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Co-op brew corner

Co-op Brew Corner: Sour Power

It’s official: sour style beers are catching on. A decade ago it was rare to see a Sour ale — be it Wild Fermented, Gose or Kettle Sour — on tap, let alone in a bottle or can to take home to enjoy. Today’s beer scene seems to a have an affinity for these tart, mouth-watering ales, made with yeasts that often produce tangy flavors. Warm spring and summertime weather sets the scene for enjoying their zesty flavors.

Shortcut SourBefore the use of standardized yeast strains, all beer was made using wild yeasts that floated in the air. Many sour or wild ales are brewed using the same principle: fermenting grains with unique and wild yeasts strains to produce different flavors. Look for more “sour” ale styles, including the Gose style that are brewed with lactobacillus (yes, that culture often used in yogurt) and sea salt, along with coriander and other spices. Serve sour ales in tulip-shaped or fluted glassware to allow the brew to breathe and release its flavors.

As with any traditionally crafted food, there’s a bit of a conflict over the way sour beers are crafted: kettle vs. aged. The fast-tracking Kettle sour is much easier and quicker to make, as it doesn’t require special equipment or as much aging time. Kettle sours are often made in a few weeks and accelerate the development of the lacobacillus bacteria by adding them before the boil for a quick-souring process. A traditional aged sour beer, by contrast, is inoculated with bacteria and sometimes Brettanomyces yeasts after the boil and can ferment for up to two years until poured. Aged sours are often much more expensive than kettle sours.

While some beer purists argue that the makers of Kettle sours are “cheating”, there are plenty of good quality, low priced Kettle sours on the market right now, including Iron Horse’s Shortcut Sour and (very soon!) Breakside Brewing’s Passionfruit Sour. For a traditionally aged sour, try New Belgium’s La Folie Aged Sour Brown Ale, $14.99 per 22 oz. Typically the flavor of sour beers are food friendly, with a pleasant acidity and carbonation that pairs well with spicy or rich dishes. Enjoy lighter sours with appetizers and reserve the darker ones for dessert or nightcaps.

Shortcut Sour from Iron Horse Brewery of Ellensburg, WA. 5.9% alcohol by volume / low IBU — a brand new release from one of Washington’s favorite breweries, the Shortcut Sour is made using the Kettle sour method. The result is a dark amber-colored, tart, and tangy brew at a reasonable price. Pair Shortcut Sour with milk chocolate s’mores, roasted meat, or strong cheddar cheese. $4.99 per 22 oz.

Zenith Grapefruit Gose from Ecliptic Brewing of Portland, OR. 4.5% alcohol by volume / 10 IBU — this Pacific Northwest interpretation of a traditional German-style sour ale has a touch of coriander, salt, and grapefruit. A light style of sour, sip this dry and tangy brew as the sun sets later each evening. Pair it with fresh oysters, citrus baked seafood, or roasted asparagus. $5.99 per 22 oz.

By: Claire

ClaireClaire Harlock Garber loves to eat and drink and write about it. She has worked in the food industry for nearly a decade and was on staff at the Skagit Valley Co-op from 2010-2018, writing the regular columns Skagit Brew Corner, The Cheese Whisperer, The Bounty of Bulk, and What's Dippin' in the Well for the Co-op's blog, as well as articles for the Natural Enquirer newsletter.