Making Your Own Flavored Syrups for Berliner Weisse

Berliner weisse is a style of beer that is frequently sweetened in the glass with a dash of flavored syrup, which is known as “with a shot,” or “mit Schuss” in German.

Adding a flavor syrup to Berliner weisse is a German way of lightening up and sweetening the sour beer while also getting around the Reinheitsgebot, which prohibited adding fruit during the brewing process. New World Berliner weisse does not need to adhere to the Reinheitsgebot and can include fruit and other flavors in the brewing process, but it’s still fairly common to be offered a shot of flavor syrup when ordering a Berliner at any New-World watering hole.

The most common (and traditional) flavors for these syrups include woodruff, raspberry, and sometimes black currant. If you’ve seen a beer with a shot of woodruff syrup in it, you’ll probably recognize the distinctive bright green of the food coloring often used in the syrup. In fact, when you order a Berliner weisse in Germany you will probably be asked if you want red or green — “rot oder grün.” You can sometimes find woodruff syrup (as well as raspberry and sometimes black currant) in specialty food stores, online and in some homebrew shops — but that’s not the DIY spirit, is it? Making your own flavor syrups is very easy, and you can experiment with lots of different flavors — both traditional and offbeat — at home.

Homemade flavor syrups are made using a simple syrup base, which is a boiled mixture of water and sugar.

Choosing a Flavor

Woodruff is the classic green-colored flavor syrup for Berliner weisse. Woodruff syrup, aka Waldmeistersirup, is so popular in Germany that it is used not only for beer but also poured over pancakes, on ice cream and added to cocktails and soft drinks. Making woodruff syrup at home can be a challenge if you want to buy the woodruff, as it’s not readily available from the grocery store or many specialty food suppliers. The good news is that if you like to garden (or have a friend who does), it’s very easy to grow. In fact, many people plant it as a hardy groundcover (and it can take over a garden if not kept in check). Plant a small patch of woodruff this spring and you can make a batch of syrup by June.

If woodruff isn’t your thing, however, raspberries also make good flavor syrups, and they are readily available at the supermarket and at farmer’s markets in season. Black currants are not as common, but are not impossible to find. And, like woodruff, you can also grow both types of berries at home.

But why stop at three flavors? Jill Ramseier, Executive Chef at the Deschutes Brewery’s Portland Public House in Oregon, makes a lot of offbeat flavor syrups for the brewery’s Berliner weisse. She draws inspiration for flavors based on what she can source locally or in season. Some of her favorite flavors include a marionberry and thyme combo, and a wild raspberry with lemon balm mix. She’s also worked with huckleberries, blueberries, basil, lemon verbena, plums, orange blossoms with green tea, and even stinging nettles (just to name a few). She says that any interesting flavor might make a good syrup — you’re only limited by the fruits, herbs or other ingredients you can get your hands on.

Once the simple sugar is boiled, your flavoring agent is steeped until the syrup has the flavor strength you desire.


Making a fresh flavor syrup is not terribly complicated, and there are many variations on recipes. Ramseier has two basic recipe methods for making a flavor syrup using a simple syrup (boiled sugar and water) base: One for fruits and berries that are juicy, and another for things that aren’t juicy, such as herbs or tea. The difference is simply more or less water depending on the fruit or herb you are working with. Both recipes involve steeping the fruit, herb, tea or other flavoring, which can be done from a few hours to a few days. For example, woodruff syrups are often steeped for four or five days, while tea might be steeped only for a few hours. Be sure you steep the flavoring agent long enough for the flavor to come through when you mix it with the beer.
Keep color in mind when you are making a syrup. The color and flavor should be in proportion. For example, a blueberry syrup can look hot pink, and that might not be what you want in your beer. However, it is always good to have a bit of color so that you don’t end up overdosing your beer if you add syrup by eyeballing the amount. If you are making a traditional woodruff syrup, if you would like you can add a few drops of green food coloring like the Germans do as otherwise it will normally be a light brown color as a finished product. Also, a bit of fresh lemon juice is often added to woodruff syrup to brighten up the herbal flavor; you can experiment with adding a squeeze up to a 1⁄4 cup to taste, depending on your batch size.

When making a syrup remember to be extra careful during the boil as sugar boils at a hotter temperature than water. Also, don’t over boil your syrup; if you boil the syrup too long it will reduce and the flavor will concentrate. Sometimes fruits like berries don’t have as much water in them as you think they do and the syrup can be too thick. If you add a drop of your syrup into a beer and it goes straight down to the bottom, it is too thick — you want it to mix with the beer. If the finished syrup seems too thick you can add more water to thin it out.

Once you have reached the flavor you want, the syrup is either separated from the solids, or can be pureed, before using.

For making a flavor syrup with “juicy” fruit:


2 cups white sugar
1 cup water
3 cups juicy fruit (berries and other fruits)

Step by Step

Bring the sugar, water and fruit mixture to a boil in a saucepan. You can chop or mash the fruit if you would like more flavor and color. Turn off the heat and steep. You can steep anywhere from an hour or two up to a couple of days depending on your flavor ingredient. When you have achieved the flavor you desire, you can use a strainer to separate the liquid from the solids, pushing the solids against the screen for more flavor. Or, you can puree the mixture, which will create a syrup with stronger color and more flavor (but will also create a thicker syrup that may need more water to thin it out).

For making a flavor syrup with non-juicy ingredients:


2 cups white sugar
2 cups water
1 cup chopped herbs or other flavor element (such as woodruff, loose-leaf tea, lemongrass, etc.)

Step by Step

Bring the sugar and water to a boil. Turn off the heat, add the herbs, and steep. You can steep anywhere from an hour or two up to a couple of days depending on your flavor ingredient; for example, woodruff syrup is often steeped for four or five days. When you have achieved the flavor profile you desire, use a strainer to separate the solids from the liquid.

Using Flavor Syrups

To add flavor syrup to your weisse mit Schuss, pour a dash of the syrup into the glass first, and then mix the Berliner weisse with it. Add more syrup or beer to taste.

Homemade flavor syrups are also great for pouring over desserts, adding to soft drinks like soda, seltzer or lemonade, and are of course great mixed with cocktails. Try mixing a dash of your homemade woodruff syrup with vodka, soda, and Rose’s lime juice. Or, try adding a dash of homemade raspberry syrup to a Manhattan for something a little nontraditional.

Photos by Tori Avey,

Issue: May-June 2014