Weisse up

Florida brewers adopt and adapt the Berliner Weisse style.

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click to enlarge COOL DOWN: Weisse beers are - becoming the unofficial brew of Florida summers. - Peg's Cantina
Peg's Cantina
COOL DOWN: Weisse beers are becoming the unofficial brew of Florida summers.

The West Coast has a signature style of IPAs. There’s an argument over whether those should be called “Cascadian” IPAs, named for the region in the Pacific Northwest where the hops are bountiful. We have Russian Imperial Stouts, Baltic Porters, and the name Pilsner takes its name from the city of Pilsen in what is now the Czech Republic.

And now there's the Florida Weisse, or Floriner, derived from the increasingly popular Berliner Weisse.

Berliner Weisse is a lower-alcohol, cloudy, sour wheat beer that originated in Northern Germany. One of the traditional ways to serve the refreshing beer was with sweet, fruit-flavored syrup like raspberry that offsets the sour and creates a very nice, refreshing drink.

Here in Florida, given that we have more hot days than not, it’s a perfect way to relax and enjoy the weather.

Berliner Weisse beers have popped up all over the Sunshine State, inspiring entire festivals.

In April, Peg’s Cantina in Gulfport held its second annual Berliner Bash, drawing 11 different breweries from around the state, not to mention the hundreds of thirsty Berliner Weisse fans in attendance.

In June, the Cajun Café on the Bayou in Pinellas Park will hold its 2nd Annual Sour Lambic and Berliner Weisse Festival, featuring over 150 beers. The trend is growing, and there is no sign of it slowing down anytime soon.

Alongside this new love for the traditional style is an interesting twist — a regionalization, if you will.

Traditionally the fruit flavors and sweetness are added to the existing Berliner Weisse beer, but Florida brewers have begun adding fruit during the brewing process. Flavors like raspberry, coconut, and kiwi are being used in Florida Weisse beers, as well as more exotic flavors like rhubarb, key lime, and even dragon fruit.

There is some debate on where the recent push for Berliner Weisse beers began. It’s easy, though, to look to local brewers like Doug Dozark (Cycle Brewing and Peg’s Cantina), Justin Stange and Devon Kreps (7venth Sun) as catalysts for increasing awareness of the sour ale.

Dozark’s Ich Bin Ein Rainbow Jelly Donut Berliner Weisse (made with lime zest and raspberries) and 7venth Sun’s Kiwi Cherry Coconut Berliner exemplify the creativity sprouting from this one kind of beer.

Florida Weisse is booming in Miami as well. J. Wakefield Brewing Company’s founder, homebrewer Johnathan Wakefield, is known for his beers. The longest lines at Floriner festivals are often for Wakefield’s Miami Madness (made with mango, passion fruit, and guava) and Ain’t Yo Momma’s Strawberry Rhubarb Pie.

At the Berliner Bash this year, Wakefield went through seven kegs of his beers in just two hours. So where can one find these beers? Go to the breweries themselves.

Most now carry at least one Berliner Weisse on draft. Cigar City Brewing offers Stiftung, a traditional Berliner. Then choose from a house-made syrup selection including raspberry, lemon, blackberry, vanilla, and cardamom. Or sip on 7Venth Sun Brewing’s take called Minor Threat.

Currently, none of the Florida breweries are packing Berliners or Florida Weisses, but some do offer growlers on-site. Check local craft beer bars like the Ale and the Witch, Williard’s and Pour House for Weisse ales on tap.

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