Happy 2017 my loyal followers! I have so missed you… have you me? Well, its been 1.5 years since my last post. EEEEEK, I know. Life got in the way… we moved, I started a new job, my husband started a new job, our fur baby beat cancer… but i’m back! And, i’m back with a new revised look (but don’t worry, it’ll be the same content, with a spin!) My husband, Steve recently left his long time career as a chemical engineer to enter the world of his dream career, professional brewing. So, yes, I have now found myself to be a brewer’s wife. Welcome to the chronicles of my life.
So, how better to start off the new year and new revamped blog then to discuss sours! Sour beers are all the rage now. Think of this as the IPA craze of 10 years ago. I love sour beers. I have always loved sour beers… before they became “cool.”
What are sour beers? Sour beers are beers brewed with an intentionally sour or acidic taste. Think of the warhead hard candy from youth translated to beer. Sour beers get their distinct “sour” taste by introducing wild (and somewhat crazy) yeast and lactic acid (which is produced by bacteria) into the brew process. The wild yeast and bacteria help ferment your beer giving it that sour taste.
In the old days, all beers were sour to some degree. Back then, Brewers didn’t have access to the pure yeast cultures that are available today. They also often did not have a sterile environment, which prevented the intrusion of wild yeast. Traditionally, Brewers allowed wild yeast and bacteria to enter the brew naturally through barrels or during the cooling of the wort (the liquid extracted after the mashing process) by leaving it open to the outside air exposing it to wild yeast and bacteria. This process was often unpredictable and yielded a variety of results.
Wild yeast and bacteria, if not properly controlled can drastically alter the way in which the beer tastes, it can even ruin beer. And, a wild yeast outbreak in a brewery can be bad news. Along comes Emil Christian Hansen in 1883. Hansen revolutionized the brewing industry when he managed to isolate a single cell of yeast in his lab at the Carlsberg Research Institute in Copenhagen. “By serially diluting a solution, he got single cells of yeast that he then grew in sugar-rich wort. Give it time, and you’ve a got pure yeast culture.” (http://www.boxbrewkits.com/blogs/news/48614020-know-your-craft-4-things-to-know-about-face-puckering-sour-beers)
Today, thanks to Mr. Hansen’s science, Brewers work in a controlled and sterile environment to guard against the intrusion of wild yeast and bacteria in order to make the different styles of the beer we love. Now, the wild yeast and bacteria are added during the fermentation process to make sour beer. While brewing a sour beer is still somewhat unpredictable, it has become an exquisite art of brewing science.
Different combinations of wild yeast and bacteria create many unique styles of sour beer. For example, Berliner Weisse, Flanders Red Ale and Gose are a few popular sour styles. However, the most popular right now is the American Sour or American Wild Ale which is typically fermented using a strain of yeast called brettanomyces.
An American Wild Ale is the Paradox beer style that I tasted: Skully 2016 No. 39, Salty Lemons. No. 39 is a sour golden ale brewed with lemons and salt that possess a 7.9% ABV. Paradox brewery is located in the mountains of Divide, CO. Their website reveals that the rich mountain terrain has allowed them to propagate and inoculate their beers with their own house-grown brettanomyces. Pretty damn cool.
No. 39 has a 4.09 out of 5.00 rating on Untapped (the app that catalogs and rates beers that you input.) Which is pretty decent. I thoroughly enjoyed No. 39. It has a mild lemon and distinctively sour taste thanks to the brettanomyces. However, it is not as sour as some American Wild Ales, likely due to the addition of salt to the brew process. According to my husband, the salt neutralizes the sour taste.
I traditionally prefer sour ales, so the less sour taste was somewhat of a shock to me when I first tasted it. If you have never tried a sour and are apprehensive, this would be a good one to start with. I found it distributed in New York so I suspect it is widely available. You just have to look.
Sour beers take a long time to make and because of this are somewhat higher in price. But, this is one craze everyone should jump on! So splurge a little and start your new year off with a little sourness. If you have any good sours you have tried recently, leave me a comment. Cheers!
*This is an informative article and review and is no way an advertisement or endorsement for Paradox Beer company or sour beers in general, however I did really enjoy their beer.”
Sources: my husband, Steve; Wikipedia; boxbrewkits.com; paradoxbeercompany.com; untappd.com; morebeer.com; huffingtonpost.com; luckypeach.com