I remember distinctly the first time I tasted a sour ale, at one of our weekly beer tastings about 7 years ago. None of us there really enjoyed it at all — in fact, it was collectively declared to be “redolent with notes of SweetTarts”. Little did I know on that night, but that distinct, sour flavor would grow on me; causing me to reject the piney, hop-bomb, palate-killing IPA’s of my past for something lighter, and MUCH more food-friendly. Sour ales got their start in Belgium, where beers are fermented spontaneously in open wooden barrels. The wild yeasts (notably brettanomyces) and bacteria (such as lactobacillicus) that collect in these barrels add a dryness and complexity that is only enhanced further through a secondary bottle fermentation. The resulting brew is unlike any other beer you’ve tried — think actual Champagne rather than Miller High Life. Recently, American craft breweries like Russian River Brewing Company and New Belgium Brewery have championed the style, and it’s slowly but surely been gaining a passionate following among beer enthusiasts everywhere. If you’d like to sample a sip of this mouth-puckering delight, then I’ve got some choice recommendations:
–Russian River Brewing Company, Temptation Ale (pictured above)
–Duchesse du Bourgogne, a Flemish red ale
And if you do try some, make sure to serve it in a tulip or goblet, not a pint glass — and pour slowly, allowing the sediment to remain in the bottom of the bottle! — Megan B.