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Tuesday, 07 March 2017 15:15

“The sour quality is set opposite to the bitter and the sweet”: Sourfest 2017

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This is a day I have long been dreading. Not only is today the introduction of pink ball cricket into New Zealand but also the exact instance I have to start blogging about sour beers. Not just once, I have to do it again next week as well.

Although it can be hard to read emotions into email messages, I get the distinct sense that Ciaran the Artful, Foxy and Vexatious Malthouse Unit Manager was smiling happily (and evilly) when he sent me a list of 23 sour beers to talk about over the coming weeks. Here is my reconstruction of his thought process: [1]

“Right Mr Miller, you have had your fun gloating about your Scotland beating my Ireland at rugby, drooling over endless pale ales, salivating at the sight of haggis, making fun of the President of the United States, pimping The Wolf of Wall Street, trying to get avocadoes branded as “demon slime fruit”, and even – albeit reluctantly and occasionally – actually writing about beer. Well here are almost two dozen sour beers to cover. Enjoy.”

*Drops microphone. Just walks away. Returns to his pint of Oude Gueuze.*

In his defence, there is a legitimate reason that so many sour beers have to be covered in this normally hop-forward blog. Malthouse will be hosting the now annual Sourfest from 17 March to 20 March. Sourfest 2017 will see (currently) 23 sour beers on tap during this celebration of the sour, tart and mouth puckering brews that have become so popular. [2] Most are rare, some are new and others are down to their last keg in the whole country.

There is no doubt that sour beers have quickly become a force in New Zealand craft brewing. Sour beer has moved from a rarity (or a mistake) to almost being required in any brewer’s range. Sourfest acknowledges and celebrates this seismic shift in tastebuds.

I looked up every nice thing I have ever written about sour beers and Google basically laughed at me. [3] The closest would be me describing a revered American sour as tasting like “a bat took a whizz in my mouth.” So I am not entirely unbiased about this beer style. Actually, I am the opposite of unbiased. Consequently, I decided to consult some learned and – in this case – pious opinions on the topic of sourness:

“The sour quality is set opposite to the bitter and the sweet, and is a good temper to all, a refreshing and cooling when the bitter and the sweet qualities are too much elevated or too preponderant.”

This is a quote from Jakob Bohme, a 16th Century German theologian. [4] I know there are plenty of local commentators and brewers who would say current brewing trends have elevated hops and sweetness to overly preponderant levels.

To bring it all back into balance is Sourfest and here is the first half of the anticipated beer list with limited tasting notes (if any) as I have tried around two of the twelve beers below:

  • Black Dog Double Barrel (6.5%) – last ever keg
  • Hallertau New Zealand Wild Primal Descent (5.8%) – last ever keg – and brewer Stephen Plowman was doing sour before it was cool...
  • Moa Persimmon (6.7%) – last ever keg - in terms of botanical morphology, the Persimmon fruit is in fact a berry. [5]
  • Moa Sour Blanc 2015 (5.7%) – I have had this, albeit in 2015. It is certainly sour but refreshing. Moa lists it as 3 IPU which may stand for International Puckering Unit? If so, that scale is new to me!
  • Moa Cherry Lambic 2015 (5.8%) – This scores 4 IPU. Tell me again how Moa only make mainstream beers...
  • Wild Beer Schnoodlepip (6.5%) – My notes from trying it previously read: “It uses pink peppercorns, barrel aging (red wine barrels), Saison and Brettanomyces yeasts, passion fruit and tangy Hibiscus flowers.” It is as complicated as it sounds.
  • Fork Brewing Galactic Gose Dry Hopped Sour Wheat (4.5%) – Brewer Kelly Ryan continues to avoid making me a Double IPA and continues to find new ways to outrage me. #brewjesus
  • 8 Wired Gypsy Funk (6.5%) – Last ever keg – does not contain actual gypsies [6]
  • 8 Wired Feijoa 2017 – new beer – does contain actual feijoa
  • 8 Wired Feijoa 2016 – fairly obviously the aged version of the beer above
  • Sunshine Pink Grapefruit and Himalayan Salt Gose (6%) – new beer – actually, that combination would also be a lovely salad.

 

  • Kereru Guava (3.8%) - Kettle-soured and unfiltered Berliner Weisse-style ale made with wheat and guava puree.

Next week we will cover beers featuring blueberries, the other side of the moon, blisters in the sun and wild women.

It is no secret that I am not a fan of sour beers but respect people who are. Drinkers should make up their own minds about what they like, plus it leaves more Double IPAs for me! However, this quotation from DeWitt Bodeen (a mid 20th Century film and television writer) got me wondering if even I will change my mind in time:

 

“I suppose any note, no matter how sour, sounds like a song if you hold onto it long enough.”

Next time, we drink to the wonderful “America First, Upper Hutt Second” video (link below). Now, I do not compliment Upper Hutt very often, though they did host a very enjoyable Greater Wellington Brewday festival and produced a lovely Bed and Breakfast (Tranquillity Lodge). Actually, I think I have said more nice things about Upper Hutt in 2017 than I have during the entire rest of my existence combined.

 

[1] Honestly, it is much better if you read this next passage in a sexy Irish accent.

[2] But which I cannot personally abide.

[3] My printer immediately ran out of Cyan ink but that was unrelated. It just hates me.

[4] Don’t look that up.

[5] Thank you Wikipedia. I had no prepared Persimmon stories.

[6] To the best of the Malthouse’s knowledge. Consult legal advice if questioned by the Police about a missing caravan near Warkworth.

 

Cheers

 

Neil Miller

Beer Writer

Beer and Brewer Magazine

Cuisine Magazine

TheShout Magazine

 

Links

Sourfest Facebook Page - https://www.facebook.com/events/1665469887088956/

America First, Upper Hutt Second - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5x0UDiIvkZM

America First, New Zealand Second - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jp0zp3c-Al4

Malthouse Facebook - www.facebook.com/pages/Malthouse/7084276173

Malthouse Twitter – www.twitter.com/#!/malthouse

Malthouse Taps on Twitter – www.twitter.com/#!/MalthouseTaps

Neil Miller on Twitter – http://www.twitter.com/#!/beerlytweeting

Last modified on Tuesday, 07 March 2017 15:15