BY ANDREW DEKREY
More and more beer lovers are discovering a previously semi-rare style of brew – sour beer.
For those who may not have heard of this growing interest, the concept usually sounds off-putting. One may think it will taste similar to the Fat Tire that has been on their roommate’s night stand since last weekend. A rotten sour flavor comes to mind. However, a better mindset would be to think of it as a tart candy.
A milder, sour beer will be slightly sweet and barely tickle the edges of your tongue. You may not even notice it at first and need to look closer for the sour to even detect it. On the opposite end of the spectrum, there are sours that will punch your palate and make you pucker something awful.
Sour beers originated in Belgium and can range in color, flavor and aroma. The differences between traditional Belgian sours can be explained by their region or origin. Others are identified by how they are brewed.
For example, a Flanders red ale will originate in West Flanders, Belgium. Another style, called a Gueze, is characterized by its blending of young and old Lambics, then aged for several years. This excessive and lengthy brewing process is not unique to the Gueze. Sours are generally difficult to produce and often take years before they reach maturity.
I am always reminded of this story when I think of sour beers. During my employment at JL Beers, we tapped a keg of beer called the Duchesse De Bourgogne. This is one of my favorite sours. I remember there was a customer who really wanted to try something new and crazy. She mentioned she only drank lagers, so I was hesitant to give her anything too crazy.
After bringing her a few bold samples, she still insisted she wasn’t wowed enough yet. That is when I knew she needed to try a sour. Needless to say she absolutely loved it. It was hard for her to accept that this flavor could come from a beer, which is totally understandable.
I remember being shocked tasting my first sour. The moral of the story is that even a person who is beginning to taste these abstract beers need not be warmed up to them.
If this gem of a beer interests you, I have included a full description of the Duchesse located at the end of this article.
I also think certain sours, like a Framboise Lambic, would appeal to wine and cider drinkers. The acidity and carbonation of the Lambic closely resemble a wine or cider. The grain, hop and barley taste people expect to be in every beer is well hidden in a sour. It would be easy to fool someone into thinking this beer was a type of wine or cider.
In addition, many Lambics are fruit flavored which adds more fruit complexity and unique character. I included a full description of the Framboise at the bottom of the article.
Sour beers are truly something special. It is no understatement when I refer to them as world class beers. If these sound interesting to you, I encourage you to give them a try. The price points generally range from $8.50 to $15 for a pint and nine ounce bottle (which is referred to as a bomber).
The brewery’s website describes the Duchesse De Bourgogne as “ … an ale of mixed fermentation. It is a sweet-fruity ale with a pleasant fresh aftertaste. This ale is brewed with roasted malts and with hops with a low bitterness. After the main fermentation and the lagering, the “Duchesse de Bourgogne” matures further for many months in oak casks. The tannins in the oak give the “Duchesse de Bourgogne” its fruity character.”
The website for Lindeman’s Framboise describes it as follows: “Long before hops were common in most beers, various fruits and vegetables were used to season beers. The acidity of Lambic beers blends perfectly with raspberries.”
This rose colored raspberry Lambic pairs well with chocolate desserts, fresh raspberries, baked Alaska, cavier and Olumpia oysters.
Notable sours that can be found in the Fargo-Moorhead area include: the Duchesse De Bourgogne, Rodenbach Grand Cru, New Belgium La Follie, Goose Island Lolita and St. Louis Gueuze Fond Tradition.
The next time you feel like treating yourself, treat yourself to a world-class sour.