In the former East Berlin, directly across from the Marx-Engels-Forum — where immense statues of Karl and Friedrich seem to sit in stern judgment of the city — you might stumble across the Alt-Berliner Weissbierstube, a cozy cafe specializing in Berliner weisse, the city's classic local beer.
There, wide goblets of weisse are doctored with shots of syrup before serving: most commonly green, made from woodruff, a fragrant forest herb; or red, made from raspberries. Both have the effect of coloring the drink a garish jade or vermillion, and both are said to make it cloyingly sweet.
When a waitress came by to take my order, I asked if I could try the beer without the accompanying syrup.
“You could, but it's very sour,” she said.
She was right: it was bitingly sour, partly from the unusual use of lactobacillus in fermentation, the same type of bacteria that produce yogurt, in addition to the regular brewer's yeast. After a very light sweetness in the mouth, there was a sharp, yogurt-like sour finish that made the drink surprisingly refreshing.
I asked for another.
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