The sour beer revolution
By Kerry Cyganiewicz
It is happening right now in homes and bars across the country. Everywhere, beers are being brewed with yeast strains (Lactobacillus and Brettanomyces) that turn what would be a perfectly fine batch of beer into a wickedly acidic, citrus, vinegar-like funk that has become all the rage.
There are many different styles of sour beers. I will touch upon many of them below. Some even add fruit to further confuse your palate. I am sure you will find at least one new favorite below. All of the beers reviewed below are available locally right now. Cheers!
Evil Twin Justin Blaeber (4.5% ABV)
This is a style of beer called a Berliner Weisse. It is traditionally a sour wheat beer with little-to-no hop character from Germany. It is typically unflavored, although flavored syrups, such as woodruff and raspberry, are usually available to temper the acidity. In the United States, this beer typically comes in bottles, with some sort of flavoring ~ blueberries in this case. Blaeber is blueberry in Danish. This beer pours an orange color with a quickly disappearing head and lively carbonation. It smells of a sour citrus and a slight whiff of blueberry. Mouthfeel is very light. The acidity lightly stings the tongue. The flavor is basically a sour blueberry. It is incredibly drinkable. I had to drink two 22-ounce bottles just to make sure I got it right.
Boulevard Brewing Love Child #4 (9.0% ABV)
This is an American Wild Ale, which means it is fermented using wild, local yeast instead of yeast that is propagated in a lab. This particular ale is a blend of beers ranging in age from 11 months to 5 years. Some are aged in whiskey barrels, some in wine barrels and some in stainless steel tanks. It pours a cloudy reddish-orange with a fluffy white head on top. The aroma is so complex that I could devote the whole article to it. Green apple, peach, raisin and oak are the main influences. The taste is as complex as the aroma. There was some sour cherry, tart vinegar, muted sweetness and other fruit flavors. There was no hop bitterness or aroma, and it finished quite dry. The alcohol is hidden incredibly well. I can see wine drinkers flocking to this.
Duchesse De Bourgogne (6.0% ABV)
This is a Flanders Red Ale style of beer straight from Belgium, where sour beers got their start centuries ago. As the name suggests, they are red in color and are known for their sharp, vinegar-like tartness. This example is a blend of 8-month-old and 18-month-old beers aged in oak. This beer pours a ruby red with a slim head on top that does not go away. It smells of sour cherries, red wine, oak and fruity vinegar. It has a light mouthfeel with active carbonation and a tart bite on my cheeks and tongue. It tastes as it smells, with the addition of a granny smith apple. This is refreshing on a hot summer day and an excellent beer to try if you’re experimenting with sours for the first time.
Lindemans Framboise (2.5% ABV)
This is a lambic style of beer with the addition of fruit. It starts its life as a low-alcohol sour beer and fruit or fruit syrup ~ in this case, raspberries are added after fermentation begins. I chose to include the Lindemans because it is available just about everywhere and it is a sweeter option for those not looking to go all-out sour. It pours a candy cane red color. The smell is of sweet raspberries. The taste began with a sticky-sweet, raspberry syrup-like taste and mouthfeel. There was a slight acidic aftertaste. This is too sweet for me, but it would make a nice dessert sipper.
Tilquin Oude Gueuze (6.4% ABV)
A Gueuze is a blend of young and old lambics. It is left to re-ferment in the bottle for up to a year. Some varieties of this style of beer can age well for 20 years or more. This particular one is a blend of many different lambics of many different ages from many different breweries. It pours a hazy, dark golden, almost orange, color with a small head and no lacing in the glass. Downright violent carbonation is evident in the glass. It smells of different fruits, sour tang and clean earth at the end. The taste is amazing ~ dry and tart, with different fruits appearing as my glass warmed. Pear, apple, cherry and sour kiwi were evident. There was a dry, sour finish that left me wanting more. This is the most drinkable of the bunch and the most addictive. Careful with this one.
I purposely left out anything from Cantillon or Drie Fonteinen. Both of these breweries make world-class beer, and if you see anything from them, buy it. They are definitely a treat to be had. These beers have a waiting list at most package stores and are usually spoken for before they arrive. Keep an eye out; you never know!