Two weeks ago, I covered the white hot IPA style with a list of 10 Top California IPAs to drink and today we head into another fast growing segment of craft beer, the sour.
American brewers have taken hold of sours and, like they did with IPAs, have amped up the volume all the way to 11. Simultaneously blowing the style category up and expanding it tremendously.
Here are 10 brewed-in-California sours from pleasantly tart all the way to bracingly acidic that you need to hunt down and try.
10. Golden Road Berliner Weisse – In Berlin, you flavor your Berliner Weisse “Mit Himbeer oder waldermeister,” with Raspberry or Woodruff. But try it in its own glorious right first to get the full measure of this slightly tart beer.
9. Lost Abbey Framboise de Amorosa – I hope you like raspberries because this is a tart ode to that fruit. FdA starts as Lost & Found ale but is spiked with raspberries while patiently aging in red wine barrels. A common theme in this list is how hard it is choose one beer from the sour portfolio of some breweries, this is the first hard decision. But I like the raspberry paired with the tannic nature of the barrels over some of the other offerings.
8. Almanac Beer Co. Reserve # 1 – This small Bay Area brewery sources its fruits and vegetables for use in its beers from local growers. #1 has mixed “Cabernet & Muscat Grapes from Alfieri Farms,” “Concord grapes from Hamada Farms and plums from Twin Girls Farm” to make a San Joaquin Valley terroir sour.
7. Craftsman Honesty Ale – Mark Jilg has brewed it all. Sour grapes. Persimmons and cabernet but this is one beats them all in my eyes. Here is what I wrote about Honesty when I first had it, “It pours a really deep red color. Pleasingly tart on the tongue. Not a super sour but I can feel my stomach rumble from the acid though. There is a solid hit of cherry notes as well.”
6. Bear Republic Cuvee de Bubba – Known more for their hoppy Racer series, Bear Republic also dabbles in the realm of sour with Tartare, their take on the Berliner Weisse and the less often seen Barrel 32 dark American wild. But Cuvee’s custom blend of Bear Republic beers, utilizes the wild microflora and fauna native to the Alexander Valley.
5. Sierra Nevada/Russian River Brux – Each list has a cheat and this is how I can mention Russian River twice. But far from being a one brewery pony, as it were, Brux harnesses the styles of two different breweries to create a diverting beer.
4. Russian River Consecration – I am seriously not trying to stir up debate by picking one over the other. There are fans of Supplication, Beatification and “your favorite here.” It is just hard to ignore that Consecration has a score of 100 on the RateBeer website. Plus I love how this is both sour and spicy to me. Two bold flavors duking it out.
3. Eagle Rock Equinox – This sour won Best of Show at San Diego International Beer Fest. Not just best sour. But best in show. This sour blonde won’t bowl you over with tartness. But it has a sparkle and a lovely touch of pucker power to it. Grab the elegantly designed bottle and share like a fine wine.
2. Firestone Walker Bretta Weisse – Now my first taste of this was after a tractor ride in bucolic and relaxing Paso Robles that ended in a lovely lunch with Firestone beers. But every other taste confirms that this Berliner with a little more zing is a winner.
1. The Bruery Tart of Darkness – . You knew these guys would be on the list. Between them and Russian River, this list of 10 beers could be 2 breweries long. This beer was originally part of the Provisions series but now has been folded back into the regular line-up. This beer starts life as a 5% ABV stout that is oak barrel aged with the special souring bacteria and yeast that the Bruery has on hand. Try this and the version with cocoa nibs and vanilla.
Find more of Sean Inman’s writing on his blog, Beer Search Party.