There’s a celebration of sour beer this week at an East Dallas neighborhood bar.
You may know it well enough to remember The Great Crash through the front. You may have sped by every day and never noticed, but there it stands. It’s an institution among bars. And the first week of October it marks a special occasion.
Strangeways’ Sour Week is happening now through Sunday, Oct. 13. It’s the sixth annual tap takeover, with 40 sour beers from a lineup of local and international breweries.
Strangeways is from siblings Eric and Rosie Sanchez, who manage the business, bartend and curate an impressive beer list.
This year, there are five Texas breweries represented: Small Brewpub, Collective Brewing Project, Martin House Brewing Company, New Braunfels Brewing Company and Saint Arnold Brewing Company. There are beers from Italy, Belgium and Switzerland.
Kegs line the walls at Strangeways, where they buy beer for Sour Week throughout the year.
Strangeways keeps seven sours on tap throughout the year, but the first week of October is when 40 magical sours take over the tap wall. There are dozens of styles and multitudes of flavors, such as peach, mango, blueberry, pickle, rose, coffee and many more.
I arrived just after Sour Week began at 4 p.m. Monday, when the doors opened, and was greeted by bouncy, indie dance music and what is certainly the largest public collection of KAWS figurines
and art in Dallas. This is already my happy place.
Beyond the fermented main attraction this week, Strangeways has an impressive selection of scotch and bourbon whiskeys. They have craft beer and domestics in the bottle and can if you aren’t feeling puckery.
When I got to the bar, I asked Rosie for her choice on a beginner’s flight to sour beer. It didn’t disappoint.
Strangeways has many sours for novices to the style. This flight is an introduction to Sour Week. (From left) Karate Kimp of Prairie Artisan Ales, Oklahoma, 5.4% ABV, Berliner Weisse; Sort Sour Plum of Small Brewpub, Dallas, 2015 4.5% ABV, light sour; Goses Are Red of The Bruery, California, Terreux, 5.3% ABV, rose gose; Montmertto of Wicked Weed Brewing, North Carolina, 6.9% ABV barrel-aged American sour; 2015 Kriek of Cascade, Oregon, 7.1% ABV, blend of seven oak-aged sours.
The Small Brewpub Berliner Weisse was a good introduction. It has a gentle, tart plum taste balanced with light drinkability. A favorite among the first flight was Wicked Weed’s Montmertto, a barrel-aged, cherry-almond sour that has an amaretto undertone.
As I’m sipping on each beer seeking out each flavor — rosé in No. 39, apricot in tap 2 — I see a group of men a few barstools down, deep in conversation and taking notes about every beer they try. They’re an enthusiastic crew discussing each nuanced taste. The men are impressed with each of their flights. They order another while LCD Soundsystem plays overhead.
As I finish my rookie flight, Rosie drops the new tasting to the guys.
“This is serious, hardcore sour,” Rosie introduces the flight.
I’m feeling adventurous and ask for the same thing. That’s how I met Dallas residents Barry Black and Tom Murphy, who really know their sours.
Buckle up for this flight of pure pucker. It’s a bold choice even for the most fervent sour drinker. Omega of Pico Brouwerike Alving, Belgium, 6% ABV Flemish blond souraAle; My Blueberry Nightmare of Birrificio Del Ducato, Italy, 9% ABV Stout; Hell Yeah! Of New Braunfels Brewing Company, Texas 3.3% ABV, pickle-soaked sour; Abbaya St Bon Chien of Brasserie Des Franches-Montagnes, Switzerland, 11% Atrong soura-aged in old wine oak barrels, blend of seven beers; Silencio of Wicked Weed Brewing, North Carolina, 6.6% ABV sour black aged in Kentucky bourbon barrels.
Their flight offers a tour of the most unique sours, including the most pucker-worthy brews on the board.
Rosie brings my flight, and it’s alive with color. My Blueberry Nightmare is a deep purple, Hell Yeah! is murky yellow, the Belgium and Swiss selections are reddish pink. The music now playing is Bag Raiders’ breakaway hit “Shooting Stars,” and it’s no wonder this feels like home.
“My palette is very strong for crazy flavors. I’m always up to the challenge,” Rosie says.
The Ducato stout is a 9% ABV Italian beer among the most sour on the list. It is perfection packed with ultra-tart blueberry flavor.
Then there is the Hell Yeah! from New Braunfels Brewing. It has the lowest ABV on the list at 3.3%, but makes up for it with its potent bite of pickle juice and jalapeño. Both are must-try beers.
“Hell Yeah! is Texas in a glass. It’s pure pickle, but not in an offensive way,” Rosie says. “There is the fresh pickle and fresh jalapeño. It is no disappointment at all.”
Strangeways is in a field of its own. Rarely do you find a bar that has seven sours on tap every day, but Stangeways does, except for this one week when it’s all sours. That reputation is what draws sour-loving drinkers here. Sour Week is a pilgrimage to pucker.
Barry Black and Tom Murphy are Sour Week pros. Their notes include flavor profiles and which beers they’ve had before.
“Nobody is doing anything like this,” Black says between tastes of his flight. “Some places will have three or four sours, but to come here and see the gamut of what is available. It’s hard to be able to compare this to anywhere else.”
Part of the enchantment of Sour Week is getting recommendations from other customers, because most everyone here loves their sours. Whether you blindly trust a suggestion or carefully consider it, chances are good you’ll find a sour or 40 you’ll like.
Strangeways opened in 2011 near North Fitzhugh and Belmont avenues before the recent wave of apartment development that also brought more restaurants and bars. In the last few years, El Bolero, LDU Coffee and Hungry Belly have joined neighborhood staples Dalat, Zalat and El Come Taco.
“As far as changes to the neighborhood, we love it. Our business neighbors who have come in are awesome, absolutely,” Rosie says. “We have LDU for Coffee and [La] Viuda Negra, this amazing mezcal bar. Every day we get new neighbors.”
Strangeways, 2429 N. Fitzhugh Ave. (East Dallas). 214-823-7800. Open 4 p.m.-2 a.m. daily.