Lately I have been experiencing a level of change in the beer industry. In my experience there are cycles and trends for beer and styles.
Over the past 5-7 years the biggest trend has been hoppy beer. Also mixing different styles for a different taste making a total different style.
For a long time there were just so many styles of beers. This changes every few years with the different recipes that are introduced, and popularity of that recipe.
One of the my favorite “Mash-ups” over the past couple of years has been the Belgian IPA. This would be a mash up of a typical India Pale Ale and a Belgian Blonde Ale.
The hoppiness taste and aroma fused with the banana and clove aromas are something that brings the best of both worlds into context.
This brings me to what I feel is the latest trend that has been happening recently. The sour trend. I know some of you may be scratching your head asking, “Sour? Doesn’t that mean something is wrong with the beer?” No, it does not. This process can happen naturally, but also is done on purpose too. There are many types of beers in the sour category. Some you may know are Kreik beers. Kreik beers usually have sour cherries in them. Lambics which use different types of fruits used such as peaches, apricots and raspberry’s. Also there is a Gueze, which is a type of Lambic beer in which it is blended young and old lambics together. One year old lambic and a two to three year old lambic and bottle fermented for a second time. This is going to give a dry cider-like, sour, musty, acetic acid, lactic acid taste. A very earthy taste if you will. Many times this will not have a lot of head in contrast to many bears that are not bottle conditioned. It will have head coming out of the bottle but will dissipate.
Other sour beers in America that are gaining popularity and you are seeing more are the Gose, Berliner Weise as well as the Flanders Red.
There are a few ways to sour a beer. souring by inoculating the wort with lactic acid bacteria before primary alcoholic fermentation. Also, introducing Lactobacillus bacteria to the beer. This is a fairly slow process. Flanders red ales are first fermented with usual brewers yeast, then placed into oak barrels to age and mature. The oak barrels contains the bacteria that will sour that ale. Many times the mature beers are introduced to a younger beer to taste. Then packaged.
American wild ales do not necessarily follow any specific parameters or guidelines within a style, so they can simply be used as a catch all of the American sours if they do not fit into one of the other traditional styles. A good example of that would be the Stone Brett IPA. This was an IPA brewed and bottle conditioned with the Brettanomyces which lives in the skins of fruits. This was bottled and advised to age 8-10 months or more. I recently had one of these beers which was dry, yet hoppy. Overall a great beer.
If you are a pretty seasoned beer drinker and are looking for something different or just plain good. Give some sour beers a try. I’m confident this will cure your hunger.
If you are a brewer you will certainly appreciate how much time, knowledge and love goes into these sour beers. They are perfect for cellaring in a cool dry place for years if you are into cellaring beers as well.