We’re both big fans of sours. When we were in the Netherlands and Belgium, we tried basically every gueuze, kriek and framboise we could get our hands on. The best, like Cantillon’s Rosé de Gambrinus are truly divine. Even the mediocre kriek you find in gas stations (this is Belgium we’re talking about) are not too bad. And there are a lot of American breweries making good sours too, like Cascade, Cisco, and occasionally Cigar City. But one kind of sour we’ve never liked as much is Berliner Weisse.
I first had Berliner Weisse at the Cajun Cafe on the Bayou Sour Fest. There was a whole section of Berliners and I tried a handful, and they ranged (in my opinion) from just-barely-drinkable down to the worst beers I’d ever tasted. Several did not get even a second sip. They were going head-to-head with fantastic beers from Hanssens, Cascade and Drie Fonteinen, so I put it down, at least in part, to the comparison. But it was not a good first impression for a style that I was hearing more about all the time. They’re trendy and I see them around when we go out, so I’ve tried them every so often, but I’ve never had one that I liked very much.
So I was a little anxious when I learned that we were going to receive a Grassland’s Big Bend Berliner Weisse. We’ve really liked the past beers from GrassLands we’ve reviewed, so I had cause for optimism.
The beer looked innocuous enough — it came in a plain unlabeled brown longneck bottle that would be familiar to any homebrewer. It was well-carbonated with a solid, but not excessive, glossy white head. It poured typically golden and cloudy, much like a Hefeweizen. There was almost no aroma, even in a snifter. The first drink was as noticeable for the mouthfeel as the flavor: rich and luxurious, rather than the typical light body I expect from pale, wheaty beers. But the taste was very nice — sour but not dramatically so, very smooth and almost creamy. There was some sweetness like tropical fruit. And, most importantly, it had none of the off-putting funkiness I’ve tasted in most Berliners I’ve had. The tasting notes mention that they plan to infuse this beer with juice from local wine grapes, and that sounds like it could be a very nice complement.
Although it’s not a very high bar, I’d say this is the best Berliner I’ve had. And another solid beer from GrassLands Brewing.