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Spring is in the air, and that means it's prime time for a fast getaway down to the sunny, sandy beaches of Florida. Amid citrus groves, shuffleboard courts and flamingo-pink guayaberas, we'll be relaxing by the pool and sipping the unofficial new beer of the Sunshine State, Florida Weisse.
Depsite locals' claims that they invented the style, Florida Weisse is actually a spin on the German classic Berliner Weisse ale, which is commonly served in its namesake city with a squirt of woodruff or Day-Glo-red raspberry syrup to counterbalance its inherent tartness. Florida Weisse begins with a similar base beer—a bland but refreshing sour ale—but instead of adding syrup just before serving, whole tropical fruits, citrus zests and juices are blended directly into the beer postfermentation, so it comes out of the tap, bottle or can fully fruited and ready to drink.
The style originated at Peg's Cantina (the original home of Cycle Brewing) in Gulfport, a beach town just south of Tampa, when brewer Doug Dozark added lime zest and whole, fresh raspberries directly into a Berliner Weisse that he had made. The beer, which he called Ich Bin Ein Rainbow Jelly Donut Berliner Weisse, was a hit (probably as much for its name as its bright flavor), and soon other Florida breweries likes Cigar City, 7venth Sun and Funky Buddha began making their own versions.
Now, it's nearly impossible to visit a brewery in the Sunshine State without finding a fruity Florida Weisse on draft. Some of our recent favorites came from Green Bench Brewing in St. Petersburg, where brewer Khris Johnson makes a carrot-colored, tangerine-infused version called Champ Juice. In nearby Tampa Bay, we loved Coppertail's Boysenberry Florida Weisses. And at Funky Buddha near Fort Lauderdale, we knocked back a rainbow-wheel variety of Florida Weisses suffused with sweet and heady fruits like mango, dragon fruit and key lime.
The style has become so popular that Florida Weisse festivals are sprouting up throughout the state, and some brewers are even adapting it as their flagship style. The original Florida Weisse festival, called Berliner Bash on the Bay, was initially held at Peg's Cantina but moved to Green Bench last spring and was rechristened Floridaweisse Bash. One of that festival's founders (and the unofficial spokesperson of the Florida Weisse movement), Jonathan Wakefield, went on to build his Miami brewery, J. Wakefield Brewing, around the style.
Wakefield's most famous version, a radioactive-red variant called Dragonfruit Passionfruit Berliner, is slightly tart, just a little bit sweet and nearly perfect for gulping under the hot Florida sun.
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