Written by Tom Becham
It seems appropriate since my last article took to task the fans of sour and barrel-aged beers that my latest review should be about sour beers.
It goes without saying that since sour beers (usually) rely on both spontaneous fermentation and bacterial action to attain their unique flavor profiles, sour beers can be wildly variable. Certain amounts of control can be obtained by blending, but there are always some factors that will vary from year-to-year, and even batch-to-batch. That said, certain allowances must be made for sours.
First on my list is Almanac’s Farmer’s Reserve Strawberry. Almanac falls under the category of “Most Undeserving of the Incredible Reputation They Possess,” for me. I’ve tried over a dozen of their sours, and with one or two exceptions (Valley of the Heart’s Delight was quite good), they were, at best, mediocre. Nothing different with their Strawberry. Strawberry can be difficult to work with, as the flavor fades extremely quickly. But for a fairly new vintage, I wouldn’t have even known this had strawberries in it, were it not for the label on the bottle. No strawberry on the nose, simply the very acetic smell of strong vinegar. Strawberry wasn’t all that evident on the palate, either. It was all sourness, with a tiny vague, sweet fruitiness on the finish. Don’t waste your money on this one. If you don’t like sours, you won’t like it. It you do like fruit sours, you’ll wonder what this actually is.
Second on my list is Tahoma Kriek from Double Mountain Brewery in Oregon. As can be seen from the “kriek” in the title, this is a sour with cherries added. Double Mountain is still a fairly small brewery, but they have impressed me with several of their efforts thus far. Tahoma Kriek is no different.
It poured with a brief, fizzy head, and was a golden color with slight reddish tones. Both cherries and cider vinegar were very apparent on the nose. As well, this beer was both puckeringly sour (but not quite astringent), and tasted strongly of sour cherry, too. Finally, it covered its 10.3%ABV splendidly. Double Mountain hit this one out of the park!
My final reviewed beer is Le Petit Diablotin from High Water Brewing of San Leandro, California. This beer is described on its label as a sour beer aged in wine barrels with sour cherry and pomegranate juice added.
This poured a bright golden yellow, also with a very short-lived head. The aroma was very much like a malt vinegar, with oak and vague wine aromas.
The flavors thoroughly confused me. I didn’t really get any cherry OR pomegranate for that matter. In fact, the only fruitiness in this somewhat sour beer was a tiny hint of apricot. But that only makes sense if the wine barrels they used were white wine barrels, like chardonnay. Sadly, the label of the beer is unenlightening in that regard. The level of sourness was quite satisfactory, but none of the fruit intended to be showcased seemed to show up to the party. Disappointing.
Off to more beer tasting!
Tom Becham. Tom Becham. Tom Becham. Beer god. Critique King. We love him here at PGA. Yes, that guy who lives in Oxnard, CA, always posting to Facebook. Has written reviews for brews and breweries as far away as Hawaii, and was rumored to have reviewed the small brewery on board a ship when Pearl Harbor happened.
Not true: we made that last part up, but most of the rest in this blurb is. We mean, really, you believed he was at Pearl Harbor? You think he’s 90 or something? Well, like the rest of us he may feel that way some days. 😉