I think sours will be the next IPA! There I said it. And not a moment too soon (pretty sick of IPAs)! Ever had a sour? It’ll definitely be one of your more memorable firsts. Funky! Some of you will stop after your first or first five, pucker, make a face, and never venture into unfamiliar beer territory again. For those that remain, your first five will definitely have you asking yourself “why am I doing this to myself?” as you pucker and make a face. But if you power through it, that magical 6th sour starts to grow on you. From then on you’re addicted. “We want the funk”, you’ll be singing. That should be a song!
This sour hails from Paso Robles California and is a Flanders – the “wine of beers” – a type of sour ale originating in Flanders, Belgium aged a year or more in oak barrels with a special red malt. We had the pleasure of visiting BarrelHouse Brewing in Paso recently and were given the royal treatment by owner Jason Carvalho and his friendly, creative team (and mom)! While touring the amazing facility we were introduced to the Imperial Sweet Flanders Red – a deep dark red, almost purple color in your preferably fluted glass which nosed a lot more like a wine than a beer. Big juicy raspberry notes most likely provided by the late harvest Zinfandel berries that are added to former Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon French oak barrels and fermented along with lactobacillus (“lacto” – a bacteria also found in some rather interesting sweet spots – go ahead Google it!) and brettanomyces (a yeast). “Brett” – used in other beers would be considered a contaminant – but it’s certainly appreciated in certain Belgian ales – even encouraged!
Delicious – crisp, light and full of juicy berries, plumb, vanilla and a beautiful mellow tartness. Some sours have you making that face as you pucker, but this one is nice and mellow and approachable. Perhaps this should be your introduction to sour ales?
Also of note – we’re just so blown away at the attention to detail that BarrelHouse gives to each bottle. Everything is on the label – a batch number, a release year, a vintage (if I may borrow a wine term) – even the pH level, the SRM color – everything you’d find in a Beer Advocate article! Love it.