Move over IPAs. Sour beers are making a mark. Popular at Rothbard Ale + Larder, the boutique European gastropub in Westport, and among aficionados like Renzo Kian-Kubota, artisan beer specialist at Harry’s Wine and Liquor Market in Fairfield, this old European ale-brewing tradition is inspiring American brewers to expand on tradition. Two Roads in Stratford is opening a sour facility this fall, where they’ll experiment with open fermentation and barrel aging, sources of the complex flavors and aromas, and soft, sparkling textures found in sours. At their best, sours are the Champagne of beer.
New to them? Buy a selection and throw a tasting party. If your palate runs too sweet, try Flemish Red Ale, with roasty malt flavors and cherry notes from aging in oak barrels. If you like tart, pick up Berliner Weiss. Hazy blonde, light bodied and fizzy, it is refreshing and tangy. A German Gose, with its spice and salinity, is an acquired taste. A Belgian Oude Gueuze (“oude” is your hint it’s unsweetened), hazy amber and lemon-scented, is tart, earthy, with a tannic finish.
Rothbard Ale + Larder, Westport
JOE’S PICKS FOR EUROPEAN SOURS
1809 Berliner Weisse
Dr. Fritz Briem, Germany
Cru Flemish Red
Brouwerij Rodenbach, Belgium
Abbaye de Saint Bon Chien, Brasserie des Franche Montagnes (BFM), Switzerland
Wild Beer Co., U.K.
Sour’ir De Mortagne Picobrouwerij Alvinne, Belgium
Leipziger Pineus Gose
Bayerische Bahnhof, Germany
Harry’s Wine & Liquor Market, Fairfield
RENZO’S PICKS FOR AMERICAN SOURS
Plan Bee Farm Brewery, Poughkeepsie, New York
Springdale by Jack’s Abby Brewing, Framingham, Massachusetts
Gin Barrel Saison
Hermit Thrush Brewery,
Rosé is Bae
Paradox Beer Co., Divide, Colorado
Agrestic American Wild Ale
Firestone Walker Brewing Company, Paso Robles, California
A WORD ON SOURS
A drinktionary for your next tasting
“Champagne of the north”, light, fruity, mildly sour.
Traditional method of re-fermenting beer in the bottle, creating natural carbonation.
Wild yeast produces complex floral to funky flavors; during barrel aging, it creates acetic acid, giving beer crisp acidity.
Brown ale fermented a second time in oak casks up to two years, creating lactic acid that adds sour flavor.
Whole, crushed or juiced fruit—traditionally cherries, raspberries, black currants or peaches—are added to the cask for secondary fermentation, then bottle conditioned.
Pronounced “go-sah,” it is brewed with salt and coriander, and bottle conditioned.
Pronounced “gooze,” this “Champagne of Belgium” is a sparkling lambic brewed without fruit that ferments in koolships, then ages in casks for a year. The aged lambic is mixed with a younger lambic, and bottle conditioned.
Large, shallow, open vats expose the cooling wort to micro-organisms, which inoculate it, creating complex flavors.
Traditional Brussels sour wheat beer based on two-stages of wild fermentation, producing sweet malt and sour lactic blend, then fermented in old casks. Brewers mix aged and young lambics.