Oddly enough, sour beers taste exactly like they sound.
They are an acquired taste, to be sure, but, according to the brewers at Hunter Beer Co., Keith Grice and Daniel Gayner, they really are a taste worth acquiring.
Even if, by making one, you run the risk of “infecting” the entire brewery and therefore the rest of your non-sour beer production …
You see, unlike most other beers that are carefully crafted in clean, sterile environments using isolated, pure yeast strains, whose strict purpose is to chow down on all the available sugars in the wort in order to produce alcohol and carbon dioxide, as well as a proffer a myriad of different flavours, (traditionally speaking) sour beers are made from wild yeast strains and other bacteria, which are native to the brewing environment.
“There are breweries in Belgium that have been making sour beers for centuries, and each of these breweries have a particular ‘house-flavour’ profile that comes about because of the local micro flora that is indigenous to their area,” Hunter Beer head brewer Keith Grice says.
“For us though,” says Daniel Gayner, Keith’s offsider, “We’re not that type of brewery, so cultivating sour cultures from our environment is not something we want to be doing, because we run the risk of infecting the rest of our production.”
Nonetheless, this hasn’t stopped the Hunter Beer Co. boys from chancing their sour brewing arm.
Gayner says he learnt of a modern brewing trick that enables a brewer to introduce the requisite souring culture into the brewing process without affecting the entire brewery.
“We add a souring culture to the kettle (where most of the chemical reactions take place), which allows the liquid to sour over a couple of days,” Gayner explains. “Then, before we take it to the next stage, we heat it up and kill it to stop if from going any further.”
This is a relatively modern way to produce sour beer, called the kettle-sour method. Brewers will typically add a particular strain of lactobacillus to the wort and leave it isolated in the kettle anywhere from a few hours up to a few days, in order to elicit the typically tart and tangy sour flavours associated with such beers.
In this instance, the result is Hunter Beer Co.’s first ever sour brew; ‘Fine and Dandy Sour Candy’.
“It was Daniel’s idea,” Grice admits. “If it was just me, I wouldn’t have done it because I’d be too nervous about introducing these bugs into the brewery … we’re not a sour brewery, our biggest seller is Hunter Kölsch!”
“The only thing I was nervous about was whether people would actually want to drink it,” Gayner says. “But, as far as making it goes, I was fairly confident that I’d done the research to know how to do it without upsetting the rest of our production.”
The result is fine and dandy summer thirst crusher (full review on facing page).