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Sour Power: Why Berliner Weisse is making a comeback

The Berliner Weisse is experiencing a renaissance. Here are the best versions of the Berlin's misunderstood sour beverage.

Photo: IMAGO / Manfred Segerer

The Berliner Weisse is arguably Berlin’s most traditional beer, but it is also its most misunderstood. While the Weisse, one of just a few sour beers brewed in Germany, has been enjoyed by Berliners for centuries, its true essence remains largely misconstrued.

Today, the beer is commonly linked with the addition of sugary red and green syrups, a practice employed over the years to veil the Weisse’s characteristically tart taste. Ironically, it’s exactly this sourness that’s appreciated in many contemporary craft beers today and might be one of the reasons why the Berliner Weisse is making a comeback in its original form.

The Weisse was the most popular beer in Berlin

Supposedly referred to as the ‘Champagne of the North’ by Napoleon’s troops at the start of the 19th century (arguably owed to its Sekt-like effervescence), the Berliner Weisse (a protected title only Berlin brewers are allowed to use) dates back to the 1600s. Traditionally a mild 3% alcohol, it’s made using particular yeasts and the Lactobacillus bacteria, giving the drink its characteristically light, cloudy and sour complexion.

In order to mask rather than celebrate the beer’s sour flavour, people came to flavour their Weisse with raspberry or woodruff (aka Waldmeister) syrup, making it look – and taste – like a fizzy drink for children (which is not to be scoffed at as an alternative to Radler during summer.)

At its peak, however, the Weisse was the most popular beer in Berlin, before falling down the pecking order thanks to the popularity of more accessible and palatable options like pilsners and lagers – so much so that after the reunification, Berliner Kindl was the only brewery still manufacturing the sour beer.

The Berliner Weisse is experiencing a renaissance

Thanks to several of the city’s contemporary brewers, who fell in love with the beer’s aromatic, fruity and sour taste, the Berliner Weisse is experiencing a renaissance. Served in chalice glasses, it’s a unique beer that is as integral to Berlin’s history as the currywurst. We selected five of the best Berliner Weisse to be enjoyed without syrup, honouring the centuries-old beverage in its pure, unadulterated form.

Luise Königliche Weisse

Lemke Brauerei

Photo: @brauereilemke

Served in a corked champagne bottle, the effervescent Luise really is an elegant offering. The sparkling wheat beer is aged in oak barrels and comes in at a surprising 8%, giving this particular Weisse more mature and heavier notes. Fizzy, fruity and a little bit tart, the Luise is spicy, dry and ultimately complex, living up to the Weisse’s title of ‘Champagne of the North’.



Photo: @schneeeuleberlin

Schneeeule is often regarded as the ultimate purveyor of Berliner Weisse. Making sour beer in the ways-of-old style, the brewery extracted yeast strains from old Weisse bottles. In doing so, they created a range of Berliner Weisses that have gained recognition across the world. Marlene, their classic Weisse, is a mildly sour and refreshing wheat beer with a soft and fruity character.

Berliner Weisse

Berliner Berg

Photo: @berlinerbergbrauerei

Wanting to pay homage to the city’s traditions, the Neukölln-based brewery made sure that it had a Berliner Weisse on the menu. Exceedingly palatable, the gold-coloured Weisse comes in heavy on the flavour, packing a punch with its invigorating floral and fruity lemony aftertaste.

BRLO Berliner Weisse


Photo: @brlobeer

Everything BRLO touches seems to turn to (liquid) gold, and their Berliner Weisse is no exception. Light, citrusy and thoroughly well-rounded, the Weisse is a classic sour, and, as the label says, “no, you don’t need syrup”. To also cater to the non-purists out there, BRLO teamed up with Karl’s to create a strawberry jam-flavoured Weisse, which has the potential to become the summer drink.

Meierei Weisse

Meierei Potsdam

Photo: IMAGO / imagebroker

Although not technically in Berlin, the Meierei in Potsdam still makes a mean Weisse. Brewed the traditional way using lactose yeasts and served in champagne bottles, the fruity Meierei Weisse is a hit with the locals. Best enjoyed in the Meierei beer garden overlooking the Jungfernsee on a hot summer’s day, Meierei also offers fruity woodruff and raspberry syrup pours for those who can’t live without.

  • Dan Cole is the co-author of Beer Hiking Berlin, available now.