Tag Archives: brewing

The Difference Between ‘Sour Beer’ and ‘Wild Beer’

Russian River Sour Ales

Russian River Brewing Co. makes some of my favorite sour ales

It took me quite some time to acquire a real taste for sour beer, but now that I have one, sour beers are pretty much all I want to drink—except for IPAs; I still love my hops. (Check out my lists of sour ales and Flemish red/brown ales for details on my favorite sours.)

In my quest to try every sour beer I can get my mitts on, I’ve encountered quite a few “wild ales,” some of which were sour and many that were not. I also read the word “Brettanomyces” or “Brett” a lot. Brett is a wild yeast strain used in many wild and sour ales.

At first, I assumed that sour beers and wild ales were one in the same, but after tasting many wild ales with Brett that were not at all sour, I did some research to determine the difference between the two.

First of all, there are no concrete definitions of sour beer and wild beer. But here’s what The Oxford Companion to Beer says on the subject:

“The development, largely by American craft brewers, of entirely new categories of beer [that use wild yeast and/or bacteria] during the past decade, has resulted in the need for a new nomenclature to describe them. This nomenclature is surely unsettled, but the two terms in general use are ‘sour beer’ and ‘wild beer.’ ‘Wild beer’ is generally used to describe any beer that displays earthy characteristics of Brettanomyces yeast strains, regardless of whether the beer is a light golden ale or a strong dark stout. If the brewer adds acidifying bacteria to the beer, it is termed a ‘sour beer.’ If both Brettanomyces character and bacterial acidity are in evidence, then the beer is generally deemed to fit both categories.”

So, to sum that up. Beers with funky, Brett character but no acidity from added bacteria are commonly referred to as “wild ales,” and they are not necessarily sour. If a brewer opts to add bacteria to a beer made with wild yeast the beer will take on an acidic, sour flavor. These beers are called sour beers. Wild ales can be sour, but not all of them are. The difference between the two is the addition of bacteria during the barrel aging process—the two most common bacteria used in the process are Lactobacillus and Pediococcus.

There you have it, wild beers are not necessarily sour beers; some just taste “funky” due to the wild yeast used during fermentation. And many sour beers, but not all, can be called wild, because they use wild yeast, as well.

UBN

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Cantillon’s 2014/2015 Zwanze Could be Spontaneously-Fermented Stout

Cantillon Zwanze Stout wort

Brasserie Cantillon, one of the world’s finest traditional brewers of Belgian lambic beer and one of my favorite breweries, recently posted some images and information on its Facebook page that suggest its annual Zwanze beer for 2014 or 2015 could be a spontaneously fermented stout.

From Cantillon’s page:

“Dark for a Lambic wort isn’it?? This is the probably future Zwanze 2014 or 2015, a Cantillon interpretation for a spontaneous fermentation stout…Fermentation starts! Foam is darker than the one from a Lambic, we are on the right way…”

Last year’s Zwanze Day was one of my favorite beer “holidays” of 2012. (Find out why here.) And the 2012 Zwanze brew, a lambic flavored with rhubard, was one of the most interesting beers I’ve ever tasted. I haven’t been able to find any official details on the 2013 Zwanze Day, but I can tell you I will be in attendance, assuming there is a celebration this year.

Cantillon Zwanze Stout Fermentation

I honestly don’t think I’ve ever had a spontaneously fermented stout, but I’ll give anything Cantillon brews a try. The closest beer I can think of is Drie Fonteinen’s Zwet.be, a porter brewed with wild yeast, which I had recently and enjoyed.

Anyway, the countdown to 2013—and 2014 and 2015—Zwanze Day is on.

UBN

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Hoppiness is…

image

Happiness may be a warm gun, but hoppiness is a warm brew kettle anxiously awaiting a healthy dose of dank hops. I spent yesterday afternoon at a local craft brew shop called Barleycorn’s brewing up my own special batch of Belgian-style double IPA. My favorite part of the process was smelling and liberally applying a variety of hops through the boil. Love me some hops.

UBN

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The 10 Best US Brewery Tours, According to TripAdvisor

Allagash Brewery in Portland, Maine

Allagash Brewery in Portland, Maine

TripAdvisor, which bills itself as “the world’s largest travel site,” today released a list of the 10 most popular American brewery tours, based on its user “popularity index.” I’ve been on a number of brewery tours, including one at the Samuel Adams Brewery in Boston’s Jamaica Plain neighborhood, which is ranked fourth in TripAdvisor’s list. Unless you’re a brewer yourself and you appreciate the actual brewing equipment, a brewery tour is a brewery tour is a brewery tour. Sure, some of the facilities might be nicer, one brewery might make better beer and/or give out more samples and some have better gift shops. But in my experience, brewery tours are not particularly exciting.

Here’s TripAdvisor’s list, starting with the most popular brewery tour:

  1. New Belgium Brewing – Fort Collins, Colorado
  2. Allagash Brewery – Portland, Maine
  3. Anheuser Busch Brewery Tour – Saint Louis, Missouri
  4. Samuel Adams Brewery – Boston, Massachusetts
  5. Sierra Nevada Brewing Company – Chico, California
  6. Heinzelmannchen Brewery – Sylva, North Carolina
  7. New South Brewing – Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
  8. Boulevard Brewing Company – Kansas City, Missouri
  9. D.G. Yuengling and Son Brewery – Pottsville, Pennsylvania
  10. Jacob Leinenkugel Brewing Co. – Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin
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