When we first heard about sour beers we were taken aback by the idea of anyone drinking one of them intentionally. Sour, to us, simply did not sound “good”. In fact, much like with cottage cheese, sour sounded very bad. However, it turns out these masterpieces of tartness are beloved by many beer aficionados all over the world. Who knew?
For heaven’s sake, please do not judge these brews by their aroma. As the writer at SeriousEats noted, this is likely the worst way to judge the brew. In fact, don’t breathe. No really, just don’t breathe. If you do, it could turn you away from what is likely to be the most interesting beer you’ve ever tasted. Sour is as sour does, and the little beasties that work hard to help in the creation of these beers are proud of the aroma they cause. At least, we’re pretty sure they’re proud because they do their job very well.
If you really must know, the aroma is not going to be something you ever want to smell again, at least, until the next time you crave a sour brew. And exactly why would you crave one again? Because once you get past the smell, and that tart beginning, you’re going to find out that these brews are actually pretty darn amazing.
The origins of sour beer are likely buried deep in history, as we’re pretty sure beer has been sour before. After all, refrigeration methods weren’t exactly available in Egypt, Sumeria, and other such areas back then. However, for the purposes of today’s style, sour beer can be said to have originated in Belgium. This should not surprise anyone, considering Belgium has some of the oldest still-standing breweries in the world. Those such as Cantillon have found fame in their sour beer, which is a seasonal production that relies on spontaneous fermentation in the open air.
Yes, we’re saying that these brews are intentionally infected with wild yeasts and open air bacteria to create the delicious resulting brews. It may sound gross and smell like a science experiment gone horribly wrong, but it is quite an amazing flavor overall and well worth trying at least once. If you love sour beer, that once will turn into dozens of times.
Sadly, or happily depending on your tastes, no. This is not simply some fad that is spreading through the United States like a viral infection from Resident Evil. This brewing style has existed for quite some time, intentionally. American brewers have picked up the standard and run with it and the results have been climactic. The very nature of these brews makes every barrel an experiment that can go epically well or horribly wrong, but once blended, the results are often like ambrosia. Seriously misunderstood, but unregrettably unique.
This style seems to be picking up speed here in the United States as well. Although every brewmaster has to be quite careful when taking on this style, many are doing so with flair. Even one broken barrel, one machine slip that spills this brew all over can result in a cleanup effort that resembles the Exxon cleanups of old. The bacteria and wild yeasts involved can quickly spread to other vats, something no brewmaster needs on his plate, so most reserve a special area for the creation of these wild and untamed brews.
We always suggest that folks try something new, and this is no exception. Sour beer isn’t “bad” at all, but it may not be to your particular taste. However, you’ll never know until you go out and give one of them a try. So, get out there my adventurous fellow craft beer lovers. Go see what you can find and remember a clothespin.