2012 Trend Alert: Sour Beers in the Mitten State

Like sour beers? Well apparently you’ll be among the trendy ones in the upcoming new year as Sour Beers start topping more and more “2012 trend” lists

Sour Beers are the new Slider

So what is a sour beer anyways? Well, besides having a VERY strong flavor profile, it’s rooted in an old traditional brewing method of spontaneous wild yeast strains and natural bacteria to ferment the beer (if you leave the mash out in the open air, natural bacterias will find their way in, starting the fermentation process naturally and spontaneously), rather than manually adding a specific strain of yeast. This process has been used in many countries for hundreds of years, but just recently has become popular in the American Craft movement. What is difficult for those brewing in the U.S. is the lack of wild yeast floating in the air, so they are left to test out different strains of yeast (Brettanomyces, Lactobacillus, or Pediococcus), bacteria, and/or aging beers in oak wine barrels. This method can also be very unpredictable, and takes months to ferment (and sometimes years to mature)

Of Sours Beers, the Huffingtion Post says of 2012:

The rise of craft beers is now firmly entrenched enough that Americans understand that beer should taste like things other than diluted, moldy whiskey-Cokes. Indeed, stiff IPAs and creamy Belgian-style whites alike have gotten a lift as Americans have shifted their preferences towards small brewers. The time, then, may be right for a truly strange mode of beer: sour ales and lambics. Though unfamiliar to most U.S. palates, they’re popular in Belgium and among American craft brewers themselves — so they may soon gain broader recognition.

Well, living in this great beer state of Michigan, you must all be thinking the same thing: We must have some GREAT sour beers. And you know what? We do.

A few Michigan Sours to try out (if anyone asks, you were drinking them before it was “cool”)

Arbor Brewing : Ann Arbor, MI

  • Sodibo (barrel-aged sour blonde, 6% abv, available annually in March. They take their spiced Belgian-style Blonde and age it in gueuze-inoculated oak casks for 6 months, then bottle condition it for a minimum of 2 months)
  • Flamboyant Wild Red (barrel-aged Flanders’s red, 9.3% abv, available annually in December. They take their Jackhammer Olde Ale and age it in gueuze-inoculated oak casks for 6 months, then bottle condition it for a minimum of 2 months)
  • Framboozled (barrel-aged Sour Brown, 7.7% abv, available annually in June. They take a slightly boozy version of their Strawberry Blonde (7.25% abv) brewed with orange peel, coriander, and strawberries and age it in gueuze-inoculated oak barrels for at least 9 months, re-ferment it with whole raspberries, then bottle-condition)
  • Velvet Hammer (barrel-aged Sour Brown, 8.5% abv, available annually in June. It is a Belgian Dubbel-style base beer aged in a gueuze-inoculated oak cask for a year, and then bottle conditioned. A new vintage is released the first Saturday in June on Velvet Hammer Day)

New Holland Brewery : Holland, MI

  • Envious (7.5% abv. Oak aged, utilizing Michigan Pears to produce a second fermentation)
  • Blue Sunday  (8.7% abv. This is their anniversary libation, heritage-blended from their library of barrel-soured beers. It also won the Silver Medal for Belgian-Style Lambic or Sour category at the 2011 Great American Beef Fest)

Bell’s Brewery : Kalamazoo, MI

  • The Wild One Ale (Every batch of Wild One begins as dozens of distinct batches fermented in wooden barrels, each with its own unique combination of wild yeasts & other microorganisms. After several months, the brewers then sample each of the barrels and blend to taste, selecting the desired flavor attributes from this array)

Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales :  Dexter, MI

All Jolly Pumpkin beers go through a secondary fermentation with wild yeast in oak barrels, technically making them all “sour.” Here are some of their more popular beers:
  • Calabaza Blanca (Belgian Biere Blanc, 4.8% abv. Spiced with orange and coriander)
  • La Roja (brewed in the Flander’s tradition, 7.2% abv. Named “top 50 beers you must try” by GQ Magazine)

A few great articles on Sour Beer:

Watch Kalamazoo Beer Week‘s calendar of events. Click here for more info about what to do in Kalamazoo!  Cheers!


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