It’s Raining Berries
November 14, 2023

It’s raining berries

Summer is in full swing, there’s no doubt about it. While typically our summer in Estonia tends to last a week, at best two, according to statistics, the average Estonian at least manages to bring home a box or two of light lager-type beer and cools off with it. Meanwhile, bigger beer enthusiasts are likely turning their attention to some Pale Ale (such as Väike Saaremaa) or IPA (such as Kolm Venda).

However, even the best things can become monotonous at some point. Probably even the biggest meat lover can’t eat grilled meat every day during this long-lasting summer. Occasionally, something lighter is desired. ‘Light’ is the keyword for today’s post.

While in Estonia, people are clearly fans of light beer in warm weather, in a European beer hub like Belgium, for example, breweries introduce various lighter and fruitier beers for the summer. Germans, on the other hand, invented such beer already in the 16th century and proudly brew it to this day. Pihtla Brewery also has two Berliner Weisse-style light berry beers in the SADU series, following the tradition of Berlin wheat beer.

In the lilac can, there’s ‘Sõstrasadu’, and in the pink one, ‘Vaarikasadu’.

Berliner Weisse

Generally, beer historians consider a traditional but now obscure beer from Hamburg, documented by Cord Broihan in the 16th century, as the predecessor to Berliner Weisse. His refined recipe gained popularity, and in the 1640s, Dr. Elsholz began brewing the same in Berlin.

Another version of the birth story of Berliner Weisse suggests that Huguenots migrated north, bringing with them the recipes for traditional Flanders red and brown sour beers, which were brewed in Germany with available ingredients. The recipes for these beers were already known in Berlin since 1572.

However, it came to be, by the time of the Napoleonic Wars, this beer style was so well-known that French soldiers referred to it as the champagne of the north. Such recognition from citizens of the wine country can only be a good sign. A true Berliner Weisse is indeed somewhat wine-like and dry, thanks to its acidity and fruity character. But don’t be discouraged by that – we’ll explain how right away.

Decline and Rebirth

Traditional syrup and straw Weiss in Berlin

In the 19th century, at the height of beer popularity, Berlin had 700 breweries producing Weissbier. By the end of the 20th century, there were only two left, both owned by the same proprietor.

Although this beer style, like many traditional styles, was almost extinct, it came back to life with the craft beer revolution. Today, every self-respecting brewery has at least one sour wheat beer as part of its specialty brews.

Making wheat beer sour is a simple trick – lactic acid bacteria need to be added to the wort. As the usual light sour beer is somewhat unfamiliar to Estonian beer enthusiasts, we have added copious amounts of raspberries to create “Vaarikasadu” and black and red currants for “Sõstrasadu.”

Germans themselves love to make Berliner Weisse in its ‘natural’ form, as a light beer. However, it is served with syrup, whether it’s raspberry, currant, or, for example, elderberry. For those not fond of sour beers, it is also mixed with regular light lager in Berlin.

Light Summer Drink

But now, back to lightness – popular summer lagers and Pale Ales tend to have an alcohol content around 5%, with IPAs a couple of degrees stronger. Such beers are not suitable for drinking in large quantities on a hot day. In contrast, the berry beers of the SADU series are much more suitable for warm weather – “Sõstrasadu” has around four and a half percent, and “Vaarikasadu” only 3.5.

Compared to traditional light beers, the taste is significantly lighter. This is particularly pleasing for those who don’t enjoy the bitterness of hops. If a good IPA has a bitterness rating of 70 on the IBU scale, our SADUs have IBU ratings of 4 and 6, respectively. This is because hops are used minimally in this beer style; in our case, we add only 700 grams of hops per 1300 liters of wort.

While the term ‘women’s beer’ may come to mind for many at this point, it’s worth noting, with reference to Belgian examples, that in that region, consumers of summer sours and fresh beers are still predominantly men. And if summer seems to last as long for us as it does in Central Europe, perhaps a time will come when men dare to admit that this pink beer is actually a pretty good sip, if only for a change. Like a refreshing drizzle in the midst of a hot summer.

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The post is written with the help of our friend and beer blogger, Karl Hallik.

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