sour beer

Beer Traveling Back to the 1850s

Carillon Historical Park, in Dayton, Ohio, provides an opportunity to taste beers from the 1850s. One of the park’s 30 buildings houses the Carillon Brewing Company, which uses historically accurate, mid-19th-century techniques. Visitors can enjoy traditional German food and other offerings at the brewery’s restaurant; while eating, they can watch employees and volunteers feed the fires, ladle the beer, and fill the barrels.

Carillon’s ales, made using techniques that predate refrigeration and mechanization, have a traditional sourness that some will consider an “acquired taste.” (Those who like the beer can buy growlers to take home.) The brewery’s flagship product is a coriander ale made from an 1830s recipe. Another Carillon beer, a porter, is made with malt hand-roasted over the fireplace coals; and because yeast strains vary seasonally, it will taste different throughout the year.

Wood and Barrel-Aged Beer Fest: A Review

Josh Noel of the Chicago Tribune attended the Festival of Wood and Barrel-Aged Beer, which recently took place in Chicago. His takes on the 14th edition of this event:

  • The beer is good, and getting better. He rates 20 percent of the beers “genius”, and another 60 percent “good to very good”. The “undrinkable” beers likely sat in the barrel too long.
  • John Laffer, the co-founder of Off Color Brewing in Chicago, has emerged as a star. He’s an alumnus of Goose Island Brewing Company’s barrel-aging program.
  • Festival-goers didn’t shun Goose Island on account of it having been taken over by Anheuser-Busch. If the beer is good, they want it.
  • It’s possible to brew bad sour beer. The style “requires layers and nuance.”
  • The best thing about the festival is discovering new beers. One, in particular, was Peach Climacteric from Colorado-based WeldWerks Brewing. Co-founder Neil Fisher was amazed that attendees knew so much about his new brewery. fisher said, “You guys have a very connected beer culture here.”

Beer….By the Numbers

  • Anheuser-Busch InBev’s latest offer to buy SABMiller: $108.2 billion.
  • Increase over A-B InBev’s initial offer: 14 percent.
  • Attendance at this year’s Oktoberfest in Munich: 5.9 million (down from 6.3 million last year).
  • Beer consumption at this year’s Oktoberfest: 7.3 million liters (down from 7.7 million last year).
  • Stolen beer mugs confiscated by Oktoberfest security: 110,000 (down from 112,000 last year).
  • Beer-to-gold ratio in 1990 (60-year peak): 227 ounces of beer = 1 ounce of gold.
  • Beer-to-gold ratio in 1970 (60-year low): 48 ounces of beer = 1 ounce of gold.
  • Increase in craft lager beer sales this year over 2014: 123 percent.
  • Increase in craft sour beer sales this year over 2014: 60 percent.
  • Craft beer’s sales growth in 2014: 17.6 percent.
  • The entire beer industry’s sales growth in 2014: 0.5 percent.
  • Settlement amount approved by the court in the Beck’s Beer deceptive-packaging litigation: $20 million.
  • Estimated number of households eligible for compensation in that litigation: 1.7 million.
  • Ohio’s current ABV cap on beer: 12 percent.
  • Its ABV cap on beer before 2002: 6 percent.
  • The Friday Mash (Louisiana Purchase Edition)

    Two hundred and ten years ago today, the Louisiana Purchase was finalized at a ceremony in New Orleans. The U.S. paid France 50 million francs for what became all or part of 15 present-day states. The cost of all that land? Less than a Jefferson nickel per acre.

    And now….The Mash!

    We begin in Belgium, where the Abbey of Notre Dame d’Orval can’t meet demand for Orval ale. The reason? The number of monks has fallen from 35 in the 1980s to 12 today.

    Fancy a pint? The next beer you order might might be served in a tulip, a chalice, a snifter, or stemware instead of a “shaker pint”, especially if you’re having a high-gravity ale.

    Oops! Lehigh University’s Chi Phi fraternity was suspended after members posted a photo of hundreds of cups of beer inside what’s supposed to be a dry frat house.

    What happens when you give four Aussie guys beer and a video camera? You get beer-fueled one-upmanship that results in productive content creation for Carlton Dry.

    Do you know what “foeder” is? Lauren Salazar of New Belgium Brewing Company explains how these large oak barrels need to be babied before they hold what will become Belgian-style sour beer.

    Want a 22-ouncer of your favorite craft beer? In some Sacramento neighborhoods, you can’t get one because single-bottle sales are banned, regardless of the quality of the beer.

    Finally, fans attending Miami Dolphins games at Sun Life Stadium can download an app which warns them when beer sales are about to end, and even directs them to a stand with shorter lines.

    Some Like it Sour

    In an article in New Yorker magazine, writer Christian DeBenedetti (The Great American Ale Trail) says we’ve come full circle with sour beer. Before refrigeration and advances in fermentation science in the mid-19th century, almost all beer was more or less sour. Even after science eliminated most off-tastes, some breweries continued to turn out sour styles. The best-known such brewery is Brussels’s Cantillon brewery, founded in 1900. To this day, it specializes in spontaneously fermented lambics and gueuzes.

    DeBenedetti notes that Cantillon’s beers were, at first, widely misunderstood by American customers. Some reacted to their tart and musty character by calling the beers “infected” and sending them back. As late as 1997, when he first visited Cantillon, its products weren’t available in the United States beyond a few semi-smuggled shipments. Dan Shelton, who took the risky step of importing Cantllion, said that it took almost ten years for people to realize that lambic and gueuze were supposed to taste that way.

    Today, a number of American breweries have developed a reputation for high-quality sour beers. They include Jolly Pumpkin, Russian River, Crooked Stave–and De Benedetti’s own sour beer brewery, which he’s building on his family’s hazelnut farm in Oregon.

