For many years I was adamantly opposed to fruit-flavored beers. Part of my hesitancy was definitely due to a belief that beers brewed or infused with fruit were for people who didn’t really like the flavor of beer. Many of the readily available fruit beers supported this assumption, they were light ales with heavy additions of cloying fruit flavors. For many years I refused to even try a beer that was flavored with fruit, with the possible exception of citrus peels that are traditional in a few beer styles. I have started to loosen that stance, and the fruit flavored versions of the Berliner weisse style are a big reason why. The sour acidity from the Berliner mash is a perfect counterpoint to the sweetness added by fruit, and the addition of fruit syrup is actually a very traditional accompaniment to the style. White Birch Brewing Company in New Hampshire brews a few different versions of their popular Berliner Weisse, including one fermented with raspberry puree. Raspberries are my absolute favorite fruit. If I buy a pint it will usually be gone before it makes it into the fridge, so sampling this beer was a no-brainer. White Birch Raspberry Berliner Weisse is available year round on draft, in 22 oz. bombers and in 12 oz. cans.
White Birch Raspberry Berliner Weisse pours a clear red-tinted yellow with a mild white head. The scent is a mixture of tart acidity and a little raspberry. The taste starts with the sourness, distinct and present without being overpowering. The raspberry comes in after, fruity and a little tart perfectly complementing the acidity from the mash without overwhelming the beer. Some wheat malts round out the flavor and add some body. The beer is light and very drinkable at 5.5% ABV. The finish is crisp and tart with just a touch of raspberry flavor. While I am still wary of some fruit beers I think Berliner weisse is an ideal style to mix with fruit flavors, and White Birch demonstrates that point here. The fruit flavor here is a perfect complement to the beer, the final result is complex and flavorful but still light and refreshing. Hoppy Boston score: 4.5/5.
Previous White Birch Reviews:
White Birch Hop Session, White Birch Belgian Style Pale Ale, White Birch Nyx American Black Ale
I am unabashedly pro-Maine. Maine is the state where I was born and raised, and where I went to college. I love the Boston area and consider it my home now, but Maine will always be a special place to me. Now that the weather has started to improve I am starting to plan some summer trips up north, mostly to visit family and friends but definitely to try some local beer. It’s actually been almost a year since I’ve been to Maine, my parents have been on a cross-country Airstream adventure and that limits my reasons for traveling north in the off-season. The founders of Night Shift brewing also have connections to the state of Maine, and while their brewery is located in Massachusetts they brew at least one beer with Vacationland in mind. When you think of Maine produced food the first thing that comes to mind is probably lobster, but I can’t imagine brewing a beer with that as an ingredient (I really hope nobody tries). An underrated export are the small, sweet and tart local Maine blueberries. Night Shift uses these to make Mainer Weisse, one of the entries in their Sour Weisse series. Night Shift Mainer Weisse is brewed with blueberries and cinnamon sticks, and is available in the winter/spring in 750 mL bottles.
Night Shift Mainer Weisse pours the color of a thin red wine with a mild pink head (that is a beer description I certainly don’t write every day). The scent is a mixture of fruit and a little acidity. The taste starts with a solid sour kick, not overbearing but you definitely feel it on your tongue. The blueberries add substantial flavor, and you can tell real blueberries were used, not the fake ultra-sweet blueberry “flavor”. This is complemented by a subtle hint of cinnamon. The beer is light bodied and very easy to drink, at 5.9% ABV it’s on the high side for the style but still not overly boozy. I love the Night Shift Sour Weisse series as an entry point for beer drinkers who want to try more sours. They are flavorful, but still approachable. This is one of my favorite beers in the series so far, and not just because of the name! Hoppy Boston score: 4.5/5.
Previous Night Shift Reviews:
Night Shift Thunder Moon, Night Shift Morph IPA, Night Shift Ever Weisse, Night Shift Grove, Night Shift JoJo, Night Shift Taza Stout, Night Shift Simcoenation
I continue to challenge my palate and expand my repertoire with sour beer styles. Many beer drinkers, who I respect, love sour beers. They rave about the diversity of flavors and count many sours amongst their favorite beers of all time. The sour style that has resonated the most with me (so far) is the Berliner Weisse. The Berliner Weisse combines spicy wheat malts with a mild and refreshing tart acidity in a light bodied and easy to drink beer. Many Berliners are then mixed with fruit syrups, combining the sweet fruit with the sour acid. The Berliner Weisse style traditionally has low alcohol (3-5% ABV), so it came as no surprise that session beer experts Notch Brewing Company decided to try their hand at this style. Notch named their Berliner Hootenanny, it is available in 22 oz. bottles and on draft. At 3.3% ABV it is a session beer by any definition, perfect for the last few warm weeks of summer.
