#sour – PorchDrinking.com
The craft beer scene in the U.S. has been around for a relatively short period of time. Part of its rapid growth and success can be attributed to the industry’s willingness to evolve and contort itself to appeal to the ever-changing whims of today’s curious consumer. While hard seltzers and fruit-puree sours might be nothing more than a passing trend, one recent market shift seems to be here for the long haul: craft beer in cans. The benefits of cans are clear: they’re more transportable, better for the environment, and boast longer shelf life than their glass counterparts. A huge signal that the can trend is more of a foundational than fleeting trend in the U.S. is that century’s old European brewers are also augmenting their typically rigid perceptions of packaging to appeal to the American market.
This story begins as many brewery stories start, with a friendship and a passion for home brewing. Austin Street Brewery, co-owned by friends Jake Austin and Will Fisher, opened in 2014 on Industrial Way in outer Portland, Maine. Together they spent years on Austin Street in Westbrook, Maine, creating beers on their homebrew system that they wanted to drink. In 2013, as the craft beer boom commenced, they took a chance and opened their brewery with a one-barrel system. When speaking with Jake Austin, he made it clear that their focus is to create “highly drinkable beer, not to chase trends.” It would seem that mission is working well for them as they recently opened a second, larger location in Portland’s East Bayside neighborhood.
What happens when a vintner’s daughter, who has worked in her family vineyards and wine cellar from early childhood, falls in love with spontaneously fermented beers in Belgium? Enter Jitka Ilčíková and her “vintner brewed beer” at Wild Creatures in Mikulov, Czech Republic.
Summer is in full swing. That means weekends and evenings go from on the couch with Netflix to the porch or patio, trading in the chocolate for the more fruit-inspired desserts, and throwing back a few brews as the days get longer.
Sours tend to see an upswing in production and popularity in the warmer months, as they supply a balance of refreshing zest and irresistible pucker. Sours have become the antithesis of IPAs, and it seems that drinkers from either of these two camps stand their ground when it comes to their beverage of choice for the summer.
From Appalachia to Outer Banks and everywhere in-between, fine craft beer crops up all over North Carolina. For example, some 25 minutes east of Chapel Hill, you’ll find Saxapahaw, North Carolina. If you reach Haw River, turn around and look for a rejuvenated old mill. You’ll know by music from the chronically hip Haw River Ballroom, weekly community get-togethers in the form of Saturdays at Saxapahaw, and maybe most importantly, fine craft beer from Haw River Farmhouse Ales.
Some brewers pull inspiration from current trends and others seek to brew according to personal like and although neither is wrong, Barrett Tillman of BlackMan Brewing, he’s in neither category.
Insert the Hostel Cereal, a timidly tart sour ale, which according to Tillman “began as a study on famine, its cause and how people survive.” During his travels through Africa and staying at hostels, the breakfast that was served was a porridge, made from grains and topped with whatever fruit was available. This was Tillman’s inspiration for the Hostel Cereal.
In today’s U.S. craft beer market, tenure is a very relative term. So, when something has been around for 20 years, you take notice. That is the case with New Belgium Brewing’s wood-aged sour program, which is the oldest in the United States. The program has created sour trendsetters like La Folie; all the while continuing to set the mark for what consumers should look for in a good wood-aged sour.
Flowers bloom, jackets get placed in storage and new beer makes its way onto store shelves. If the recent weather is any indication, spring is right around the corner. And while I don’t want to jinx it, I’d be lying if I told you I wasn’t already daydreaming of new spring releases and returning seasonals that pair well with warmer temps and added sunshine. Thankfully, I’m not alone in that sentiment. Spring is an exciting time for craft brewers as darker beers retreat to their barrels and lighter and fruitier options come into prominence. This spring might be even more adventurous for beer releases as craft brewers continuously compete to address changing consumer preferences amongst the surging popularity of lighter alcohol options, wine and spiked seltzer.
Being a master blender is much like being a mad scientist. It takes an innate knowledge of the craft, a bit of daring, and a bit of flare. The job inherits a lot of risk thanks to how unpredictable wild yeast can be. Thankfully, California-based Firestone Walker has the man up to the task.
Jim Crooks, affectionately called Sour Jim, has run Firestone Walker’s Barrelworks wild yeast facility since its introduction in 2014. During that time, he’s worked on unique barrel blending projects like Feral One and newer ventures like their recently-released Rose-style beer that uses locally-sourced Paso Robles grapes. Crooks has produced a lot of innovative offerings over the past five years, but the best may be yet to come given their focus on blending the lines between beer and wine with the help of locally-sourced ingredients. We asked Jim five questions about his role, why he focuses on fresh, and what comes next for Barrelworks. Here’s what he said.
