Let’s Chat About Sour Beer.
Let’s chat about sour beer.
Before going into what we’ve been working on at the brewery, I’d like to define exactly what I mean when I say “sour” or “wild”, as these monikers relate to microflora-driven beer. When we say “sour”, we mean a beer that is fermented, at least in part, by the lactic acid-producing bacteria strains lactobacillus and/or pediococcus. These bacteria produce sour-tasting acid during fermentation that, at the right levels, is quite pleasant and refreshing. When we say “wild” we mean this in more generic way; wild means that fermentation was at least partly completed by an organism other than brewer’s yeast. So while sour beers can generally be termed “wild”, not all wild beers can be called “sour”. Many of you may have tried the beers we’ve fermented with Brettanomyces: we termed these “wild”, but not sour, as they had no lactic acid producers in fermentation.
Still with me? Here’s the fun part: we have quite a bit of beer happily souring in oak barrels right now. And we’re filling more all the time. This growing float of barrels will not only allows us to have multiple sour releases a year, but give us blending options and the ability to re-ferment select barrels with fruit.
**A quick aside on fruit additions: re-fermentation with fruit is not simply adding fruit flavor to finished beer. Instead, this method involves allowing the yeast and bacteria present in the beer to consume the fruit sugars and create new flavors, much in the same way grapes become wine. More on this as these projects develop!**
All of our sour beers will be at least partially fermented with native wild yeast and bacteria cultured from our back yard (literally, behind the brewery). How did we do this? Like any two grown men would do on a regular Tuesday afternoon, Sean and I walked around the brewery picking wildflowers this past Spring. These flowers, which serve as little parachutes collecting our local microflora, were then pitched into a simple wort Jeremy and I brewed up. The result had a remarkably soft, refreshing acidity and we added this culture to the sour mother culture we’ve been shepherding along. We could have made sour beer without native Coastal Virginia microflora, but we feel it’s important to impart a sense of place to these beers. Nowhere else in the world can these exact flavors and influences be recreated and that’s pretty damn cool.
Our first-ever sour release will be a beer we’re calling the Red Messenger, due to debut at the brewery in early December. It will be packaged in 750ml format and on draft in the taproom. Keep an eye out for specific release info as we get a little closer!