Craft Beer: I'm sweet on sours such as Salty Kiss and Walla Walla
IT'S one of the amusing quirks of the modern craft beer movement that many brewers are constantly trying to push the boundaries while, at the same time, resurrecting older beer styles.
Many craft brewers' approach to sour beers ticks both these boxes. The methods of using wild yeast and allowing spontanteous fermentation are very much borrowed from the old Belgian approach. The lambic style of allowing airborne bacteria and wild yeasts to 'funk' up the beer may have been spawned more out of necessity centuries ago, but brewers today are openly embracing the idea of souring their beers – and many to great effect.
The complete absence of hop bitterness and the fruit flavours many sour beers are infused with are so far removed from what an ale drinker might expect that they share more characteristics with some wines.
Indeed, many more traditional beer drinkers will immediately give a sour the thumbs down because the lack the familiarity of an pale ale, red ale or IPA.
The trick is to approach them in a different way – don't expect malty, bitter or herby; instead think fruity, salty and, well, sour.
Salty Kiss by Magic Rock is a gooseberry gose – a German style of sour beer. It's nice and salty on the lips, as the name suggests, and has delicate fruit flavours.
A few innovative Irish brewers are also dipping in their toe in the sour waters and Kinnegar's latest offering on that front don't disappoint.
Walla Walla is a kettle sour made with rhubarb grown around the Rathmullan farmhouse in Donegal where Kinnegar are based. It's a wonderfully refreshing beer, that takes you right up to the acceptable level of sourness but doesn't overstep that mark. The ginger gives it a light, spicy finish which nicely balances out the sourness.
Dialling down the sour levels a wee bit is the Connemara Cherry Sour from the Independent Brewing Company of Ireland. Bright red in colour, it has a sherbet-like aroma and provides and a decent level of bitterness from the cherries. It's not overly sour and would be a decent summer alternative to some of fruit-flavoured ciders which I find far too sweet.