Before advances in refrigeration, sanitation, and fermentation in the mid-19th century, most beer was, to a certain degree, sour. The culprits? Wild bacteria and yeast that infiltrated the beer to create unwanted tartness and funk.
Today, as the craft beer industry continues its meteoric rise, sours are making a comeback as modern day brewers infect their beers with the same microorganisms that their predecessors worked so diligently to eradicate.
“Up until about 10 years ago, people thought that the only place you could make sours was Belgium, and everywhere else had too much weird yeast in the air,” says Sage Dawson, co-owner of Toasted Barrel Brewery in SLC, which is proving that this is very much not the case.
“As far as what makes a sour beer, you can look at it scientifically from a pH standpoint, or it can be about taste and perception,” notes Dawson, who experiments with different fruits and barrels to enhance his sour beers.
Due to the increased difficulty of brewing, a larger margin of error, and the potential for contamination of other non-sour beers, you won’t find sours at every brewery in the Salt Lake Valley.
Whether you’re looking for a well-balanced sour like a fine wine, or a beer reminiscent of liquid Sour Patch Kids, here are the breweries you don’t want to miss.
If you’re a fan of sour beers, then Toasted Barrel Brewery should be stop Number One on your list.
Toasted Barrel is best known for barrel-aged sours. Co-owners Dawson and Lynn Litchfield add yeast like brettanomyces and lactobacillus or pediococcus (bacteria) to their brews before aging them in barrels that have contained everything from bourbon and chardonnay to maple syrup and tequila. Their Chardonnay Barrel-Aged Farmhouse is a must-try.
But don’t sleep on their fruit-forward kettle sours! The Black Currant Sour has a beautiful purple hue and tons of tartness. Another fruity sour to try is the Phineas, named for a “wonky cat” and flavored with fresh raspberries and vanilla bean at the end of fermentation.
Uinta Brewing’s limited edition sours should not be overlooked, especially the Pit Stop—a kettle-soured IPA brewed with apricots and a trio of hops. It’s complex, fruity and tart.
Ask the bartenders at T.F. Brewing what the ultimate sour beer is, and their answer is unanimous: the Pineapple Berliner Weisse—a German-style wheat beer complimented perfectly with the sweetness and tartness of the spiky tropical fruit.
Depending on what’s available, T.F. Brewing’s Berliner Weisse has also been flavored with passionfruit and a combination of pomegranate and blackberry.
Epic Brewing Company’s limited release of fruited and oak-aged sours, dubbed the Oak and Orchard series, are as creative as they are fleeting. Sample a tiki-style sour ale flavored with coconut, almond, pineapple and orange, another oak-aged sour enhanced with pink guava and habanero, or a dark sour mixed with plum and perfected in a whiskey barrel.
SaltFire’s Mobius Trip is a Golden Ale soured in chardonnay barrels with either tart raspberries or citrusy blood orange and tangerine zest. The result is a truly sour, fruity beer that makes you wonder why we ever mix mimosas in the first place. U