The last time I mentioned sour beer it was as an aside in a post about the appeal of Budweiser and other mass-produced domestic beers. I've always been an equal opportunity imbiber, as happy with a cold, crisp lager cranked out of a factory brewery as I am with a locally brewed craft beer. But I have a particular affinity for sour beers, the Old-World variants that make your face pucker and pack flavors I've heard described as barnyard and horse blanket in every sip.
I'm not the only one who loves them. NPR pointed out the growing popularity of sour beers at this year's Great American Beer Festival, and noted that they're easier than ever to find at your local bar or grocery store. Sour beers from far off breweries are certainly getting easier to order here in Dallas, but are there any local breweries that feature these Old World beauties?
"Dallas could absolutely use a brewery that does sours," Michael Peticolas of Peticolas Brewing Company writes in an email. "It's a void in our market."
He agrees that sours are becoming more popular nationally but points to the complexity of brewing these beers as a barrier for his brewery. "There is a difference between brewing a sour beer just to have a sour beer and brewing a beer that has the complexity that is required of the style," he writes. Any brew can be soured if the brewer sees fit, but Peticolas enjoys "those that fully embrace the intricacies of the unique style."
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It's not just complexity that keeps local sours at bay, though. Wim Bens at Lakewood Brewing Company says brewing a sour beer is always on his mind, but the bacteria used to create that tang can be tricky. Every brewer knows yeast well -- beer can't be brewed without it -- but the bacteria used to sour beer aren't as commonly used, and as Bens puts it, "They're a little more feisty."
Lactobacillus is the same bacteria that gives sourdough its tartness, lends tang to yogurt and makes sauerkraut sour. In the right beer it's delicious, but if the bacteria aren't carefully controlled, they could accidentally contaminate one of his other brews -- something his lager drinkers wouldn't appreciate.
There is a small glimmer of hope, though, for local sour beer fans. Bens says he set aside one of his first batches of La Dame du Lac, a Bière de Garde he brewed as a special release, and has been aging it as a sour. It's a small batch, but they'll offer a taste this weekend at Booktoberfest, a Halloween-themed spin on their weekly brewery tour event.
You were looking to try out your costume early, anyway, weren't you? Just don't be a keg. Someone did that already.