If you like lemonade, you’ll probably like sour beer. That’s what Jeremy Danner, ambassador brewer for Kansas City’s Boulevard Brewing Co., tells folks who have never had a sour brew.
But Danner also thinks they should brace themselves the first time they try a sour beer — in good ways and bad. “I think the best thing you can do is be prepared to taste a beer that has characters you didn’t know beer could have,” says Danner. “It’s never, ever cool to surprise someone with sour beer.”
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In part because his palate has grown accustomed to those flavors, and in part because his brewery makes a good one, Danner likes sour beer. Love Child No. 5 is the latest in a series of sours Boulevard devotes a good chunk of time to.
Making sour beer is a process in which a couple of microbes, lactobacillus and brettanomyces, do most of the work. Brettanomyces, known in the brewing community as “Brett,” is a yeast strain resulting in funky, barnyard flavors. The byproduct of a lactobacillus fermentation is lactic acid, which gives sour beers their sharp acidity.
Boulevard began souring some barrels in 2008. Love Child No. 5 is a blend of some of that beer, as well as beer from 2009 to 2011 (most of this year’s batch is from 2011). In a process not much different from making wine, head brewer Dustin Jamison tastes each batch of sour beer directly from the barrels, then blends them together. The total labor, as well as the cost of raw ingredients, combine to make the Love Child series Boulevard’s most expensive brew. “Our intentions are to offer a blend of the very best sour beer we have on hand,” says Danner.
Bubbles move slowly in the glass, along with suspended bits of sediment. The first sip is acerbic; lemon (more juice than zest), pepper, tart cherry, some toffee, and oak. Refreshing? Most definitely.
The Brett character comes in only in the aftertaste, and even then it’s more damp socks than full on barnyard. Once you know it’s there, take another sip and discover the pineapple flavors the Brett imparts. The brew is medium-bodied, with plenty of carbonation on the tongue despite a lack of visible carbonation in the glass. It’s a lot to take in, but for sour aficionados, it’s complex and rewarding.
Keep trying, says Danner. Palates change. “You might dig something you hated six months ago.”
Love Child No. 5 (about $20.99), available at Redstone Liquors, Andover (978-474-9265), and Craft Beer Cellar, Braintree (781-428-3283)