BERLINER WEISSE is unusual enough that New Belgium could have brewed one perfectly to style and still tapped it for their outré Lips of Faith series. Low in alcohol, wheaty, and tinged with lactic acid, these hazy and highly effervescent beers were traditionally topped up at the table with fruit syrup or other sweet infusions to counter their sourness. But as the style has experienced a craft revival recently many brewers have chosen to ‘prepackage’ their sweeteners, creating specific flavor profiles that showcase obscure fruits as much as the beer itself. Such is the case with Yuzu.
Pouring a slightly hazy yellow, the beer has no real residual bubbles and a minimal white head. Its mouthfeel leans more towards the mean than the style’s traditional extremes: its body is light yet not bone dry and the carbonation level is elevated without being explosive. Still, it moves with an alacrity that befits its dose of lactic acid (Brett was introduced for secondary fermentation), nicely balanced between cream and lemon tang with the yuzu juice contributing tropical nuances. Partly prickly, partly sweet, the nominally citric yuzu seems more akin to the meat of a papaya than the scoured pith of grapefruit, or perhaps a hybrid of green banana and lime.
Yuzu’s ride from start to finish is swift, striking the palate immediately its core flavors while subsequent sips reveal a little wheat and faintly mineralic finish. Bitterness is virtually nil at 6 IBUs. This style traditionally had low ABVs (sub-4%) but Yuzu was imperialized to 8%. Almost none of that alcohol comes through in the finish and it’s a unclear what inspired New Belgium to elevate it so dramatically. Force of habit? Or perhaps the skeptical eye craft fans would cast on a $10 bomber with less alcohol than Bud Light. And that is a shame. However much craft fans indulge brewers’ experimentation with obscure fruits or arcane styles, the prejudice against sessionable ABVs in specialty beers is still alive and well.
Served: 750 ml bottled June 2013