Never Tasted So Sweet
Story by Dave Eckert
Sour beer. It doesn’t sound very appealing, does it? But, as we head into spring, sour beer is one of the fastest growing segments of the craft beer movement.
For its part, Kansas City’s breweries have some fine sours to offer. I recently tried some of KC’s mouth-puckering sour beer offerings along with other regional, national, and international sour suds and came away with a new understanding of their taste, place, and production.
I began my sour beer exploration by chatting with Jeremy Danner, Boulevard Brewing’s Ambassador Brewer. Danner helped introduce Kansas City to the sour beer style with Boulevard’s own sour brew, Love Child.
“I tasted a sour beer at a festival in St. Louis in 2008 that really made an impression on me,” Danner shared. “But, it wasn’t until our sour beer, Love Child, started to fly off the shelves in 2009 and 2010 that I knew we were onto something.”
Boulevard will release its ninth Love Child this summer, and the brewery has released a couple of other “one off” sours over the years. Danner says he appreciates the sour style, especially their affinity for pairing with a wide variety of cuisine.
“The first thing I say to people is that our sour beer is indeed sour. But, there’s plenty of fruit there too and nice acidity, which is a key component to pairing beer with food. The higher acidity in sours scrubs the palate clean. Every time you go back for another bite of your food it’s like the first bite.”
Sour beers have been around for more than a century. Belgium refined the art of sour beer production with a style they called Lambic. Lambics, which are commonly produced with fruit such as cherries and raspberries, are fermented in open air fermentation vessels.
I tasted one Lambic, the Duchesse De Bourgogne, along with four other domestic sours at Bier Station, Kansas City’s best craft beer bar. The tasting was guided by Eric Jones, Bier Station’s Beverage Coordinator.
“My job is to buy for both our bottle store and our bar, so I do all of the keg and bottle ordering,” Jones stated.
That includes quite a bit of sour beer purchasing these days. Up to six of Bier Station’s 28 taps are devoted to sours and you can find a nice selection by the can and bottle too. Like Danner before him, Jones is sweet on sours.
“I’ve seen sours really take off in the past three years especially now that some more affordable sour beers have been introduced into the market,” Jones told me.
Of the sour beers Jones poured, two were local/regional, Crane Brewing’s Grapefruit Gose and Tallgrass Brewing Company’s Raspberry Jam. Crane’s Gose was the sourest of them all, at least to my palate, with copious amount of grapefruit on the nose and a uber tart finish. Mouth puckering on its own, Crane’s Gose took on a whole new dimension with an order of Bier Station’s Disco Fries, the tart of the Gose cutting through the fat of the fries like a hot knife through butter!
As for the Tallgrass Raspberry Jam, a fruity Berliner Weiss, it lived up to its name with tons of lip-smacking fruit and a tart, acidic finish.
At the end of the day, the Duchesse De Bourgogne was my favorite. That’s not surprising. The Belgians have been at this sour thing a lot longer than our domestic producers. But, Boulevard, Crane, Tallgrass and others are clearly on to something when it comes to sours, and I for one am looking forward to tasting more local sour beer offerings in the months and years ahead. Cheers!