Stylin’ & Profilin’ is a brief look at different beer styles that will help you learn whether they’re right for you. Ultimately, words can’t truly turn you on to a solid craft beer. You have to smell, taste, and savor each sip to truly discover if it’s one you’ll come back to in the future. But the background info obtained in this post won’t hurt anything either. In addition, Stylin’ & Profilin’ takes a glance at various elements of craft beer culture to further enhance your knowledge and know-how!
What is a Fruited Sour Beer?
Several years ago, an ad campaign courtesy of AB InBev took several shots at craft brewers for their use of fruit in beers. One ad saw a burly, curmudgeony old salt flick an orange slice from his beer glass. Another said we craft beer drinkers can fuss over our Pumpkin Peach Ales while they enjoy their mass-produced…sigh…suds. Another told us no one likes the person who brings a watermelon beer to the party.
But, you know…Bud Light Lime is OK.
Despite ABI’s best efforts, craft brewers kept innovating because they’re nothing if not rebellious, right? In actuality, they’ve done nothing but continue to build on practices that date back as far as the earliest days of fermentation: incorporating fruit and beer. And, as is tradition when good liquid is produced, beer drinkers have responded by drinking up every drop and waiting on the edge of their seat for the next fruited creation to hit the taps at their favorite breweries and watering holes.
Fruit has found itself into many different beer styles. You may have stumbled upon Blueberry and Watermelon Wheats, Raspberry and Cherry Porters, Blood Orange IPAs, and Pineapple Ales in your recent beer travels. But fruit truly takes center stage when it finds its way into sour beer styles, such as Goses, Lambics, and Berliner Weisses. Fruits, by nature, are acidic. And those characteristics shine through brightly in sours as opposed to being more a distant flavor in other beers where hops or malt flavors steal the show.
Sours, or Wild Ales, are a beer style characterized by an intentionally bold, acidic, tart, and, just like the name says, sour taste.
How is this sour flavor accomplished? In a removal from standard brewing practices which are performed in a sterile environment to guard against the intrusion of wild yeast, sour beers gain their tart flavor profile by allowing the wild yeast strains or bacteria into the product. This practice was utilized by Belgian brewers who allowed the wild yeast to enter naturally through the barrels, but many brewers of today tend to avoid this process due to its unpredictability and risk of producing an inadequate finished product.
Brewing practices have evolved to include the process of kettle souring, meaning that beer is soured in a stainless steel mash tun and fermented in a similar tank the same way stouts, IPAs, and pale ales are done. This approach eliminates the dangerous, unpredictable nature of wild yeast that could potentially contaminate other batches of beer in the production space.
This same approach allows the addition of fruit (not that traditional means do not, but this method produces the end product in a much tighter timeframe). Many brewers have utilized fruit puree to accomplish the profile they desire. Others use actual fruit. The result is a tart, tangy, and, in most cases, refreshing beer option that lends itself perfectly to outdoor drinking activities and satiates the palates of new and experienced sour consumers.
Due to the aggressive sourness found in some offerings, many beer drinkers have not been able to adjust to some of the most traditional wild offerings. However, the addition of fruit flavors has introduced new layers of complexity, subdued the sour flavor to some degree, and helped more beer drinkers broaden their horizons regarding this historic style.
Depending on the brewer, kettle souring may be a welcomed approach to achieving a popular end product while others refuse to implement it into their routine, choosing to embrace traditional brewing practices for sours and other styles instead. Regardless of which side you take, there’s no denying the quality and overall flavor this traditional beer style with a modern twist brings to the table.