While may people think sour beers are relatively new, they date back to 7000 BC. Even though our fruited sour ale hasn’t aged nearly that long, it remains a wonderful example of the complexities of this style of beer. We blend raspberries, tangerines, and lime to create a tart and exotic sour ale that even the ancient Egyptians would have enjoyed.
Raspberries, tangerine, lime.
2-row, pilsner, wheat, flaked oats.
A little bit of this and a little less of that. And when we say little, we mean little.
Scintillating aromas of raspberries and citrus zest jump from the glass. Flavors of tangerine, Sauvignon Blanc, and raspberry sorbet shimmy across the palate. Effervescent lime lingers in the mouth for a delightful finish.
If you think that sour beers are a relatively new phenomenon, then think again. Sour beers actually date back to 7000 BC – the earliest archaeological evidence of beer fermentation – which is 5,000 years before Khufu built the Great Pyramid of Giza.
In fact, sour beers were the norm until 1883. It was then that Emil Christian Hansen, a Danish mycologist and fermentation physiologist, described the first techniques for successfully isolating single yeast cells. This was a landmark event, because until then, all yeasts were a mixture containing various forms of brewing yeast, wild yeast, bacteria, and molds; it was wild yeast that turned beer sour with age.
The invention of single-strain yeast ushered in a new era in beer making, as it not only gave beers consistency that was impossible to achieve when wild yeast was part of the mix, but also prevented them from turning sour with age. Today, single-strain yeasts are used to produce many of our favorite craft beers, including ales, lagers, and pilsners. The popularity of these styles grew so fast over the last century that it put sour beers on the verge of extinction. As recently as 2010, sour beers of all sorts could only muster up 15 entries at the Great American Beer Festival.
The yeast used to make most of today’s sour beers goes by the name Brettanomyces – what we affectionately call “Brett” – and it’s a cousin of the domesticated yeasts that humans have brewed with for thousands of years. It’s often called wild yeast, not only because its natural habitat is fruit skins, but also because of its volatile temperament and unpredictable fermentations. While our sours are brewed with a Lactobacillus blend, we nonetheless prize Brett for its hints of tropical fruit, spiciness, earthiness, and funkiness, and we are happy to carve out our own chapter in sour beer’s comeback story.
Anything spicy, such as fajitas or chili, complements the tart flavor of sour ales, as do the richness of a fatty cut of beef, such as a ribeye. Because cured meats and sausage tend to be extremely salty, they make the perfect partner for a refreshing sour ale. Try pairing slightly fruity sour ales with assertive cheeses, such as goat, sharp cheddar, or Gorgonzola.