Sour beers are finding their way into taprooms all over the United States and we simply had to ask why. After all, why would a taproom want to sell a “beer gone bad” so to speak? The answer is that the flavor of these brews is unique and inviting, even if the overall historical methods of making them is not.
Sour beers are not exactly the newest thing on the market. In fact, they date back thousands of years, as the oldest brewing method involves open-air fermentation, which was pretty much the norm back then. However, the popularity this brewing style has gained over the past few years IS new and the craft brewing industry is not really sure what to make of it.
That isn’t really surprising, given the method of creating these brews. After all, the word “sour” has a commonly considered meaning of “bad”, yet it is not that at all. Well, we don’t think it is bad, but the craft brewing industry leaders just might disagree when it comes to quality control and health and safety standards. After all, it’s not exactly the most sanitary brew and they have standards to uphold. Perhaps this is part of why sour beers have gained the following they have. There will always be those rebels who simply must buck the system and sour beers are a great way to do it.
Simply put, sour beers are made by making a beer go “sour”. This is done by adding wild yeast or bacteria to the brew and allowing it to cool ferment, often in shallow pans. Brettanomyces, a wild yeast that is known for its “interesting” aroma, is commonly used to create sour beers and is the cause of the fruity notes that many of these beers possess. Lactobacillus is also very common in brewing sour beer and is widely used by brewers all over the world.
The shallow pan method, wherein the brew cool ferments in shallow pans, makes use of natural bacteria in the air. This method is risky, but many brewers across the United States have found success with the risk, which has been a common fermentation method, for centuries.
Allagash Brewing offers a few really great versions of these brews, as do Funky Buddha, Cigar City and many more old and new craft breweries. What was once a “risk-takers” brew has become popular enough to hit the mainstream of breweries and it seems that everyone is testing their luck. Most often these brews are small-batch style brews and you’ll have to hit the taprooms to enjoy them.
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