From the time that Bavaria joined greater Germany in 1871 efforts were made to make all German brewing subject to the provisions of the Bavarian Beer Purity Order, or Reinheitsgebot. In practice this was not achieved until 1906 and then broken again in 1919, though this is still credited outlawing a number of historic beer styles made locally in other parts of Germany. As with much of history, this accusation may not be entirely accurate.
This light, tart style of wheat beer (2.5-4.5% ABV) comes, as its name suggests, from Berlin. It is fermented through to dryness, with a distinct lactic edge but little hop presence. It had been on the verge of extinction in its city of origin until revived by home brewers and craft producers. The “tradition” of adding coloured syrups to it is a modern affectation, not dissimilar to adding a dollop of lime or blackcurrant cordial to an industrial lager.
This sharp, session-strength wheat beer (4.2-4.8% ABV) owes its dryness to having salt added to the mash, though this is offset by judicious use of a little coriander. It is believed to have been exempted from the Beer Purity Order in 1919 and remained available in Leipzig into the 1960s. It spluttered into revival in the years either side of the fall of the Berlin Wall since when international imitations have proved more popular, ones with added fruit or vegetable extracts tending to be lower in alcohol, making effective thirst quenchers, and arguably worthy of a separate style.
This light, sour and smoky session strength wheat beer (3.5-4.7% ABV) appears always to have been local to Thüringen (Thuringia), in central Germany, before and after the arrival of purity in 1871. Mashed from lightly smoked barley and 30-50% unmalted wheat, it used to develop lactic ageing, revivals in recent years achieving this by an infusion of lactobacilli.
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