It’s July, I live in Texas, and it’s hot. And I don’t mean ‘let’s throw the frisbee on the beach’ hot or ‘picking apples in Washington State and having so much fun’ hot. I mean dumb hot, like ‘I walked to my car and I am already sweating’ hot.
I heard someone refer to it as ‘hotter than a pair of sweat pants full of barbecue sauce.’ And although this makes absolutely no sense at all, it makes sense in Texas especially with the random bbq mention.
In summary, this time of year in Texas, it’s hot as hell. Now, imagine you’ve been taken to a fake island that is just as hot, but your somewhat evil captors are forcing you to drink a single type of beer. With it being so ridiculously hot and all, what could possibly be refreshing enough?
If stranded on an island with only one beer to drink, this week I would pick: Dogfish Head’s Festina Peche.
Festina Peche is a tartly, sour wheat beer called Berliner Weisse. Well, actually Dogfish calls it a Neo-Berlinerweisse in the same vein that American ‘Champagne’ makers call their bubbly, ‘sparkling wine’ because the original name is protected so that it can only be applied to sparkling wine in Champagne. True Berlinerweisse is made in, you guessed it, Berlin. By the end of the 19th century, the style was so popular that 700 breweries produced their own version. Supposedly, Napoleon’s troops enjoyed the sparkling, acidic drink and dubbed it “the champagne of the north.”
Berliner Weisse is from a mixture of 3 parts barley malt, and 1 part wheat using a single decoction mash, where part of the mash is boiled in a separate container and added back to raise the temperature of the remaining mash. Mashing is brew-code for steeping malt and other grains in hot water. This helps extract the starches from the grain and allows them to be converted into sugar. Mash hopping is also used. This technique involves adding hops to the warm mash rather than different times during “the boil.” This relatively short process creates a beer that comes out around 3-4.5 percent alcohol by volume (abv), and 5-10 International Bitterness Units(IBU).
However, what brings complexity to the table is primary fermentation by a top fermenting yeast followed by a healthy dose of lactobacillus, a bacterium that feeds on lactose to produce lactic acid, also known as milk acid. Don’t be afraid, bacteria is just a word. You would never have yogurt if not for lactobacillus. The process is very similar to malolactic fermentation in winemaking, where the green appley tartness of malic acid is converted into the rounder, softer tasting lactic acid. Fermentation and conditioning all take place at the relatively warm temperature (for beer) of 68F. Some breweries used to bury the bottles in the ground for several months to mature. Kind of a cool idea, unless you live in Texas or frequent an equally freaking hot, fake island.
Traditionally this beer is consumed from a large wide-mouthed bowl and served mit schuss (with a shot) of raspberry, woodruff, or even grenadine syrup to balance the tartness. Dogfish makes this extra step useless by fermenting the beer with peach puree, which is apparent in the aroma and the flavor. The resulting beer has a touch of peach sweetness, a delightful, refreshing tartness, and a nice, dry finish, that leaves me wanting more.
Disclaimer: Some of you are going to hate this beer. It’s tart and dry and fermented with peaches so it immediately challenges what we know about our favorite beverage. The fizzy, yellow beer we used to sneak from the fridge when we thought dad wasn’t watching is now an intricately layered, complex, mouthwatering masterpiece.
Dogfish Head Festina Peche is a refreshingly tart Berlinerweisse that works wonders on a Texas patio. Now… I’m not saying it’s my favorite, but if a group of crazy scoundrels threw me onto an island and told me that I had to pick a new beer each week, this would definitely be on my list.
Jeff Fryman is a Home Brewer, Cicerone and dutiful employee of the Common Table in Uptown Dallas. We appreicate his knowledge that he shares with craveDFW.