Florida Weisse: Our Own Style of Beer
While the upper U.S. West coast has a beer style to call its own (Cascadian Dark Ale), it appears that the craft beer movement in Florida has spawned a new style of beer: the Florida Weisse.
Kayelee Jacobs via Instagram Front row, left to right: Miami Madness, Peach and Mojito Florida Weisse; Back row, left to right: Passion Fruit Dragonfruit, Strawberry Rhubarb Florida Weisse
The second annual Berliner Bash on the Bay in Gulfport, Florida, was recently held on April 20 and several Florida brewers took the opportunity to showcase what exactly the Florida Weisse is all about.
A regional sour wheat beer that originated in Northern Germany, the Berliner Weisse is not superpotent --ranging anywhere from two to five percent alcohol-by-volume. Like the Berliner Weisse, the Florida Weisse is low-alcohol too. A low-ABV beer may not sound attractive compared to 13 percent-plus imperial stouts, but remember that alcohol is only a small part of its character.
Whereas a heavy emphasis is placed on hops in West coast-style ales, the Florida Weisse is different. Based on the traditional German Berliner Weisse beer, the Florida Weisse is brewed with lots of fruit--particularly tropical fruit--rather than just simply having fruited syrup added to the glass when the beer is poured. The sweetness of the syrup is supposed to balance the acidity of the beer.
"That's the traditional way of doing it," said Johnathan Wakefield, Miami home-brewer and owner/founder of J. Wakefield Brewing Company. "But we're not doing anything traditional."
The new style was said to have been invented by Doug Dozark, the head brewer at Peg's Cantina in Gulfport. According to Wakefield, it all started with the Ich Bin Ein Rainbow Jelly Donut Berliner Weisse made with lime zest and raspberries. The pinkish beer with a fizzy white head was rarely brewed by Dozark, but it was very popular.
Dozark has since moved away from the idea, but Wakefield took the flag and continued to develop the style. Other Miami brewers, such as Diego Ganoza from Gravity Brewlab and Danny Argudin, also have been developing the new style.
Wakefield, along with a few others in Miami, have been brewing the Florida Weisse and honing its style over the last few years. One of his beers, the highly-tart dragon fruit-passionfruit Berliner Weisse (DFPF), has consistently received some of the highest ratings on beeradvocate.com and ratebeer.com, and was once brewed as part of a pilot series by Cigar City Brewing in Tampa.
Wakefield adds fruit to his recipes during secondary fermentation, but there is no strict method. The base Berliner Weisse is a cheap and relatively easy beer to make. Where it starts to get costly is acquiring the fruit, although prices can be less expensive when purchased through a broker.
He doesn't use just any fruit. A special premium is placed on fruit grown locally. Wakefield is at an advantage, though, because Miami's ideal weather makes it possible to grow exotic tropical fruit found no where else in the United States.
Wakefield adds up to 10 pounds of fruit per five gallon batch of DFPF and up to 15 pounds of fruit for a a five-gallon batch of his strawberry rhubarb Berliner Weisse.
With the fruit added, the beer becomes a light, tart and refreshing beverage that is meant as a thirst-quenching counterpoint to a hot Florida day. The style may closely resemble a lambic, which can also be heavily fruited, however there are differences.