Sour beers can be a polarizing thing. Some of the more challenging styles are closer to salad dressing than beer, and if you don’t know what you’re getting into, you could be in for a big surprise.
But when executed properly, they are sublime. The bright acidity can open up the palate and present flavours and sensations regular beers just don’t have. They pair amazingly well with food, and when the sun is out, that tart, dry finish can be so refreshing.
What makes a sour beer sour is its increased acidity, usually from the presence of lactic or acetic acid. There’s about million different ways to make a sour beer, which I won’t get into here, but if you’re curious, check out Joe Wiebe’s excellent primer on the style from the last issue of The Growler.
One of my favourite sour beers is brewed right here in B.C. by Townsite Brewing in Powell River. While it’s debatable who first developed sour beers, there’s no debate that it was the Belgians who perfected them, and Townsite owner/brewer Cédric Dauchot just so happens to be an honest-to-God Belgian.
This beer is a testament to his training, and his genetic makeup. Lil’ Red 4.0 is the fourth edition of this Belgian-style sour red ale, and it is sublime. Aged in oak foeders, fermented with wild brett yeast and blended to perfection, the result is an exceptionally well-balanced sour beer that is both approachable and utterly fascinating. There’s so much going on here, from the balsamic acidity to the barnyard brett funk, to the dried fruit, vanilla and tobacco, even notes of blueberry and sherry. These are flavours that could easily overpower each other, yet here they are in perfect harmony. Damn.
The ABV is a perfectly respectable 6.0%, and it’s light bodied enough that it wouldn’t be out of place on your patio.
Mind you, this isn’t your entry level sour—start off with fruit kettle sour if you’re looking for an introduction to the style. But when you get bored of those, Lil’ Red will be waiting for you (if you’re lucky).
Lil’ Red 4.0 by Townsite Brewing (6.0% ABV)
Appearance: Brilliant reddish brown with off-white head.
Aroma: Damp hay, brett funk, balsamic vinegar, dried fruit.
Flavour: Dried fruit, bright acidity, balanced brett funk character, cherry, blueberry, tobacco, vanilla, wet hay, apricot, grainy malt character.
Body: Light bodied with a tart acidic finish.
Pairs with: Summer salad with goat cheese and mandarin orange, moules–frites, Tintin comics, and a warm evening outside watching the sunset.