2016 The Year of the Sour
A blog by YellowBelly Danny – Follow him @DannyTrappe on Twitter
2016 has been a very inventive year so far for Irish breweries, with many embracing the relatively recent phenomenon of sour beer. For many drinkers this is a step too far, and I would certainly describe it as a niche within a niche, But if you are lucky enough to develop a fondness for sour beer then a whole new world of craft beer has opened up to you. It has certainly become a passion for me! It can shock people upon their first tasting, but I always suggest to customers to have a second sip as your taste buds will begin to get used to the initial acidity and the other subtle flavours of the beer will begin to emerge.
Historically all beers would have been sour. Early beer makers would have been unaware of yeast and its fermenting prowess. Once these early settlers had made their sugary malt beverage they would have left it in pots, open to the elements. A spontaneous fermentation would occur due to the presence of wild yeast in the atmosphere and beer would be created. I bet they couldn’t believe their luck! This beer would have had a certain funky sourness and would have been highly acidic. In Belgium, the home of sour brewing today, this spontaneous fermentation practice is somewhat controlled by the hand skilled brewers.The beer is left cool beside open slatted windows and a system of fans encourage the passing yeast and bacteria to spoil the beer. This beer is then sent to oak barrels to begin its fermentation. Once ready the beer is either blended or further aged on fruit. While the Belgian method calls for a sour fermentation in wood, most Irish breweries practice a technique known as ‘Kettle Souring’, which involves adding a sour culture into the boil kettle rather than the fermentation vessel. The beer is then boiled in order to kill the bacteria while still maintaining its acidic quality, this keeps the fermentation area free from wild yeast and bacteria which allows breweries to brew non sour beers alongside a sour program. Kettle Sours are then fermented with an ale yeast under controlled conditions.
YellowBelly have released a host of sours this year, as they have become a bit of an obsession among all brewing staff and thankfully the Wexford drinking public! In my opinion Wexford town is becoming the ‘Irish Sour Capital’ of Ireland, feck your European Capital of Culture, this is the one that really matters. Currently on the beer rating app ‘Untapped’ Wexfords favourite beer style is listed as sour beer, which I assure you is not solely down to the YellowBelly brewers! Castaway our passion fruit sour and Great for the Town our strawberry sour broke all sales records in our local stockists which was unthinkable when we started brewing just over a year ago. It’s amazing how local people’s palates have changed.
(Pic courtesy of Son0vagun www.instagram.com/son0vagun/)
Our latest sour offering, and the funnest beer name to say ever is our new Berliner-Weiss Jack Bauer’s Power Shower Sour. It is a little different from our previous offerings as this time there is no added fruit. Just a straight up sour. This allows our in house sour culture to be the star of the show. Beautifully tart and refreshing with a slightly sweet finish. Only 3.8% as well so a real summer quaffer. Stocks as usual are limited!
There are also some other great Irish sours on the market at the moment, most notably from the north west of the country. Joe Kearns the head brewer for White Hag in Sligo also shares our passion for creating beautiful sours. A personal favourite of mine is The Púca a dry hopped lemon sour. Born from an experiment by Joe where he added lactic acid to a wheat beer to see what it tasted like, a cracking beer was the result! Really refreshing and really sour, another quaffer, coming in at 3.7%. Kinnegar Brewing in Donegal are also knocking out some top quality sours, such as their latest ‘Walla Walla’ Rhubarb and Ginger Sour. Both well worth seeking out.
So there you have it, a brief insight into the fledgling sour scene in Ireland. If you are looking to dip your toe into the sour sea, get down to Simon’s and we will try and convert you or seek us out in your local independent off licence or beer festival!