Just Say Ja
Try a German-style sour ale for maximum summertime refreshment
Sure, crisp kölsch and icy canned pilsner will do the trick on a hot day, but we're reaching for something a little different this season, and you should too: tart, slightly salty and extremely refreshing German-style sour wheat ales.
There are two types to know and love: Gose (pronounced "goes-uh") is a dry, lemony ale traditionally seasoned with salt and coriander. Berliner Weisse is a similarly tart and refreshing style, but brewed sans seasonings and often mixed with sweetened fruit syrup to balance its bracing acidity. Both were once nearly extinct in their home country but are making noble returns, thanks in part to American brewers who are rediscovering and reimagining the sour style's thirst-quenching potential.
What makes them so perfect for the dog days of summer? Relatively low alcohol levels mean you can drink more than a couple without feeling woozy and, because they're fermented with Lactobacillus, a souring bacteria strain, they're bright, refreshing and restorative.
Here are five sublime American versions to sip during this sultry season.
The Bruery Hottenroth
Named after owner Patrick Rue's German grandparents, Hottenroth is a snappy 3.1 percent alcohol Berliner Weisse made in Orange County, CA. With aromas of fresh-cut grass and lemon peel and a tangy funk on the finish, the vibrant straw-colored wheat beer reminds us of an off-kilter lemonade, making it ideal for lunch outside or an afternoon by the pool. It reminds Rue of something completely different: "It's like a bowl of Cheerios," he says, "with a little lemon, pear and apple scattered on top." ($8 for a 25-ounce bottle)
Off Color Brewing Troublesome
To make its Gose-inspired ale, Chicago's Off Color first brews two separate beers. "One is an absolutely boring American wheat ale with coriander," says co-owner and brewer John Laffler. "The other is an atrocious, overly tart Lactobacillus beer with lots of organic acids." Laffler blends the two and out comes Troublesome, one of the most refreshing beers we've tried recently. Floral, gulpable and gently soured, the 4.3 percent alcohol ale has an exceptionally dry finish. A teensy pinch of salt creates an unexpected creaminess. ($2.50 for a 12-ounce bottle)
Westbrook Brewing Co. Gose
In bars across New York City, Westbrook's zesty Gose is the "It" beer of the summer. And no wonder people are clamoring: It comes in tastefully designed, outdoor-friendly cans, it clocks in at just four percent alcohol, and its flavors echo the salty scents of summer—fresh aromas of stone fruit upfront, crisp pear and citrus on the palate and a gentle oceany brine to finish. Our advice? If you see it, pounce; most shops and bars are selling right out. ($12 for a six-pack)
Evil Twin Brewing Nomader Weisse
Evil Twin's Jeppe Jarnit-Bjergsø is forever making special beer for high-end restaurants and bars, from Noma in Copenhagen to The Aviary in Chicago. His latest is Nomader Weisse, a summery Berliner Weisse commissioned for Daniel Humm's The NoMad in Manhattan. Jarnit-Bjergsø implements a sour mashing technique that relies solely on the malt's natural lactic acids for fermentation. The result is clean, citrusy and just barely tart; a beer that Jarnit-Bjergsø offhandedly calls "a very plain Berliner Weisse." Beginning in mid-July, The NoMad will spruce it up, serving it by the can with a shot of house-made fruit syrup to stir in—just like they do in Berlin. ($2 per can)
Anderson Valley Brewing Company The Kimmie, the Yink and the Holy Gose
After consulting a gang of local home brewers about which new style to add to their "Session Series," Northern California's solar-powered Anderson Valley Brewing decided on a Gose. The ensuing Kimmie is tart and balanced, with a bracing, tongue-scrubbing acidity on the palate and salty aromas of preserved lemon and lime. The peculiar name? Hooper says it's a play on the holy Christian trinity: In the local Boontling dialect, "Kimmie" means man and "Yink" is young man. ($10 for a six-pack)