It's a question that's been bouncing around the beer community — particularly online — for two years now: Are sours the next IPA?
Beer-makers have long been trying to tap into the next big style, and there's a lot of incentive for getting it right: India pale ales have a 26 percent market share, Brewbound reports, and saw a 46 percent volume growth in 2014 alone, according to Craft Brewing Business. But the market is heavily saturated with IPAs, and it's getting increasingly hard to stand out from the pack. In an effort to stretch their legs and experiment, many breweries are going after less conventional, more experimental styles. Some of these styles have been around for centuries but are less familiar to the American palate.
Sours only have about two percent market share, according to Barrett Tillman, who heads up Deep Ellum Brewing's new sour program, but despite low sales compared to Dallas Blonde or an IPA, Deep Ellum knows a good sour is a beer-lovers' beer, and nailing a more difficult style is a status symbol. The everyman may buy the majority of a brewery's more accessible styles, but notoriety doesn't often come from a standard pilsner or pale ale.
In the last few years, more and more breweries are popping up that focus on wild ales and spontaneously fermented brews that are often described as dry, funky and complex. In Austin, Jester King draws outrageous lines every time it releases a new spontaneously fermented farmhouse ale with experimental additions like oyster mushrooms, smoked Texas figs and a variety of less common bacteria. These unpredictable brews are often more expensive than the classics, but are well worth the investment.
Whether you're a sour beer neophyte or have a beer fridge full of Belgian lambics, tonight Strangeways is kicking off a celebration that should pique your interest: Sour Week. From tonight through Oct. 16, every single beer on tap at Strangeways will be one of many sour varieties.
"Sour Week is all 40 taps are pouring sours," says Rocio Ildemaro, who owns Strangeways with her brother, Eric Sanchez. "All drafts. No rotating a few at a time — all at once. We have sours from the Metroplex, U.K., Germany, Belgium, Italy and of course, the rest of the states."
Sours used to be a reach for the average drinker, but it's gaining traction and has always proven popular at Strangeways, Ildemaro says.
"We love sours — we have since we first opened five years ago," she says. "We kept ordering kegs of sours. And ordering. One night we jokingly mentioned we had enough sours to put 10 on the board (we have 40 taps) we started naming the kegs we knew we had. We had more than 25. Then the joke turned to 'What if we tap all 25?' We actually had more than 25 and we decided to do it."
Ildemaro didn't expect customers to notice or care that their taps had gone sour, but they were in for a surprise.
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"The joke was on us," she says. "Everyone cared and everyone loved it. It was such a fun week — a board full of sours. People we knew didn't drink sours came anyway. They ordered flights and had fun."
The fun thing about this style of beer is the extensive variety of styles that fall under the sour umbrella, from fruity effervescent lambics to tart Flanders reds to the salty German gose. For beginners, Ildemaro recommends a Berliner Weisse, a refreshing low ABV German style that's sometimes mixed with sweet fruit syrups.
Whether you're in the market for a light, refreshing brew or an in-your-face funk monster, Strangeways is the place to be this week — no self-respecting Dallas craft beer lover will miss this tart tap takeover. Doors open today (Monday) at 4 p.m., and Ildemaro is expecting to see a line of sour fans waiting outside.
Strangeways, 2429 N. Fitzhugh Ave.