or on the way home from the beach. In my case, my wife and I decided to enjoy the lovely weather and try to get some things at the outlets. We stopped in the brewery on our way home. After all, we had to pass it the brewery on our way to the Garden State Parkway after we left the outlets.

The brewery is located in a strip mall, which might seem somewhat odd initially. At least to folks not from NJ and unfamiliar with the peculiar laws surrounding breweries and microbreweries in particular. There are specific laws that preclude breweries from selling food. On the other hand, breweries in NJ like Jughandle and others (for example Ship Bottom in Beach Haven, Twin Elephant in Chatham, and Wet Ticket in Rahway) allow patrons to bring food inside the brewery. There’s a pizzeria and I think a Mexican take out place in the same strip mall as Jughandle.

What about the beer? What impressed me the most about the beer was the variety of styles on tap, with quality across the board for the four beers I sampled. There are too many breweries, I can think of a couple in NJ, that seem to only brew IPAs or focus on one primary style…or when you visit one of the smaller breweries and of the 12 taps, 9 are variations of one style. Not so with Jughandle, in addition to the styles I had, they were also pouring a Scotch Ale, a Brown Ale, a Irish-style Stout as well as a couple of IPAs

A cleverly designed flight paddle

I had four tasters, which is how many these fine folks include in their flight. I love the flight paddle they use for delivering their flight of tasters. I started off with Berliner Weisse with Raspberry – a very refreshing beer perfect for summer. Second was the Belgian Dubbel, a style I don’t see very often from smaller breweries, also quite good. Third was another style, steeped in tradition, but sort of drowned out by IPAs and other popular styles: Dunkelweizen. Jughandle’s Dunkelweizen really matched well against the style profile. Last was the classic German Hefeweizen and a very good rendition of it from the fine folks at Jughandle.  I’d likely fill my growler with their Berliner Weisse or Hefeweizen were I to visit them again.

I’d highly recommend stopping in if your travels take you near their location. If you are in NJ and enjoy quality beer, making Jughandle a part of your trip would be worth it.

As I mentioned at the top of my post, Jughandle is celebrating the first year on June 15 with a Pig Roast. Were I a little bit closer, I’d probably attend.

Ein Prosit!