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Thursday, March 11, 2010

Sour Beer part 1

This series of posts will be an introduction to sour beer. "What is it" will be the topic of this first post, but I hope to move through some of the history of sour ales, how its brewed at home, and what you can do to try and control some aspects of this truly wild beer!

The first thing folks often ask me when I offer then a sour ale is "Why would I want to drink a sour beer?" My answer is that a sour ale is a truly unique type of beer offering a flavor complexity unlike any other beer out there.

Sour ales often have a lower pH. This means that it is more acidic then most beer and can impart a sour, tangy, tart, or puckering flavor sensation, much like lemon-aide or grapefruit can. But, sour ales can also have an acidic vinegar type of flavor.

The 4 major styles of sour ales are: Berliner Weisse, Lambic, Flanders Brown, and Flanders Red. But these days, brewers are experimenting with almost every style of ale and are turning out unique and original creations like sour pales, sour wit beer, and Flanders White ale.

So what makes these beers sour? Ales are normally fermented with various strains of yeast that produce reliable, repeatable fermentation. Sour ales introduce a variety of other yeasts and bacteria. Brettanomyces is a wild yeast with several strains. Each strain producing a variety of flavors ranging from spicy and clove (good flavors) to sweaty and horse blanket (not good flavors!). Next you have Lactobacillus and Pediococcus. These are bacteria that produces lactic acid which gives the beer an acid twang.

Using these three ingredients in a beer can take the beer from an understated mellow bland beer, and make it taste like lemon-aide. I think this is pretty neat! I urge you all to go to your local specialty beer store and try out some sour ales.

Next up will be a short history of each of these types of beer, see you then!

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