March 28, 2017
Consumers Pucker Up to Sour Beers
from Chef Christopher Britton
It is amazing to see how many chefs are picking up on house-fermented foods. Whether operators are curing their own pickles or kimchi, creating savory yogurts, or experimenting with in-house vinegars and fish sauce, there is little argument that fermentation is back - and justifiably so.
In addition to the unique flavors it imparts, there are wonderful health benefits to the probiotic strains found in fermented foods that not only aid in combating foodborne illness but digestive maladies as well.
What began as a preservation method to prevent the growth of pathogenic microbes in 6,000 B.C. has grown in popularity—both in medicinal and umami-rich foods. Every global cuisine boasts fermented foods and American operators have enthusiastically adopted this culinary heritage into their menus.
As a craft brew enthusiast, I am seeing sour beers such as Belgian-style lambics, Flanders red, and Berliner weisse pop up in breweries across America. Much like the culinary world, beer has evolved from original slightly-soured ciders made by trappist monks to the intentional pitching of souring agents by audacious brewers.
However, sour beers are not for everyone. Much like a very bitter IPA, the uninitiated needs to slowly ease into the world of sour beers. Starting with cider then working to a duchesse or gose is a great intro. I’m not advocating that everyone has to like sour beers. I am merely suggesting that the fermented flavors of lactobacillus are not just for food. The wonderful nuances of a perfectly carbonated kombucha are equally satisfying in a pint of sour ale.
So next time you find yourself at your local brewery, pucker up and try the ancient practice of fermentation. You just might get hooked.