    Sour Beer: The Next IPA?

    Sour beer. Or, if you prefer, wild beer or funky beer. It’s gained a following in recent years, and a growing number of craft breweries are experimenting with the style. One of America’s leading sour beer producers is New Belgium Brewing Company, which has sold La Folie for years and has upped its sour beer production capacity. Other brewers in Colorado are turning out sour beer as well. One of them, Chad Yakobson, owner of the Crooked Stave Artisan Beer Project, says “It’s the fastest-growing niche by far. It is the IPA of a couple years ago, and it’s great.”

    The Tuesday Mash (News Glut Edition)

    Because it’s Ludwig’s job to keep you informed.

    We begin in Whitefish, Montana, where the Black Star Brewery has launched its latest contest. Tell Black Star what you would barter to win a trip for two to Montana plus free beer for a year.

    Watch out, Guinness. Camden Town Brewing, a London micro, wants to challenge Guinness Stout’s domination of the British stout market. Camden Town’s brew is called “Black Ink.”

    Kai Olson-Sawyer of gives us two more reasons to “drink locally”: microbreweries strengthen communities, and have a positive impact on the environment as well.

    The Mother Road Brewing Company of Flagstaff, Arizona, is not only located on an older alignment of Route 66, but three of beers’ names are inspired by the famous highway. pays attention to an underappreciated style–namely, American Brown Ale. Nick Leiby says there are plenty of good versions to choose from.

    Eric Asimov of the New York Times took note of the popularity of sour beers in America. He and his friends’ favorite was a Kriek ale from Cascade in Portland, Ore.

    Finally, California’s Firestone Walker Brewing Company brews its flagship a pale ale using a brewing method based on the Burton Union fermentation system. Why? Because
    Englishman David Walker is in charge of brewing.

    The Friday Mash (Manifest Destiny Edition)

    On this day in 1845, President James K. Polk announced to Congress that the United States should aggressively expand into the West. That policy, which was given the name “Manifest Destiny,” eventually resulted in California, Oregon, and Washington joining the Union. Ask yourself this: where would craft brewing be without those three states?

    And now…The Mash!

    We begin in Pasadena, California, where the 2012 Tournament of Roses Parade will step off without the Budweiser Clydesdales. It’s the first time since 1952 that Anheuser-Busch won’t be represented.

    Now that the members of 1990s boy band Hanson are old enough to drink, they’ve launched their own beer. Its name?None other than “Mmmhop.”

    Remember J. Wilson, the Iowa man who went on a doppelbock-only diet during Lent? He not only survived, but wrote a book about his experience. It’s titled Diary of a Part-Time Monk.

    The sour beer craze has attracted the attention of Eric Asimov of the New York Times. He and his friends recently evaluated a number of sour beers, and rendered their judgment.

    Ohio is “round at the ends and high in the middle,” and about to be populated by nearly a dozen new breweries, bringing the state’s brewery count to 70.

    Fat Tire on the East Coast? That’s likely to happen now that New Belgium Brewing Company is choosing a site for its second brewery. Four cities, including Philadelphia and Asheville, North Carolina, are on the short list.

    Finally, Adrian Tierney-Jones, who blogs at Called to the Bar, tackles this beery question: What is abbey ale? His conclusion: “I’m still not sure what an Abbey Ale is. Is there such a creature?”

    The Friday Mash (KC Edition)

    On this day in 1850, what is now known as Kansas City, Missouri, was established. It’s the home of the American Jazz Museum, the National World War I Museum, the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, Kansas City-style barbecue, and the Royals and Chiefs.

    And now…The Mash!

    We begin not in Kansas City, but in Philadelphia City where this evening, Philly Beer Week gets off to a rousing start with The Opening Tap, which will take place at the Independence Visitor Center. We’re sure the Founding Fathers would approve. Philadelphia beer writer Bryan Kolesar has more details about Beer Week itself.

    Ninety miles to the north, in Manhattan, another opening takes place today: the Eataly rooftop brewery restaurant Birreria. was given a preview tour, and tells visitors what to expect.

    Continuing our journey into the Bronx, two new breweries are operating. They are the Bronx Brewery and the Jonas Bronck’s Beer Company. No word on whether either plans to sell its beer in–here it comes!–22-ounce Bronx Bombers.

    Now to your backyard. Researchers at the University of Florida have found that mosquitoes are attracted to beer. However, the mosquitoes weren’t to state a brand preference.

    Beer, of course, is the main attraction of Plzen in the Czech Republic. But as Evan Rail explains in the New York Times travel section, the city has attractions that non-drinkers will love.

    Our next stop is the home of sour beer. Not, not Belgium, but Germany, the home of two classic styles: Leipziger Gose and Berliner Weisse.

    Our travels conclude in–you guessed it–Kansas City, which is also the home of the Boulevard Brewing Company, the Midwest’s largest specialty brewery. The beer pairs well with outdoor barbecue. So long as you watch out for mosquitoes.

    NYT Puts the Spotlight on Sour Beer

    In recent years, craft beer has gotten the attention of the New York Times. The paper’s latest feature article, by Portland-based writer Lucy Burningham, is about the sour beer phenomenon.

    Breweries featured in Burningham’s story included New Belgium Brewing Company, which released a wood-aged sour red more than a decade ago; Allagash Brewing, the first American brewery to brew these beers using spontaneous fermentation; and Russian River Brewing Company, whose Brettanomyces yeast is dreaded by local vintners.

    Vinnie Cilurzo, Russian River’s owner, offers this observation: “Sour beers will never become the pale ales of craft brewing.”

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