Hot style: AC Golden's Checkpoint Charlie and five other Colorado-made Berliner weisses
AC Golden brewer Troy Casey is one of Colorado's foremost experts on wild and sour ales, which means he has to sample a lot of them (oh, the misery). But all that drinking means he looks forward to trying tart beers that are lower in alcohol.
Enter Berliner weisse, a wheat-based German-style beer that is typically unfiltered and brewed for summertime drinking at an alcohol level under 4 percent ABV. Crisp and sour, the beer was popular in Germany but is only now gaining fans in the U.S. (For a list of five other Colorado-made Berliners in bottles, turn the page.)
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"We had some extra tank space, and I love Berliner weisse, so we figured we'd try it," says Casey, who brewed a batch of it in December. "We didn't have plans to sell it at first, but after aging it for three months in the fermenter, it tasted really good."
The result is Checkpoint Charlie (named for the Berlin Wall gate that divided East and West Germany during the Cold War), which will be sold in 750 ml cork-and-cage bottles later this month as AC Golden's newest beer in its Hidden Barrel series.
Made with equal parts pale malt and wheat malt, the beer was brewed "the old-fashioned way," Casey says, by adding brettanomyces yeast and lactobacillus -- a bacteria that gives beers a tart or sour flavor -- after the wort (unfermented beer) was boiled.
But just as Casey was getting ready to bottle the beer, he says, someone pointed out that because the alcohol level was so low, AC Golden might not be able to legally sell Checkpoint Charlie in stores. Elevation Beer Company, which also just released a Berliner weisse, had to re-brew it to conform to a state law that requires beer sold in liquor stores to be at least 4 percent alcohol by volume (or 3.2 percent by weight).
Luckily, AC Golden had planned to add more yeast and sugar to condition the beer in the bottles, so when that sugar was done fermenting, it kicked the ABV up to 4.2 percent.
AC Golden, which is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Molson Coors, only made about forty cases of Checkpoint Charlie, so it will be fairly rare when it hits shelves sometime in late August. A suggested prices hasn't yet been determined.
For five other Berliner Weisses that are available now, or will be soon, turn the page.