Beer Review 0450: New Glarus Berliner Weiss

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New Glarus Brewing Company (New Glarus, Wisconsin) are all about keeping it local. “DRINK INDIGENOUS,” their bottle crowns say — and they mean it; New Glarus doesn’t distribute beers beyond the state of Wisconsin, saying it’s all they can do to keep up with demand just from their home state.

Founded in 1993 by Deborah Carey (the first woman in the United States to found a brewery), New Glarus started life in an abandoned warehouse with used equipment. Dan, Deborah’s husband, is a master brewer and was a production supervisor for Anheuser-Busch. Dan found copper kettles from a brewery in Germany that was to be demolished; when the retiring German brewer learned that his equipment would live on, he sold all of the goods for scrap value to Mr. Carey.

Like most craft brewers, New Glarus have a year-round series, a seasonal series, and a special, limited release volume called Thumbprint. The beer I’ll be reviewing today is from the Thumbprint series, and is aptly called Berliner Weiss, which is also the corresponding style. Napoleon called this beer style the “champagne of the north” — New Glarus have brewed this 4.1% ABV (alcohol by volume) beer with Riesling grapes and Wisconsin white wheat, then bottle fermented with five yeast strains to produce a sparkling ale for summer that offers refreshing tartness. Berliner Weiss is available in four-packs.

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Berliner Weiss issues up a large, bright white, exceptionally creamy head that lasts long atop a pale golden beer. The body is a touch hazy, but is still translucent and has no particles or sediment. This beer laces up the glass like a champion, leaving behind thick and solid coatings of puffy, cloud-like suds.

On the nose, this beer smells a lot like white wine — somewhat dry with Riesling grapes, but with a nice yeast undercurrent that brings out a baked earthiness. The yeast also brings some more traditional Belgian notes of bubblegum and clove; there’s a solid malt backing of the Wisconsin wheat, grainy and very light bread. A touch of hops contribute to the grapes nicely, giving an added punch of fruitiness.

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The initial sip proves to be tart enough to pucker the mouth, but it’s a gentle tartness that has a juicy grape backend. Those grains provide a nice solid layer of flavor that is crisp and super refreshing; the yeast comes on and sort of zaps the tart flavor, replacing it with earthen dough. On the finish, the beer gets tart for a final time before concluding with a grainy wash that has residual grape and an ultra-clean, mouth-pleasing finish. Berliner Weiss is light-bodied, with a thin, foamy mouthfeel.

Have New Glarus made a perfect beer for summer? Yes, indeed they have, and it’s as simple as that. As I drank this, I thought “liquid sunshine.” Impressive stuff, but New Glarus: can we list the ABV percentages and get some dates on the bottles? We need to know this information, and sadly, it is absent. And can we get this delicious beer in a six-pack?

Still, fantastic beer. Find it.

New Glarus Berliner Weiss, 94 points. Price: $9.99 US for a four-pack.

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