Ten years ago, when craft beer was just beginning to explode across Bend, the average beer drinker in the region could be asked about their favorite "sour" beer and left wondering what the heck that meant. Now, there are legit efforts to make springtime into a sort of invented "season" for everything sour, tart, Brett-infused, and just plain un-bitter.
Tavour, the mail-order service that sends craft beer to your door in Oregon and 11 other states, is currently offering a "Sweet Sour Box"—$95 for eight different bottles, shipping included. To the rather hardcore, these include both the light and refreshing, such as Funkwerks' Raspberry Provincial and a blueberry-infused Berliner weisse from Chicago's Lake Effect Brewing. Topping the list: Saint Dekkera: Sour Zure Dubbele from Destihl, a 9.9 percent stout that's bursting with chocolate and dark cherries someone's dipped in hard liquor.
It goes to the show that the adjective "sour" can be as versatile—meaningless, to be pessimistic about it—as "hoppy" when describing a beer. (The heavier ones have a tendency to wreck one's palate, too, propagating their flavors over to whatever's tried next.)
Looking to get into the genre? There are few better chances locally each year than stopping in Broken Top Bottle Shop, which is holding its fifth annual April Showers Bring May Sours event from April 28 to May 1. Starting Friday, the team will put six sour/tart ales on tap and keep six on until the following Monday—a fine chance to sample a few at once without breaking the bank.
A few of the highlights:
Pfriem Flanders Style Red Ale: A year and a half spent in an oak barrel has done nothing to dull the ebullience that wafts from this red ale, one that will give wine a fans a sense of déjà vu with its Pinot-like flavor.
Firestone Walker Agrestic: A mixture of the California brewery's DBA pale ale, blended together with different vintages and choice of barrel-aging. Up to two years of aging took place on the ingredients that make up this crisp ale, booming with toasted oak, lemon and spice.
Cascade Sang du Chêne: The first release from Cascade to feature the new labels and logo the Portland barrel-meisters introduced in February, Sang du Chêne (or "blood of the oak") is a blend of strong, sour blond and triple ales aged in three different types of large oak vessels, balancing out the acidic sourness with toasted sugar and vanilla.