David Jang/Mustang News
“If you are one of those ‘Ew, beer, I only drink wine’ types, now is the time to convert. Grab a bottle of sour tastiness, and ready your taste buds.”
Nick Larson and Jake Devincenzi
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Kinesiology senior Nick Larson and aerospace engineering senior Jake Devincenzi are Mustang News beer columnists.
Sour beer is the new hot trend in the craft beer world, and unlike selfies, this is a trend we will wholeheartedly join. Many breweries are experimenting with wild yeast, and the results are incredible. That being said, your first time drinking a sour beer may take you by surprise if you don’t know what to expect.
Our first experience with a sour beer was memorable in the worst way. We were relatively new to beer, and found an affordable 22-ounce bottle from a brewery we were familiar with. We cracked it open a few days later and were mortified. It had a dry, almost white wine taste, leaving us baffled. “Holy shit, this is disgusting” was the immediate response, followed by, “must be a bad batch or something.” Needless to say, we wrote that brewery off. However, months later we were introduced to something “new”… sour beer. We took our first sip, and immediately realized we were idiots. That awful beer from months before was a tart berliner-weisse — we still don’t know what that means, but we have grown to like it — which we failed to comprehend at the time. In all fairness, we had no idea sour beer was even a thing, but my God, are we glad it is. The first beer tasted spoiled because we weren’t expecting it, and much like going into an Adam Sandler movie and expecting it to be funny, we wanted our money back.
Yes, sours are great, but it begs the question: who came up with the idea for a beer that tastes like damn sour patch kids? Belgians. Those crazy monks, pioneers of some of the best modern beer, went against traditional brewing regulations to create this wine-like beer. If you remember our second column, you’ll remember the main point we tried to get across was that sanitation is everything in brewing beer. In traditional brewing, once the wort is made — if you don’t know what wort is, go back and read our old columns — it is sent into a fermentation chamber (usually stainless steel fermentors in a brewery or carboys for the home brewer). These conditions are sanitary and controlled. Once they are prepared for fermentation, yeast is pitched, which turns sugars in the wort into alcohol over time. Many breweries today have their own yeast strain which they use for most of their beers, giving them a consistent taste from beer to beer. Throughout this process, utmost care is taken to ensure no bacteria get into the brew-in-making.
But one day a couple of Belgians, being the fantastically beer-savvy badasses who brought us tripels and Brussels sprouts, turned to each other (presumably intoxicated) and said something along the lines of “YOLO.” Wanting to get their latest batch done so they could go down a six-pack, they allowed wild yeast to infect the beer in barrels during fermentation, creating the tart, sour tastes that stem from wild yeast. This process is unpredictable and extremely difficult to control. However, modern breweries have harnessed the power of wild yeast, controlling a strain and replicating it for consistency through some sort of science that is beyond our knowledge capacity. Thanks to science, we can have our candy and drink it, too.
Sour is the general term for these types of beers, but in typical beer fashion, it is much more complicated than that. There’s many different styles, as each beer has a different base before the wild yeast is added. Berliner-weisses have a wheat beer base, Flanders Red’s are from a red base and innovators like The Bruery and Almanac Brewing Co. have made some fantastic stout- and porter-based sours. On top of that, the aging and blending of different sours varies between sour varieties. For example, the high-end, ever-tasty Gueuze style combines 1-year-old and 2-3-year-old Lambic-style belgian sours, before re-re-re-fermenting the beer after bottling. The best way to find your favorite style is to get out there and try them all. Just remember it is going to taste different from other beers, so prepare yourself.
One of the brightest aspects of sours for the beer world is the similarities between them and wine. Do not misconstrue that; they certainly do not taste like wine, but the fruity, light body of Lambics and Gueuzes may appeal more to a white wine connoisseur than an IPA, and for our red wine fans, Russian River’s Supplication is aged in Pinot Noir barrels. If you are one of those “Ew, beer, I only drink wine” types, now is the time to convert. Grab a bottle of sour tastiness, and ready your taste buds.