I enjoyed reading The Session contributions this month, I thought it was a successful outing into the world of Sour Beers and I liked the breadth of the posts that came through. In all right now it looks like we have
18 19 contributing sites, though it’s possible I might have missed some and I’ll update this roundup accordingly if so.
Update: I missed one!
Of course I wrote about The Dissident, my local Deschutes Brewery’s foray into sour beers with a Flanders-style sour brown ale. It’s spiked with Brett and aged on sour cherries and wood and is oh-so-delicious.
Over at Building International Coalitions Through Beer and Pavement, Zac Early is looking for the “extreme” sour beer and settles on New Belgium’s La Folie: “La Folie is a benchmark for me when it comes to sour beer. Maybe it’s extreme, maybe it isn’t. All I know is that it’s more interesting, more controversial, more sour than whatever’s in your glass right now.”
The Beer Nut has discovered something exciting: a new lambic maker (blender) out of Belgium, Tilquin. “Sour yes, but not strikingly so. The ageing process has mellowed it wonderfully and in with the tangy lambic zing there’s a sappy fresh oak woodiness as well.”
While at the Great British Beer Festival this year, the beer monkey came across a three-year-old lambic from Italy’s Revelation Cat that had been aged in Laphraoig Malt Whisky casks: “It was a strange yet interesting beast. It had a bold and robust whisky nose that leapt out of the glass that carried through into the initial mouthful. It had strong peat, wood and smoky notes that gave way to a really smooth, round and very well balanced sour apple taste.”
Craig Gravina of drinkdrank is (like many of us) still learning about sour beer and gives us a “live blogging” of drinking a bottle of Ichtegem’s Grand Cru. What I like best about his post is, he’s still not convinced—and not buying any hype, either. “This was not my favorite beer, or my second favorite, or even third. Was it drinkable? Sure. Was it enjoyable? Maybe, maybe not…. I know sour beers are all the rage, I’m just not over the moon with this one.”
Over on Ramblings of a Beer Runner, Derrick Peterman (who is also somewhat new to sours) opens an Ichtegam’s Grand Cru Flemish Red Ale and an Echt Kriekenbier from Belgium’s Brouwerij Verhaeghe and finds two easily approachable beers—despite being a bit gunshy from encountering soured homebrews (we’ve all been there) and recognizing what may be “sour’s” biggest problem: “And so must be no simple trick for brewers to harness the often unpleasant taste of sourness and turn it into something drinkable, even enjoyable, let alone convince paying customers to actually try it.”
Dave Butler of Fermentedly Challenged may earn the title of Sour Beer Hunter with his Ode to Yeast and Other Bacteria: “[W]henever I attend a beer festival or brewery event I seek out any and all sour ale that is on the premises. In fact at the Great American Beer Festival in 2009, that was one of my primary targets for an entire session – anything and everything sour ales. Since then, I must have tasted over 60 or more different sour ales. I even attended the inaugural Avery Sour Fest in 2010 where over 60 different sour ales were featured.”
Sean Inman at Beer Search Party talks about sours as the “final step in complete craft beer immersion“: “You are truly assimilated into this culture because, in my mind, sour beer is truly the farthest from the industrial water lager as you can go…. Sours have no easy beer or alcoholic touchstones that your sense memory can use to link up. Wines are tannic or sparkly but sour no. Cocktails come close but the most popular tend away from sour. So you truly are a blank slate when you start exploring the world of tartness.”
Our first Berliner Weisse mention comes from Beer PHXation, where David Schollmeyer talks about the style being the perfect summer beer for hot Phoenix summers: “What makes this the perfect sour beer to enjoy in the Phoenix heat? First, it is low in alcohol (generally 3-3.5% ABV). You could drink it all day by the pool without over indulging. Second, the crisp, acidic tartness is very refreshing, similar to a cool glass of lemonade.”
The Mad Fermenationist, Mike Tonsmeire, takes a wholly different approach that I love: he talks about brewing sours and proposes the “Great Souring Experiment”: “Produce a series of sour beers using different methods, while controlling for as many variables as possible by using the same ingredients, microbes, and equipment to isolate the character that each method imparts.” He examines six primary methods used by brewers to sour beers and I have to say, I’d really like to try the results of such an experiment.