Notch Hootenanny pours a very pale yellow, slightly hazy with a moderate but quickly dissipating white head. The smell is pretty mild, combining a little wheat with some acidity. The taste starts with some spicy wheat malts followed up with some gentle tartness. The beer is very well carbonated, which works well with the light body and low alcohol. This beer reminds me of a brut champagne in a way, bubbly, refreshing and dry in the finish. I’m still getting used to the sour style and I really enjoyed the drinkability of this beer. Notch Hootenanny is a great starter sour beer. While some other Berliners I’ve tried have had mouth-puckering tartness, the mild flavor in this beer can help you get used to the flavor profile. Or you could just enjoy it as a refreshing low ABV beer over the last few days of the summer.
Previous Notch Reviews:
Notch Left of the Dial, Notch Saison
The Tap Brewing Company has been brewing a variety of year-round and seasonal ales and lagers in Haverhill, MA since 2003. All of their selections are available on draft (or cask) at the brewpub, but they also bottle some of their beers for distribution in MA. One of The Tap’s most sought-after beers is Intergalactic Acid, a Berliner Weisse style sour ale brewed in the Spring/Summer months. One of the first steps of the brewing process is called mashing, where crushed grains are steeped in hot water to extract sugars as well as other compounds that add flavor and color. Mashing is typically done over an hour or two. For Intergalactic Acid the mixture of barley and wheat is mashed for 36 hours which causes some of the sugars to break down into lactic acid thus giving the beer it’s distinct acidic/sour flavor. The Tap Intergalactic Acid is available in the pub and in 22 oz. bottles.
The Tap Intergalactic Acid pours a pale yellow, very hazy with a mild white head. You can smell the acidity in this beer, think of the common underlying smell of acidic food (vinegar, citrus fruit), and you’ll have an idea of what I mean. The taste is solidly sour, bitter lemon, barnyard, a touch of vinegar. The wheat comes through a bit, especially in the finish, which is bone dry with a lingering tartness. The beer is very light bodied, and at 3.0% ABV it’s a true session beer by any definition. I’m still finding my footing with the sour styles, so I struggled a bit with this. There isn’t much else in the beer to counteract the sour flavors (I’m sure that is a good thing to many of the sour beer enthusiasts). Many Berliner Weisse beers are served mixed with a small amount of fruit syrups to balance the flavor. The Tap offers this as an option if you order Intergalactic Acid at the brewery. I would definitely like to try that at some point, looks like I need to make a trip up to Haverhill!
Enjoying a beer at the new Night Shift Brewery and Tap Room
Night Shift Brewing recently opened their brand new brewery and taproom in Everett, MA. New amenities include plenty of parking, a large bar with a variety of seating options, and bathrooms (which were apparently an issue at the old brewery). My lovely wife and I stopped by on opening weekend to check out the new space and taste some of their selections. One of the biggest advantages of visiting breweries is checking out some of the “brewery only” limited release brews. During the grand opening Night Shift was tapping an experimental or limited release beer every couple hours. All of their beers are available in 4 oz tasting pours and 12 oz full pours. We sampled almost everything that was available during the visit, from the spicy Viva Habanera Rye Ale aged on habanero peppers to the hop forward Whirlpool Pale Ale. Normally beers at the brewery are also available for growler fills, but due to the heavy traffic on opening weekend growler fills were suspended. Not a problem for me, it just makes for a good excuse to go back to the brewery soon.
The brewery floor, lots of room for more expansion.
Barrels of Night Shift beer aging and waiting for future brewery releases.
At the end of my visit I grabbed a bottle of Night Shift Ever Weisse, a Berliner Weisse aged on strawberries, kiwis and dried hibiscus flowers (I also picked up the perfect glass to enjoy the beer from). I’ve been attempting to develop a taste for sour styles, and I’ve been told that light and refreshing Berliner Weisse beers are an ideal place to start. Night Shift Ever Weisse pours an orange tinted pink, slightly hazy with a mild white head. The smell is dominated by fruit scents, strawberry and kiwi along with a little citrus acidity. The first sip gives a nice tart bite, solid without being overwhelming. There is significant fruit flavor with notes of strawberry, cherry and raspberry along with some spiciness from the wheat. There isn’t much hop character, but the tart acidity from the fermentation balances out the sweetness of the fruit. Night Shift Ever Weisse is very drinkable, a great beer for summer. At 5.0% ABV it is actually on the strong side for the style (most Berliner Weisse beers are in the 3-4% range), but still light compared to many craft beers. I have just started to drink sour beer styles and I still feel like I am getting my feet wet. This beer though is well balanced, the sourness is present without overpowering your palate. Highly recommended.