Sours, sours, sours. For those of you who happened to stumble upon this blog and have no idea what beer is, yes, there is such thing as sour beers, and they are made intentionally, and yes, some are excellent. Some beers get sour because they get old and bad, and that’s what most peoples’ conception of sour beer is. Truthfully, brewers have been intentionally brewing sour beer for as long as they’ve been brewing regular beer.
There are many strains of yeast used to sour beer, the most common being lactobacillus and Brettanomyces. Without getting all sciencey, these yeast strains eat up the sugars in the mash and, in short, make the beer sour. There are a few different ways to make a sour beer, so here I will focus on the two most common ways. The first is barrel aging. So ya throw your beer into an oak barrel or oak foeder (a giant barrel), whether it be virgin oak, or an old whiskey or wine barrel, and then throw in your yeast, wait a bit, and you have a sour beer. The other is kettle souring.
Kettle soured beers are, you guessed it, made sour in the kettle. The yeast is thrown into the mash and that’s that. This can also be referred to as ‘Quick Souring’ and is much easier and faster to do. Kettle sours tend to be tarter and more acidic, while oak aged, or ‘Wild Sours’, tend to be funkier and have a wide range of flavors that come from the wide range of ingredients used.
Kettle sours are the ones that are taking the American Craft Beer market by storm, which is good and bad. It’s good for people who are just getting into sours or craft beer in general, and bad for people who prefer the traditional sour style. There will always be traditional, barrel aged sours, but today’s market seems to favor the tart kettle guys. Anyways, let’s get to the beers.
New Belgium Brewing Co.
Fort Collins, CO | Err on the Side of Awesome (2019) | Fruited Sour
A wise man once said, “You should err on the side of caution.” To that, New Belgium replied, “We will err on the side of awesome,” and here is just some of their awesomeness. They collaborated with The Rare Barrel, one of the finest sour ale producers in the country, to come up with this beauty. They blended Oscar, their original dark sour, and Transatlantique Kriek, their kriek lambic, and then aged it in their original 17 wine barrels that began their barrel aging program. After aging in these sacred barrels, the beer was blended with Felix, their golden sour, and then bottle conditioned for months.
It’s honestly everything that any traditional sour lover could possibly hope for in a beer. The Kriek gives huge tart cherry aromas and flavors on the palate, the barrels give very nice, smooth, dry touches of light grape, and the yeast gives enough funk to make even the most seasoned sour drinker pucker just a bit. This is a one-time release, and once it’s gone, it’s gone, so be sure to snag up a few if you get the chance. Whether you drink it now or age it for years, it’s going to be killer.
375 ml | 6.5% ABV | No IBU
Landvetter, Västergötland Sweden | Tropic Punch Ale | Fruited Sour
Never heard of these guys? Me neither, until last week. Just as new breweries are popping up and getting their beers out into the wild, European craft breweries are spreading their beers into the American Market. Something that is very hard to complain about, especially when they’re making beers like this.
Dugges teamed up with Brian Strumke of Stillwater Artisanal to create this fruit punch inspired sour ale. Tropic Punch is brewed with lactobacillus, which is a souring yeast strain, and then fermented with plentiful amounts of mango, passion fruit and peach. Instead of oak barrels or foeders, this beer is fermented in stainless steel, so there is absolutely no woodiness or added funk. The idea was to have the fruity flavors at the forefront, and they hit the nail on the head.
These guys just busted into the market the last week of June, so start looking for more of their beers to pop up from time to time.
11.2 oz btl | 4.5% ABV | No IBU
Talking Waters Brewing Co
Montevideo, MN | Peach Paradise | Fruited Sour
Remember when this beer was in the store? I barely do, it seems like it flew out so fast. I suppose that’s what happens when Andrew (Chanhassen beer dude) and I fully endorse something. It’s nice to have customers that trust us enough to just put stuff in their carts that we think they’ll like. We always ask for feedback, and we generally receive it, especially from the homies. Well, we got some feedback about this one: “You got any more?” And believe me, we wish we did. We now know to order the max amount of any smoothie sour from Talking Waters, because so far, they’re 2 for 2 with absolute bangers.
This bad boy is a downright smooth and refreshing beach cocktail, that just happens to also be a beer. El dorado hops in the whirlpool aren’t even needed after the conditioning on peach, tangerine, coconut, vanilla beans and sea salt, and then kettle souring. The result is a dangerously good beer. Whether you drink it on the boat or at home on a rainy night, you’ll feel like you’re sitting on the beach when you enjoy this near-cocktail beer.
750 ml Crowler | 5% ABV | 22 IBU
Junkyard Brewing Co.
Moorhead, MN | Terminal Delight | Fruited Sour
Yep, Junkyard again. They make it pretty hard for beer nerds to not pay attention to them. They make it pretty hard for me to not write about them.
This beer crushes. They call it a Strawberry Cream Soda Sour, and brew that with strawberry puree and vanilla beans before souring it in the kettle. 2+2= a sweet, tart, pleasantly boozy beer that the majority of people will not get to try.
750 ml Crowler | 7.7% ABV | No IBU
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