Northwest Military Blogs: Served blog

August 20, 2014 at 7:14am

Yo sour heads! Engine House No. 9 offers 50 sour beers this weekend

Mouth-puckering beers bonanza this weekend at Engine House No. 9.

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If you've never tasted a sour beer, your first reaction might be: "That's not beer?"

You take another sip. "This is like drinking a rind of a grapefruit."

Tart, light in alcohol, sharp, funky and pungent with odd hues: Sours are more than an acquired taste. Some call it the Limburger cheese of beer.

It's not flawed beer, unintentionally infected with lactobacillus. Brewers add the bacteria strain as well as pediococcus for the mouth-puckering flavors, a traditional method developed by the Belgians hundreds of years ago. The Belgians also inoculated the beers with brettanomyces, a yeast strain that imparts funky, barnyard-ish flavors.

Low on carbonation, sours are actually full and robust, the finish often dry. The flavor is not so much the flip side of hoppy bitterness as a step beyond: bitter and sour are practically kissing cousins. For the adventurous drinker, sours offer something different from the hop bombs that dominate the Pacific Northwest. Wine drinkers tend to enjoy sours due to similar complex characteristics.

During the days when serfs clapped coconuts behind knights, Belgian lambics were the bomb, exposed to the barnyard bacteria and wild yeasts. Today, more and more American breweries are utilizing mixed-fermentations with non-isolated yeast strains such as lactobacillus and brettanomyces to release wild-fermented beers. American sour ales follow the Belgians path, although they tend to be produced in smaller batches, aged in oak barrels and then blended for taste.

The catalog of lambic flavors is vast. If you run across a kriek, you're about to drink a lambic with cherries. Framboise pops with raspberry. Peach is actually "peches" in the lambic world. Gueuze is a blend of young and old aged lambics, with a secondary fermentation life.

Wild yeast sours come in Gose, smoky Lichtenheiner and Flanders red styles. Flanders reds often have hints of black cherry or currant, and are aged in oak barrels.

Berliner weisse is a traditional German style, a slightly sour, dry wheat beer. Think champagne - tart and really lively in carbonation.

While sours are becoming more popular in the South Sound, they remain firmly on the margins of the craft beer world. Engine House No. 9 has been striving to change that trend. Head brewer Shane Johns' face is anything but sour when he chats up his Sour Fest, a two-day nod to European and American sours launching Saturday, Aug. 23. It's E-9's biggest beer festival of the year.

"Couldn't be happier with how Sour Fest is shaping up," Johns told me last month. "Have some super special stuff in bottle format. And I have received almost every keg on my wish list. Going to be some tough decisions made as to what beers go on tap first and what will be back-ups."

Johns is serious about his Sour Fest. So serious he didn't release the beer line-up to his staff, not even E9 bartender and brewroom fellow Todd McLaughlin.

"I have no idea what he has up his sleeve," says McLaughlin. "I do know he has a couple super secret and awesome sours he's going to release at 11 a.m. Saturday."

News Tribune Lifestyle Editor Sue Kidd scored a peek at a large portion of Johns' sour list. Check it out here.

ENGINE HOUSE NO. 9 SOUR FEST, 11 a.m. to close Saturday, Aug. 23-Sunday, Aug. 24, Engine House No. 9, 611 N. Pine St., Tacoma, 253.272.3435

Filed under: New Beer Column Tacoma
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About this blog

Served, a blog by the Weekly Volcano, is the region’s feedbag of fresh chow daily, local restaurant news, New Beer Column, bar and restaurant openings and closings, breaking culinary news and breaking culinary ground - all brought to the table with a dollop of Internet frivolity on top.

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