Australian Craft Beer Hits a Sour Note

Sour beers are a logical next step for the craft beer scene in Australia. For the adventurous beer drinkers in search of new tastes, the more extreme and complex tasting sour beers hit just the right note.

The Crafty Pint has already suggested that 2013 may be the year of the sour, as did Brews News in their interesting rundown of sours in Australia.

So perhaps Carwyn Cellars got in early by kicking off their 2013 tastings with 8 sour beers from across the world.

A few dozen interested parties gathered at the back of the Thornbury bottleshop to be guided through the world of sour beers by Geoff from Phoenix Beer distributors.

Beers on offer included a few traditional sour beers from Belgium such as Cantillon and Lindemans (no, not that Lindemans) Kriek that used the lambic-style production, where vats of beery liquid are left exposed to the elements, thereby inviting local wild yeasts, which cause spontaneous fermentation. Basically, it’s the exact opposite of Brewing 101 that says ‘thou shalt minimise exposure to the elements’.

In many ways, sour beers are to brewing what jazz is to music with its roguish inversion of normal brewing practices and a taste that isn’t for everyone but is challenging and rewarding for those who delve into it.

Sour beers therefore also fit  in perfectly with the ethos of today’s craft beer movement with its focus on creativity in brewing and new and extreme tastes.

Along these lines is Haandbryggeriet’s Haandbakk (I swear I spelled that right without Googling), brewed in a normal fashion but then aged for almost two years in oak barrels with wild yeast and lactic acid. The effect of this is a ‘scrunch-up-your-face-and-pucker-up’ sour assault that isn’t for the faint of heart but personally, I effing loved it.

The Australian sours for the afternoon were Temple’s Scarlet Sour and Moon Dog’s Great American Challenge.

The former was tarted up with cranberries and hibiscus and was the subtlest and most sessionable of the sours. The Moon Dog offering was aged in shiraz barrels and had a boisterous sweet, winey-y and acidic nose that I could have sniffed all day. The flavour was big and complex if a little disjointed.

The consensus highlight of the tasting seemed to be the Rodenbach Grand Cru, a complex and well balanced sour that uses darker malts and is matured in oak barrels.

Sour beers have the potential to take beer drinkers into whole new territories of taste. I’ve been a little hooked on sour beers since visiting the Russian River brewery in California and I loved the opportunity to explore more sour beers at Carwyn. I can’t wait to see more Australian microbreweries brewing sour beers and more drinkers trying them.

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