My first taste of beer was no unique experience—the everyday beers you’d bet your life on finding in any sports bar near you. At this point I viewed beer as something to drink not because you enjoyed it, but because it was a social thing to do. From there I branched off to beers I found a little more flavorful—Blue Moon, Shock Top, witbiers that were just as easy to find on tap. Many people consider these to be a gateway, while others discover these beers and stick with them. I was still not satisfied.
Once I began exploring stouts and IPAs, I was convinced I might be more of a wine person. Stouts were “too heavy” and IPAs were “too hoppy”. Although I decided to never turn down an opportunity to try a new beer—in hopes my taste buds had changed—I was trying new flavors to no avail.
It wasn’t until I was at a bar one night in upstate New York when my friend let me have a sip of her beer. I couldn’t tell you what the beer was or even the name of the bar, but I do remember I never felt more intrigued and thirsty for more. I had always been a fan of sour things, but finding that taste in beer? I had no idea.
Getting my hands on these sour sips proved to be more difficult than anticipated—sure you could count on finding at least five beers on tap at any restaurant or bar, but none of them were ever sours. I was new to the beer world and I had no idea where to start. In the meantime, I had also discovered a love for kombucha—if this term is foreign to you, think fermented tea beverage with tart and fizzy goodness. For both types of beverages, their wild components can be attributed to multiple strains of yeast and bacteria. I understood that I had taste buds in favor of mixed fermentation, but I still wanted to explore the different funky, tart and sour flavor profiles.
It wasn’t until the Mount Snow Brewer’s Festival in Vermont that I was able to try multiple sours at once. I remember heading back to the Hermit Thrush Brewery tent multiple times to get my fill of Po Tweet. Since then I’ve attended festivals such as the Copenhagen Beer Fest and the Extreme Beer Fest that have provided great options and tastes for sour beer lovers. It was from these tastings that I discovered the many attributes of sour beer styles: gose, Berliner weisse, American wild ale, Flanders red ale, oud bruin, lambic. With a gose you’ll find beers brewed with coriander and salt. A Berliner weisse is usually much lighter and a great option for someone just starting to explore sours. American wild ales are, you guessed it, brewed in America and use a whole variety of yeast strains. Flanders red ale gets the name from the color after aging in oak barrels. There’s a whole world of sour beers out there and I’m just starting to make a dent.
I’ve always considered Belgium the focal point of sour brews, but there have been great local options I’ve come to enjoy. A few months back I first visited OEC Brewing in Oxford, CT. Seven sours on tap? To me, that was unheard of. Hermit Thrush, as previously mentioned, is located in Brattleboro, VT and is paving the way for the new American sour. Kent Falls Brewing offers plenty of gose styles and tart farmhouse ales for your palette experimentation. I recently paid a visit to Sloop Brewing in eastern New York and have since seen their sour Confliction (so sour and juicy!) on tap at several CT restaurants and bars.
What have been your favorite local sours thus far? Any bars you can count on to have at least one or two sours on tap? Later on we’ll breakdown what goes into brewing sour beers and explore some more sour breweries across the country.