Posted on 05/01/21
Sour beers used to sit solely in the expert realm of the Belgian specialist or the hardcore beer nerd but it’s style that’s bursting into the mainstream more and more and developing at pace. As we look towards the sun coming out again as the nights start to lighten shine what better time to be optimistic and look at some of the best sour beers and makers out there!?
Like their name suggests Vault City used to be pretty hard to come by – almost as if they were buried away and squirrelled behind bars only accessible to beer-tickers armed with bumbags and tasting notes booklets. Well someone unlocked the gates and the Scottish sour-meisters are now popping up in most good bottle-shops and online websites with their weird an wonderful wares. One thing that should sharpen your attention towards this brewery is that they are sour specialists – and to be more specific sours are all they make…so you’d hope they back themselves to deliver. At the very heart of Vault City Brewing lies thier house mixed-culture. A bit like the sour dough starter yeast it’s the foundation and has to be pretty special to create something so unique. Vault City use a blend of Kveik (A Norwegian yeast we’ve talked about before in this column) and Lactobacillus strains which provide us with delicious tropical esters and a deliciously tart acidity. These esters are added to the pulps of real fruit in amazing concoctions to make these fresh smoothie tasting brews. They have created “straight up” versions like Strawberry and apricot session beers and have an amplified version of these too – typically reaching 8 or 9% ABV. If you fancy something a bit more wild they have dabbled with spiced pumpkin, tayberry (it’s like a redcurrant I’m told) and vanilla. Latest fun releases include a cheeky Vimto sour and a Havana special! I don’t think there’s a better UK brewery at using natural ingredient in their sour beers and Vault City are very much worth unlocking.
We first stumbled across Polish brewery Maltgarden when one of our best customers told us in glowing terms about some of their hoppy beers which he’d managed to wrangle on a beer-swop night. Knowing he was a bit of a top-end craft beer nerd we knew they must be something special so we got hold of some swiftly to try for yourselves. He wasn’t wrong; Maltgarden make huge hoppy modern beers. Then we discovered their dark beer range which was even better – full of peanut adjuncts with lashings of coffee, toffee, banana and chocolate all over the show (there’s even a wax topped can but that’s for another time). We then learned that they made mad sours too – is there anything this brewery cant do? They actually haven’t made a lager but that’s not the point they are certainly a brewery to seek out if you want a range of flavours that really push your palate. The newest sours from them include additions of dragonfruit and mango. As I said they like to play wizard a little bit and don’t be surprised to see the juxtaposition of nuts and spices added alongside the sour notes to really compliment but also throw your tastebuds. If a warm can of Tyskie is your only experience of Polish beer change that right now!
Everything about Pastore Brewing and Blending hints at the exotic. The name itself makes your mind maybe wander to small hidden Spanish village and can artwork and font drag your thoughts out to a sleepy Moroccan fishing village. They are actually based on an industrial estate near Cambridge. Where Vault City are possibly the UK’s best sour makers for fun brews Pastore are a more refined and subtle competitor. The emphasis here is on accessible, fun, modern takes on mix-ferm brewing (using different yeasts including wild ones) and they deliver every time with their beers. Although the basis of all their beers is in the old school of sour brewing there’s enough fun ingredients and flavours poking through to open the doors to the non-expert beer fan. The newest beers on our shelves are perfect examples of this.
Torta Di Morello is a cherry pie pastry sour, conditioned on morello cherry puree, cinnamon, vanilla and almond.
They are a brewery we love supporting, not only do they make some of the most rounded sours about they are a tiny operation even by craft beer standards, a story made even sweeter by the fact the brew team are family father and son combo of Ben and Chris Shepherd.
We get new Pomona Island beers in every week for the site and with good reason. Again they are a brewery that seem to be able to nail all the styles of modern beer going. It’s testament to their quality that we can talk about their sours when we could easily feature their dark offerings or hoppy monsters as well. It’s also testament to their amazing beer that we tend to cherry-pick their beers from the fifty or so new beers we get each week to drink ourselves for pleasure (yes it’s one of the worlds best jobs!)
Pomona sours somewhat launched the brewery to the relative mainstream in craft beer circles with brews that were tart – but not too tart = flavoursome and crazy but not messy and easy drinking. It’s a hard thing to manage especially time and time again but Pomona manage it. A relativity small operation based in Salford Manchester Pomona seem t pp out a pale, IPA and sour each week so there’s always something interesting and new to go at!
Whatever sour you’re drinking in the early spring sun – enjoy.
Thanks for reading out craft beer blog this month. Drink and be happy.
Oli, Craft Metropolis founder.
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