Saturday, June 22, 2013

The Power of Sour

I've said before that I'm not the biggest fan of hops. I know that they're necessary to balance out the malts so that they don't make a beer cloying or overly sweet, and I even like the citrus flavors that come from certain hop strains. It's just the bitterness that gets to me. I really enjoy the sweeter beers, like doppelbocks. I'm also a pretty big fan of fruit beers. Lately, though, I've been drinking more and more sour beers.

Call them sours, lambics, or wild ales, all I know is that I love how unique their flavors are. Like many brewers today, I was a bit nervous about the wild yeast involved in making sour beers. To me, brewing always seemed to be about the perfect recipe with just the right amount of carefully selected ingredients brought together through a highly controlled process. I guess that's why the idea of spontaneous fermentation kept me from trying a sour beer for so long.
I hope that others won't make the same mistake. If you haven't tried a sour beer yet, don't wait. The tart flavor of a sour beer is an experience in itself. There are many different kinds as well, like gueuze. Made by blending different lambics, gueuze has a dry, acidic taste that's as interesting as its name.

Cantillon Brewery and Lindemans Brewery, which have much more awesome names in Dutch, are well known for their gueuzes. They are also a great representation of the country that knows lambics better than anyone: Belgium. Besides gueuze, they make many other types of lambic beers. A good deal of them involve various fruits being added during the aging process.
Two styles that come to mind are kriek (which uses cherries) and framboise (which uses raspberries). The secondary fermentation caused by the fruit really does infuse these styles with all sorts of wonderful flavors. The greatest thing for someone like me is that there is no hop character to speak of. I may like citrus, but I like the taste of other fruits even more.
Belgium's not the only country making sour beers. Many American craft breweries make them as well, including some right here in Boston. I recently tried Trillium's Bug Valley, an American Wild Ale, after visiting their brewery and filling my 32oz growler with it. It was one of the most drinkable sours I've ever had!
Don't be afraid to try new styles of beer. Certain ingredients or methods of brewing may make you think that you won't like a particular brew, but don't let that stop you. I've pushed myself to try new things as often as I can, and it's led to me finding beers that have become some of my favorites. I can say now that I truly enjoy sour beers. I wonder which style I'll try next...

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