Craft beer is an exploration. Every time you have something figured out, there's a new style: West Coast hybrid, a classic gem from Europe, or an entirely new flavor profile. Sour beers have made a splash on the Minnesota scene lately, with regular programs from the likes of Schell's, Bent, Surly, and now Indeed's Wooden Soul Series.
A sour beer is just as the name implies. Where drinkers have come to expect grain heartiness, hoppy bitterness, or roasted malt smoothness, a sour is instead an acidic beer that can pucker up the lips with a lemon-like effect. Some love the flavor, others hate it, but since craft beer is all about trying new things, brewers like seeing where the key four ingredients in beer can go.
"They are so far off the beaten path of what is readily recognized as 'beer,'" says Indeed brewer Adam Theis. "For me, sour beer is so quenching and refreshing, while at the same time you keep drinking if only to try and figure out just what the hell is going on in that liquid?"
Theis gave us his 5 favorite sour beers that are available locally. Of course, that includes the unspoken sixth favorite: Indeed's Wooden Soul #1, a saison with Brett, that kicked off their new series.
While Wooden Soul #1 isn't technically sour, it falls into the same family, as it's brewed with two strains of Brettanomyces yeasts, which give a "wild," earthy flavor that complements the saison style. Wooden Soul #1 is the first to be released simply because it's a faster beer to make -- sours are much more time-consuming to make, followed by barrel-aging. (The "wooden" refers to the barrels, the "soul" to the living yeast and/or bacteria used to create the beer.)
Wooden Soul #1 is available now at the Indeed taproom and will soon be at select bars and restaurants.
Here are the rest of Adam's picks for sour beers to try:
1. Duchesse De Bourgogne. This is a great entry level sour beer. It's sour with a balancing sweetness, and has a lot of cherry and vinous grape flavor.
2. Rodenbach Grand Cru. For the price, this beer is amazing. (Get a 750 ml bottle for $9.99.) It's a classic. Complex, vinous, sour, and acetic.
3. Schell's Noble Star. This is not one beer, but rather a collection of beers brewed in the Berliner Weisse fashion. Great examples of what Lactobacillus (bacteria) does for sour beer.
4. New Belgium La Folie. An American made sour brown ale that can rival all others. Be prepared: very sour, very complex.
5. Hanssens Artisanaal Oude Gueuze. Again, be prepared. Incredibly sour and acetic, plus all the old barn, farm, and earthy funk you might be looking for.