Infected, funky, bacteria filled, sour beer. Now, before you close this page to read the current status of Jay-Z and Beyonce’s relationship, give me a second to explain myself. I like sour beer. No….I love sour beer. My relationship with sour beer first began with my taste of New Belgium‘s La Folie. Upon my first sip, I could not get past the mouth puckering sour bite the brew provided. It was nothing like any beer I had ever tasted. I got lots of green apple, some slight vinegar notes and this smooth yet inviting lingering sourness. I was hooked!
Before moving to Colorado, I had never had sour beer. I actually questioned why one would want to make an infected beer. I had always worked hard to avoid infecting my beer….and drinking infected beer for that matter. But there is an art form to sour beers. Discussing sour beer with people at New Belgium, I quickly gained a huge appreciation for this niche market of beer. New Beligum has the largest sour beer cellar called “Cache La Foudre” and this place is massive. New Beligum’s Lauren Salazar is the brains behind sour beer program. Salazar blends beers from various Foudres until the beer is perfect. Blending allows New Belgium to find the perfect balance as each Foudre imparts a different flavors and characteristics. In a way, Foudres are like little children with their own personality. Allowing different bacteria like Pediococcus (Pedio) or Lactobacillus (Lacto) or wild yeast such as Brettanomyces (Brett) to provide flavor profiles is key to sour beer. These funky little bugs do some amazing things to an average brew.
My first sip of La Folie inspired me to try my had at sour homebrew. I, along with some fellow Liquid Poet homebrew club members, organized a New Belgium sour barrel project. We would brew the same recipe and then utilize one of New Beligum’s sour barrels. The first batch was a Flanders Red that was then introduced to a bug infected Leopold Bros. Blackberry Whiskey barrel. I recently had a chance to taste the beer’s progress and all I can say is that I cannot wait until it is done. We are looking to pull it around December of this year.
I am actually brewing another sour beer that is destined for another New Belgium barrel. The beer is a dark wheat. The recipe is below. This beer will be infected with wild yeast, Pedio and lots of Lacto. I am again very excited for this opportunity with New Belgium. My love for sour beer has now led me down the path of sour fruit beers. I have recently acquired 12 pounds of local sour/tart cherries that will be used for a sour beer in the near future.
I could drone on and on about sour beer. The sour revolution is in full swing and I could not be more happy to have more breweries trying their hand at sour beer. If you can find some of New Belgium‘s, Crooked Stave, Trinity Brewing, The Bruery or Russian River sour beers….do yourself a favor and pick them up. Sour beers may be an acquired taste, but you will be tasting the a slice of the future of craft beer. Cheers and pucker up!
Dark Wheat Beer – Sour Base
Target 1.055 O.G. and 15 IBU
7 lbs Weyermann Dark wheat malt (7°L)
2.5 lbs pale ale malt
1 lb rice hulls
0.5 oz Hallertau Tradition (6.9% AA) for 60 minutes
Safale US-05 or any other fairly neutral yeast.