Keith at Brainard Brewing also talks homebrew: a homebrewed lambic from January of 2010 that he’s just put on tap. “So I sampled the lambic this week. It was pretty good. Rather barn-ish and overall funky. Sorta sour, bacterial I suppose. Not yet vinegar. I think that’s a good enough reason to take it out of the carboy and put it on tap.”
On the Real Men Drink Yeast blog, Trevor reviews a Berlinergyle that he brewed himself, which I infer is a Berliner Weisse-style beer—or rather, two of them—made partigyle-style (in which you extract two batches of beer—a stronger one and a lighter one—from a single, large grain bill). Needless to say I am intrigued. “This beer had really mellowed since the initial tasting and is quite refreshing with a noticeable carbonation. I don’t think it needs any syrup to balance the sour unlike the first bottle I drank. This tastes a little like a lemonade wine cooler but with a little more complexity.”
Barm at I might have a glass of beer writes about sour beer from a different angle and made me smile at the same time: visiting “jakey” pubs in Scotland (US equivalent, I take it, would be old-school dive bars), he came across some McEwan’s light: “Nobody drinks the light. I know because mine had gone off. Even keg beer will go off eventually, or maybe they just hadn’t cleaned the lines. It actually made the beer more interesting, adding a Rodenbachesque acidity to it. I didn’t finish it though, as the thought of what might be living in the pipes spoiled my appreciation of the beer.”
One of my favorite venerable beer bloggers, Alan McLeod over at A Good Beer Blog, reflects upon his own sour beer studies. “So, what did I learn from all my explorations of sour beer? I think I like gueuze but am not quite there with still lambics. I also think there is a room for slightly sweetened sour beers, too, but not to the full extent of the total sugary cover-ups. I have also learned that there can be great value in a beer pushing 20 bucks for a 750 ml but also that a $6.50 375 ml may be just as good.”
I’m happy to say this month’s Session served as a starting point for Beer Sagas to have tried sour beer for the first time; a bottle of Mikkeller Spontanale provides the backdrop. “Mikkeler Spontanale was a fizzy, pale beer with a tiny head. In the nose I found some fruit and a touch of yeast. The taste was very different to what I expected. I felt lemon, some spices and a touch of vinegar. It was not a favourite, and I believe this beer to be an acquired taste.” (Incidentally, it’s okay if the sour beer isn’t to anyone’s taste!)
Steve Lamond over on Beers I’ve Known talks about his almost-first sour beer experience, with Boon’s Oude Gueuze (from the Boon brewery itself, no less!): “I’d been told what to expect beforehand, that the beer would be sour, that it ‘isn’t for everyone’, but this still gave me no idea of what was in store for me! A tongue tingling lemon with sour and still more sour and a whole mix of other new and exciting flavours besides. I loved it.”
Mark Dredge, of Pencil & Spoon (and British Guild of Beer Writers New Media/Online Writer of the Year for 2009 and 2010), describes his early encounters with sour beers (he hated the first several) and now is quite in love with them. “What I like most about these beers is the story behind them. Beers brewed and deliberately left open to airborne wild yeast or beers which have those funky yeasts added to them. Beers which aren’t ready in three weeks or three months but need years to mature, hanging out in great oak casks, pulling complexity from the wood, depth of flavour, and then either served as a single vintage as lambic or blended for gueuze.”
The Reluctant Scooper, Simon Johnson, tried a bit of liveblogging his sour beer finds. The two he mentions are Giradin Faro and Boon Framboise. “Not sour enough? Who cares! I’m sweating like a Scouser in Dixons and, sometimes, only a fruit-based drink will do.”
Reuben Gray of The Tale of the Ale writes about his early experiences with the lambics of the Cantillon brewery: “My first reaction was one of horror, I had a pint of this stuff to get through. I let everyone else taste it and no one could stomach it, not even by Brother in law. I was confused, thinking it possibly infected…. The lambic grew on me in Rome but I was still a little sceptical.”
Jay Zeis of A Beer in Hand is Worth Two in the Fridge writes about drinking what you like and trying Rodenbach Grand Cru for the first time: “Since that first sip, anything that says sour or wild on it, has gone in my glass. From Gueuze to Orval to Flemish Red to Gose, the list goes on and on.”