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Getting Sweet on Sour

beer101logoWhat do you do when sour beer goes mainstream? It is not a question that is immediately before us, as sour beer is not yet mainstream. But how  much longer will it be before we see Rickards Sour or Coors Light Tart (hopefully a long, long time – ed.)?

I exaggerate to make a point. Sour remains very much a niche flavour in the beer world, but boy has it become the little tartness that could. Sour beer of various shades have become trendy for those who like to be avant garde. Most of this new popularity is driven by U.S.-based craft brewers getting serious about sour. That is a very good thing.

We shouldn’t lose sight, though, that sour beer have been around for centuries and there are deep traditions in Europe of sour beer. While these traditional soured products lack the shiny veneer of their younger American brethren, they have much to teach us about how complex and drinkable a soured beer can be.

I decided to create something of a primer on sour beer for my latest Beer 101 column (which you can read here). I walk through some of the traditional European sour beer styles, including Flanders sours, Berlnier Weisse, and Lambic. But I also examine some of the American off-shoots, which broadly speaking defy easy categorization.

I pay particular attention to the recent development of Kettle Sours, a topic which I delve into more fully in a recent CBC column (find a link to it here). As it turns out I wrote the Beer 101 column while sipping on Blindman’s Kettle Sour #1. Kettle sours are a way for brewers to get some elements of sour beer without all the time, technical hassle and risk of traditional souring. Kettle souring does come at the price of complexity – it lacks the fullness that a traditionally soured beer has. But you can’t have everything.

Sour will remain a fairly niche product, I suspect. The flavours are just too unusual for the average beer drinker. However, I predict we are going to be seeing more sour beer around these parts. It is not just Blindman and Wild Rose (with their Cow Bell Sour). Rebellion Brewing is committed to sour beer, and at least one of the upcoming projects in the Edmonton area will be taking sour and barrel-aging quite seriously.

Is sour beer mainstream? No. Will it be? Unlikely. Will it carve out a large space in the beer world in the coming years? Definitely.

 

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