Distilled: Sweet on sour beers

By
From the July 25, 2013 edition

Sour beers are strange … and wonderful. A beer characterized by being tart or acidic may sound off-putting, but it shouldn’t be. They offer some of the most complex profiles out there. Actually, sour beer is a broad term covering a number of interesting styles.

Since American craft brewers became intrigued by sours a few years ago and began experimenting — joining other long-established (mostly European) breweries that focus on sours — there has been an increase of products on the market. Beer aficionados have also become enamored with sours.

“It wasn’t a big deal a couple years ago. Now there’s been a shift … they’re also getting into the sour stuff,” said Adam Roelle, eer and spirits manager at Weiland’s Gourmet Market in Clintonville.

American craft brewers like Russian River Brewing Co. and Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales have received acclaim for sours, as have a number of Belgian operations. Lindeman’s is best known for its super sweet lambics, but the Gueuze Cuvée René — the base for the fruity sours — is an excellent not-too-sweet sour.

“The heart of it is delicious. Then they put a bunch of this sweet syrup and it’s way too much,” Roelle said.

So with a plethora of options on the shelves — and being a particularly refreshing style for theeason — Roelle guided me toward some worthy choices. The first was Jolly Pumpkin’s Baudelaire IO, a saison brewed with rose hips, rose petals and hibiscus. It’s a wonderful beer with big floral notes (obviously) that play nicely againstacidity, and its carbonation is off the charts. This is highly recommended.

The other two recommendations were German sours. The Piwo Grodziskie Grätzer Ale — good luck pronouncing that — is a sour smoked wheat ale that’s only for the brave. I liked the crazy flavors (a little smoke here, a dash of hops here, gobs of acidity), but it’s a downright strange brew. Give it a shot. third was Leipziger Gose. The dry, crisp beer, brewed with salt and coriander, was easily the most refreshing of the three.

Photo by Meghan Ralston