There’s a fun social experiment you can run.
All you need is a friend (preferably one who tends to drink exclusively lagers). Simply offer a simple “My shout mate!” and venture back with a sour beer of your choice. Said friend, upon drinking said beer, will probably tell you that your beer has most definitely encountered problems in the brewing process, likely during the fermentation stage (due to some contamination from improper sterilization), and inform you that it’s not fit for human consumption. They will, of course, voice this in the following way: “Ya beer’s fucked mate. Yeah nah, it’s no good. Tip that shit out”.
The experiment does end with you having to buy your friend a replacement beer, but, as with any good scientific process I do believe that the outcome is worth any financial inconvenience.
To us who have transcended to the hipster-beer-snob heavens, the ‘sour’ is well and truly in. Some have even gone so far as to voice that it is the season of the Berliner Weisse.
(For those playing at home, brace yourself, beer-geek-professor is in the building).
In beer parlances, a Berliner Weisse is a top-fermented, bottle-conditioned wheat beer made with warm-fermenting yeasts, lactobacillus cultures (and sometimes) wild yeast and microflora. They are (usually) a golden-straw colour, are tart, sour and acidic, and have almost no hop profile. Due to their sour, funky nature they are regularly served with a flavoured syrup, or added fruit flavours.
In Germany, you would most likely be faced with the option of “Berliner Weisse mit Schuss: Himbeere” or “Berliner Weisse mit Schuss: Waldmeister”. That is, with raspberry (red) syrup or woodruff (green) syrup. Similar to the Kölsch ales of Cologne and the Trappist ales of Belgium, a Berliner Weisse from Germany can only be legally brewed in Berlin.
Across the world many have adopted the style in recent years, with many producing fruit-flavoured versions of a Berliner Weisse. The most well-known (and loved) example in Australia has been Feral’s Watermelon Warhead – which was a sour, watermelon-fuelled explosion that massacred tastebuds. There is some conjecture (much like with sours, wild ales, lambics, saisions, and farmhouse ales) over what constitutes a true Berliner Weisse – and these arguments are mostly entered into by those who have evolved into multi-dimensional beer-drinking beings operating outside of time and space. Think Matthew McConaughey in Interstellar, but drunker.
Basically the arguments boil down to the fact that some brewers don’t 100% follow the ‘traditional’ process – a ‘fault’ that is often not their fault. For instance, your spontaneous fermentation process relies on the presence of wild yeast cells and microflora often found in the countryside or near orchards. Breweries in industrial areas – who sterilize the life out of beer-making equipment to avoid contamination of their stock brews – are obviously not in the position to follow this. Therefore, beers are often ‘kettle-soured’ which means that oak barrels and other fermenters are ‘spiked’ to produce fermentation with Brettanomyces (which bring the funk), Saccharomyces (which brings the alcohol) or Lactobacillus (which brings sourness) yeasts.
All of which brings us to: The Doctor’s Orders Brewing and Bridge Road’s ‘Spontaneously Fermented’ four-pack. Containing a sour base, and Rhubarb, Grapefruit, and Raspberry sours, the beers were allowed to stand for 48 hours to allow lactobacillus to grow on the grain, before being boiled, and a combination of the aforementioned yeasts added to finish the fermentation before the addition of the fruits. They are strong for the style – at 5.5% – and are recommended to drink individually, or to blend.
If you wish, the recommended order is the sour base, then the rhubarb, then the grapefruit, then the raspberry. So we (me and a friend) did that. And then we got silly. Like 5-year olds on a sugar high, we fucked some shit up. Blending brews that had never been blended before. Creating some of the dankest beers I’ve had. For those wondering, the base is a solid ‘sour’ experience with a very dry, lingering finish. The raspberry by itself smells and tastes like raspberry juice. It’s easily the sweetest, and the easiest-drinking. The grapefruit has a fruit flavour that cuts through the sourness and tartness effectively. The rhubarb, well, it’s quite funky, quite barnyard, and the flavour isn’t quite as pronounced as other flavours.
They are all excellent beers. Each enjoyable in their own way, and all quality drops.
After that, things got a bit….weird.
Grapefruit and rhubarb, raspberry rhubarb and base, grapefruit and raspberry, grapefruit and base, rhubarb base and grapefruit, all three in different quantities and ratios. Y’know, the usual concoctions.
Some attack the palate with acidity. Some smell fruity up front and have a lingering tartness. Some have a late sharp kick, and suck all the moisture from your mouth. Some smell like sweaty socks. Some remind you off the juice drained from a nightclub dancefloor at 6am. Some of the mixes exude disgustingness when you smell it. Imagine a barnyard following a downpour. There’s soaked hay on the floor, two damp horses, and a pig wallowing in the mud. Combine these aromas.
However. You must overcome any reservations your nostrils are sending your way, and consume the beverages.
You will be pleasantly surprised. The aromatic sensations are part of the experience of such beers. The flavours mix and mingle in different ways based on the amount of each you pour, and provide unique drinking. It’s some of the best beer fun I’ve had in a long time.
Naturally, some mixes don’t quite work.
But, that’s the best part!
On a side note, the artwork on these bottles in outrageously good – credit must go to their design.