With flowers in bloom and temperatures climbing, many are experiencing their own seasonal shifts by seeking out lighter, refreshing styles. While sour beers aren’t necessarily seasonal, there is something to be said for a pleasantly tart beer on a scorching hot day.
Though it’s a generic moniker, “sour beer” is a broad category that could include a range of different styles. There are big differences in how these styles taste and how they’re brewed, but under this umbrella you might find anything from tart saisons and Berliner weisses to salty goses or funky and complex gueuzes.
Some of these beers attain their sour qualities courtesy of wild yeast or time spent aging in barrels with mixed cultures, while others are known as kettle sours or quick sours that can be turned around much more quickly (though often at the expense of some of the complexity you might find in their aged counterparts).
While the wide world of sour beers merits a much longer discussion than we have room for here, the best way to learn about them is to go straight to the source. Fortunately, several area breweries are releasing wild or sour beers, starting this weekend. If you’re a diehard fan or have yet to jump on the sour train, you’ll have several opportunities over the next month or so at these breweries.
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The Unknown Brewing Co.’s new Rye Felicia takes its name from a line in the film “Friday,” so it makes sense that they would celebrate the beer’s release with that movie playing in the taproom this Friday. The beer is an IPA brewed with Mosaic and Galaxy hops, then open-fermented with a wild yeast strain called Brett Drie that adds more juicy, tropical notes, with a touch of funkiness. In addition to having “Friday” playing, a DJ will be playing hip-hop classics and an ice cream truck will be parked outside. The event runs from 4-10 p.m.
Wooden Robot Brewery will release its second bottle starting at 11 a.m. Saturday. Thicket As Thieves is the brewery’s sour golden ale that is aged inside the brewery’s foeders (think big oak barrels) before undergoing a secondary fermentation with blackberry purée. Bottles will be $16 each, with a limit of four per person. Twisted Eats will be on-site with a special menu inspired by the beer.
Birdsong Brewing Co.’s Pink Robots is returning, and in cans for the first time starting at 3 p.m. next Thursday. The beer is kettle-soured, which means its sourness comes not from aging in microbe-infested oak but from Lactobacillus bacteria in the kettle. The resulting sharp acidity is balanced with the addition of puréed raspberries and blackberries. There are only 60 cases available, and they will be sold exclusively in the taproom.
Concord’s High Branch Brewing Co. will have its next bottle release when they open at 1 p.m. Sunday, May 7. After pulling one of its stouts from a bourbon barrel, the brewery transferred in a blonde ale that aged for around 10 months with a mixed culture and Roselle hibiscus flowers. The brewery describes it as “lightly tart and refreshing.” Bottles are $13 each with a limit of three per person.
D9 Brewing Co. has made a name for itself with sour ales through its Systema Naturae series (the second in this series won a gold medal at last year’s Great American Beer Festival), but its new Taming Wild Beasts series aims to give its brewers even more creative freedom. The first offering in this series, Pearadox, was fermented with the brewery’s house Lactobacillus strain with additions of Bosc pears and pink Himalayan sea salt. It will be available in four-packs in area beer stores soon.
While they don’t have firm release dates yet, Ass Clown Brewing Co. in Cornelius plans to release three sour beers in cans soon: a 7.2 percent cherry lemon sour, a 4 percent Berliner weisse brewed with orange peel, and a 4.8 percent gose brewed with lemon and limes.
Event of the week
April Sours Bring May Flowers
Duckworth’s Grill and Taphouse (4435 Park Road) will hold its annual celebration of sour beers at 5 p.m. Friday with drafts from breweries like Allagash Brewing Co., Cascade Brewing, Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales, New Belgium Brewing, Wicked Weed Brewing, Wooden Robot Brewery and more. Representatives from some of the breweries will be on hand to talk about the beer and give out swag as it lasts. The event is free, just pay by the beer.