Hours of Sours Flow at Stone Brewing Co.

Sour Beer San Diego

Stone Brewing sets the standard for sour beer festivals in San Diego County.

Stone Brewing Co. put on quite the sour beer show last Sunday. 49 bottled selections, 53 beers on tap and the sun shined brightly in the sky. OK, I can’t give them credit for the last one but it was another fun and well-run event in Escondido.

Before I talk about the beers that I sampled and what people were raving about in the fast moving lines, I should give some background on sours. According to the Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP) guidelines, sours come in six different sub-categories: Berliner Weisse, Flanders Red Ale, Flanders Brown Ale (aka Oud Bruin), Straight (Unblended) Lambic, Gueuze and Fruit Lambic.

Sours are a style of beer that take some getting used to even hoppy IPA’s can be easier for some people to enjoy. But much like eating flaming hot chili peppers, there can be a pleasure to the mouth puckering induced by sours.

The beers at this year’s event were curated by Dr. Bill Sysak and they ranged the gamut from location (Belgium to Michigan to Oregon), to ingredients (Prickly pear, lavender and blackberries) and most importantly levels of sourness and tartness.

My favorites on the day were the Cantillon Lou Pepe kriek which poured a hazy red and had an intense aroma of spiced cherry pie. The spice and sour and cherry all intertwined to make a delicious fruit beer that I could sip all day. Ladyface Ale Companie’s Syrah barrel-aged La Trappastine also had a lovely mix of competing flavors that melded well with wine and toasted notes accenting the sour. My third pick would be Bear Republic’s Prickly Pear Grizz. I didn’t even know that Bear Republic did sours and yet this fruity concoction worked on many levels for me. Bold prickly pear juice with a tinge of sourness.

If your travels in the world of craft beer have not yet taken you into the realm of sours, do not be scared off! Yes, they are tart and acidic but once you become acclimated to the initial sour punch these beers are wonderfully complex. And they are worth the journey.

For the craft Beer of the Week, I recommend not just one beer, but the entire brewery. I had forgotten just how good the Cantillon beers can be until this year’s Sour Fest. There is a reason they cost what they do. They are great beers and more importantly for sour newbies, they are as extreme as some American sours can be. If I had to pick one to start with it would be the Rose de Gambrinus. It is certainly sour but it is also delicate and fruity too.

Your Homework is to be in charge of bringing the craft beer. Far too often at holiday gatherings, you end up being forced to choose between water or beer flavored water from a patriotic can. Instead of schlepping potato salad, volunteer to bring beer. Find a nice amber or IPA to go with your hamburgers and hot dogs and you will be the most popular person at the grill.

Find more of Sean Inman’s writing on his blog, Beer Search Party.

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Sean Inman

Find more of Sean Inman’s writing on his blog, Beer Search Party.

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