Time for “Sour School,” then test yourself at Tart In The Heartland

Sour beers have been commercially available in the U.S for nearly 50 years, but have been in existence for much longer.  But my introduction to them, admittedly, did not go well. I think now, my tongue and my palate was just not prepared.

My re-introduction to sours went much better this time, as I think I learned how to drink them.  For me, sours are to be sipped, not guzzled, like taking small bites from a delicious meal.  The pleasure in the sour is in the swallow and this is where you determine your love or non-love for a sour.

Why is this important?  For me, it’s because, while I know one person cannot love everything they drink, it is possible and much more fun to be able to appreciate everything they drink.  So, discovering a huge, new style of beer, makes drinking them and writing about them much more enjoyable.

Sour School| What is sour beer?

A sour beer, simply put, is a beer with a lower pH, which is almost always achieved through the addition of lactic acid. There are a variety of ways to create a sour beer but they mainly fall into 3 categories:

1) The Quick Sour
2) The Slow Sour
3) The Cheater Sour

The Quick Sour is also commonly known as kettle souring and usually takes around 24 hours to process.  The wort, (pronounced wert) which is the liquid extract from the mashing process, is boiled and fermented with traditional ale yeast. The result is a pleasant, refreshing tartness.

Ever heard of a Berlinnerwiess and Gose? They are both quick sours.

The sourness in this beer is stable from the time that the beer boiled, it will not sour anymore if its aged.

“The benefit of brewing sour beers this way is simple. It’s quick,” says sour brewing expert Derrick Langeneckert, Head Brewer at Alpha Brewing Company in South City. “It’s a simple way to create a good product.”

The Slow Sour or Aged Sour usually takes months to years to achieve. Beer styles that are brewed with Aged Souring would be Lambic, Gueuze, Flemish styles (Mercator) and other barrel aged or Foeder aged sours.

The process for an Aged sour is to brew a normal beer, boil it like any other beer and then pitch lactic acid fermenting bacteria into the fermenter along with brewers yeast.

This production method usually allows brewers to blend flavors from oak barrels, the beer absorbs the flavors of the barrels, creating a more complex beer.

Typically in this production method, the brewers’ yeast will eat most of the sugars in the initial wort. This is where the barrel becomes more important. The wood is slightly porous and allows micro-oxygen into the beer allowing the lactic acid producing bugs to continue their fermentation.

“The upside to brewing beers this way is the complexity of the flavor,” said Langeneckert. “The downside is that it takes a long time. A minimum amount of time you’d ever want to brew an aged sour would be 6 months. Some of these beers can take years.”

According to Langeneckert, The Cheater Sour is a boneheaded way for mega beer factories to create sour beer. “It’s pretty easy with no risk. Brew a beer, add commercially available lactic acid. Done. It’s cheap, it’s easy, and it tastes like it.”

Tart In The Heartland

Now, you have a chance to put your new found knowledge of sours to the test. Langeneckert and Alpha Brewing Company are hosting Tart In The Heartland, a SOUR beer fest, but it’s not for everyone.

Can you handle:

A. The tart
B. The sour
C. The funky
D. The wild
E. The unusual
F. All of the above

Participating Breweries include: The Modern Brewery, White Rooster Farmhouse Brewery, Steampunk Brew Works, LLC, Destihl Brewery, King David’s Brewery, 405 Brewing Co., Lost Forty Brewing, Crane Brewing Company, Backpocket Brewing, SingleSpeed Brewing Co., Narrow Gauge Brewing Company, Lift a Leg Brewery and Bearded Owl Brewing.

If your answer is all of the above, pucker up and get ready for an intimate sour fest packed with Midwest flavor!

Join Alpha for a confluence of flavors you can’t regularly get in St. Louis from several breweries all in surrounding states: Iowa, Kansas, Illinois, Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Missouri (of course). 100% of the beers are dedicated to the love of sour, farmhouse, and wild yeast strains.

All beer will be poured in the Alpha Brewing Company taproom, where you can mingle with guest brewery representatives and brewers and enjoy over 20 taps from across the Midwest!

Attendance is capped at 200 tickets to ensure you can comfortably try all of the beers without worrying the white whale you’ve been searching for is gone before you get to it!

Date: Sunday, August 25, 2019 from 1-5pm

Location: Alpha Brewing Company, 4310 Fyler Avenue, St. Louis, MO

Tickets: Each ticket includes a festival keepsake glass and unlimited tastings of all festival beers. Tickets are available for purchase here. 

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