One of my favorite holiday traditions is driving around looking at lights. When I was a kid, my family would pack into the car and take the longest route possible between my aunt’s and our house to look at Christmas lights. Even in high school, my friends and I would drive around looking for those homes whose merry-making bordered on deranged. Now that I’m older, I still take the Christmas light tour after dinner. Short’s Brewing Company, following in the Christmas tradition, released an American sour ale to highlight the raucous displays that have become as much a part of the holidays as Santa and presents.
In what could be a sign of changing times, Revolution Brewing announced earlier this month, that they would begin expanding their Freedom Session Sour lineup making that series available in cans all year round. Next up in the series is a Kettle Sour with black currants called Freedom of Press. In order to make room for those beers, a Revolution staple, Bottom Up Wit, will no longer be canned.
Confession: I never wanted to be a beer snob. In fact, I fought it. But I wouldn’t be writing this if I succeeded.
I started drinking craft beer because I didn’t know better. All I knew was I liked it better than the macros. Before long, I was drinking craft beer because I did know better. Words like “boozy” and “barnyard” and “mouthfeel” entered my vocabulary. At bars, the hunt began with the most expensive. I researched the history of lambic and pilsner and bière de garde. And to complete my snob-ucation, I joined a beer club.
For the past month and a half, our staff has been reaching out to every brewery attending the Great American Beer Festival to try to preview what they’ll be bringing to the fest. As part of that research, we’ve sifted through that list of beers to bring you a series of themed routes to help you plan for your GABF based on various styles and flavors.
It is summertime in Seattle – and in consequence, the city has, collectively, fled to the nearest patio from their non-air-conditioned apartments in search of a brew that can quench summer cravings. With the heat climbing steadily and the days continuing to seem never-ending, we Seattleites are all in need of something light, something delicious, something sustainable – nothing too strong. Luckily, Stoup Brewing has answered the call with their Loral Dry-Hopped Sour.
One of the greatest things about craft beer is the actuality that people are being introduced to it every day. Whether by sheer curiosity or encouragement, craft beer finds it way to someone’s palate for the very first time. Although many will argue that the craft beer scene is becoming over saturated, there are still markets that have tons of potential. If you reside outside of the Southeast you may consider Virginia, North Carolina, and Florida as big brewery states for beer chasers and beercations. Emerging as a front runner for brewery hot beds, Charleston, South Carolina is adding on to it’s already impeccable list of reasons to visit and helping put South Carolina on that very radar.
The Colorado brewery scene is one with its ups and downs, ebbs and flows. Some breweries see their star shine brightly, then quickly fizzle out and shut their doors nearly as soon as they opened. Others, like Crow Hop Brewing in Loveland, CO, find increased success year after year and eventually need to move locations to accommodate the greater fanfare.
For over two decades, Two Brothers Brewing Company has been making solid beer and is a mainstay in the Chicago beer scene. Just recently, they added a new year-round beer to their rotation as well as two seasonal/limited releases.
As someone based in Denver who makes a hobby out of beer writing, I have what can only be described as an embarrassing confession: I had never tasted New Belgium’s La Folie—or any other of its critically acclaimed sours—before last week.
The gravity of this oversight may be lost on the casual enthusiast, so allow me to explain. For 20 years, the Fort Collins-based brewery has been cranking out some of the country’s most complex wood-aged beers, starting with the first iteration of La Folie, its flagship Flanders-style Sour Brown Ale aged in massive oak barrels called foeders. New Belgium’s is now the largest wood cellar program in the U.S., with 64 French oak foeders and one American white oak foeder all imparting funky flavors to base beers as they mature.
For many in Colorado, the arrival of February signals the official start of Stout Month, a cult following tradition that extends to all Mountain Sun Brewery and Pub locations. However, our friends at First Draft Taproom & Kitchen have begun a February tradition of their own, by celebrating the tart and acidic side of beer with a Sour Month celebration.
First Draft Taproom & Kitchen team has been saving up a multitude of draft and bottle sour gems and we’ve got the info on what sour beers to expect this February. Drop into First Draft Taproom and Kitchen in Denver’s River North Art District located at 1309 26th St., Denver, CO this month to enjoy some of this special sours!
Like any story worth sharing, it started with a night of drinking wine with his grandparents. The moment of clarity slapped Dick Mergens out of sleep at 3AM, and he saw it immediately through a boozy haze: “I should open a brewery.” The 23-year-old Lowe’s employee crawled out of his grandparents’ basement the following morning and shared his vision with his coworker Dylan. Soon enough, two other longtime friends were on board. It was only a matter of time before I walked into their brewery to taste Molten Peaches.