Love them or hate them there’s no doubt that sours have risen to prominence in the craft beer world. According to the Brewer’s Association the US sold an estimated 45,000 cases of sour beer in 2015. A year later and those sales more than quintupled to over 245,000 cases. Brewing sours is its own precise science utilizing a variety of wild yeasts and bacterias as opposed to the single strain yeast of conventional brews. This makes sours particularly fickle with not much room for error. Their quick rise in popularity has moved beyond niche brewing or brewer’s throwing the occasional sour into their lineup. Now there are great breweries nationwide dedicated to crafting up delicious sours. As we travel the country tasting up the best of the craft world here are some of our favorite breweries that specialize in sours:
1. Crooked Stave
Located in The Source, an industrial chic shared space full of boutique restaurants and artisan foods, Crooked Stave occupies the back of this hip hangout. Born from the globe trotting exploits of Chad Yakobson and his time abroad studying and brewing in Scotland. Known for their use of the wild yeast strain Brettanomyces they produce a wide range of barrel-aged and wild fermented sours. Surette, their signature saison is given characteristic tartness with its extended barrel aging while their Petite Sour series varies with variations utilizing fruity favorites ranging from blueberries and raspberries to passion fruit and blood orange.
2. Urban Artifact
Head down into the basement of Cincinnati’s St. Patricks Church and you’ll find a world of funky beer and wild ales. The crew at Urban Artifact don’t shy away from experimenting with the whole range of yeast strains or the wildest flavors. Presenting their brews in a hip atmosphere with frequent live music and and laid back vibe, Urban Artifact is a neighborhood favorite. Keypunch, a subtly tart gose is infused with the essence of key lime while Squeezebox is brewed and balanced with the addition of 3lbs of fresh strawberries per gallon.
For a detailed peek inside the wild world of Urban Artifact check out: Church Bells, Sour Beer, and Funk: Hanging at Urban Artifact
3. Cascade Brewing Company
With its high concentration of craft breweries Oregon’s largest city is often affectionately referred to as, “Beervana.” So its no surprise the city houses one of the best sour producing breweries in the country. Cascade Brewing Company props its brewing expertise ability on its perfect utilization of barrel-aging. Relying on the power of Kentucky Bourbon barrels, French Oak, and second hand use of barrels from the Northwest robust wine industry. Ordering up a flight at Cascade results in glasses filled with every color in the spectrum. Golden hued apricot sours, deep purple blueberry ales, cherry red Flanders style brews. With 18 beers on tap at any given time the brewery is the perfect dive into the sour world. With tame and traditional to creative and far reaching creations. I was skeptical after picking up a warm glass of their Mulled Apple Sour, but after one sip I was sold.
4. Toolbox Brewing Company
Dominated by the hoppy popularity of West Coast IPAs it can be hard to step outside the box in San Diego County. Enter, Toolbox Brewing Company. Situated right outside of the city this small brewery has achieved sour perfection. Dedication, creativity, and patience all pay off with a rotating lineup of extremely balanced and well crafted brews. Prolonged barrel-aging combined with a constant stream of freshly processed ingredients keep Toolbox’s brews deliciously consistent. Cucumberliner, a Berliner Weisse beer is light, crisp and refreshing with a mildly tart finish, all the while subtle flavors of the added freshly peeled and pureed cucumbers are present. The seasonal Poinsettia is an American wild ale with 20 months of aging in red wine barrels under its belt. Fermented with cranberries, sweet orange zest, vanilla beans and cinnamon sticks it is the perfect blend of sweet, sour, and spicy. In realm of sours Toolbox Brewing Co is easily a favorite.
Check out this in-depth look at our visit to Toolbox Brewing Co: Tools of the Trade: Samplin’ Sours at Toolbox Brewing Company