Origin: Berlin, Germany
Date: 6 September 2000
Another review from the archive written for the pioneering Oxford Bottled Beer Database (OBBD), where it required webmasters Tom and Jasper to create a new ‘beer colour’ symbol in green! I’ve left it uncorrected — so please read it in that historical spirit.
There have been major changes with Berliner Kindl since this review was written. Its owner the Oetker group (known at the time of the review as Binding) grew to take over its longstanding rival Schultheiss, and in 2006 its historic West Berlin brewery in Neukölln was closed, though it’s still standing as a listed building and a microbrewery operates on part of the site. Brewing for both brands is now concentrated at a plant in another suburb, Alt-Hohenschönhausen.
Even more remarkably, Berliner Weisse has undergone an unexpected revival largely outside its home city, with beers inspired by the style, some of them rather loosely, part of the regular repertoire of craft brewers worldwide.
The Berlin style of wheat beer is one of the world’s most unusual and hardest-to-find beer styles. Only two breweries in Berlin, Schultheiss and Kindl, still produce it, and although it still has a reasonable local following, it is rarely seen outside its home territory even in Germany. Kindl, the largest producer, is part of the Binding group and seems to have been a little more visible lately with a small presence at a handful of beer festivals in Britain. Now some of its beers have turned up on the shelves of Bottles, the [long since closed] specialist beer shop in Stepney, East London.
Unfortunately they’re not the pure product: this very sour, lactic beer is almost invariably served in Berlin pubs with a ‘Schuss’, a dash of raspberry or Waldmeister syrup, and Bottles have only the ready-mixed versions, already flavoured with syrup, which the brewery produces for home convenience. The Waldmeister variety is flavoured with the herb woodruff, which grows wild around Berlin. The drink boasts one of the most shockingly unexpected colours ever to have emerged from a beer bottle, a lurid green that would look more at home garnishing a 99 from your local Mr Whippy ice cream van! The syrup colours the head as well, although this lasted only briefly and was not as thick as the photos I’ve seen of the draught version.
The aroma is restrained and barley-sugar sweet, with a faint hint of hops (added, according to the label, as extract) and a dry, slightly medicinal scent from the woodruff. The taste is initially honey-sweet and faintly herby, soft in the mouth with restrained carbonation, then an intriguing sourness rapidly emerges that is quite unlike any other sour beer I’ve tried. The finish is gentle, initially apple-citric but mellowing into boiled sweets and traces of the herb. If it’s conventional beer you’re after, you will probably be disappointed at how any recognisably beer-like qualities are obscured by the added syrup, but at such a low gravity, it’s probably better to enjoy this one more as an interesting and unusual adult semi-soft drink.