We have been bitten by the bug. We LOVE sours. The mystique of relinquishing control to microorganisms and allowing unpredictability into the brewing process. The necessity for long maturation, blending, adding fruit, barrel ageing and all manner of complex and artisanal techniques. The world of funk is a vast and fascinating spectrum of the beer-sphere. Now, we know that sounds counter-intuitive that we are a sour-seeker considering our regimental scientific background, but we are all scientists! This stuff is like a liquid microbiology experiment, bliss!
With that said, we are ecstatic to announce our first experimental sours are rolling out the doors! We present to you a sour take on our Bunsen American Brown, and also a version aged on cranberries, and a version aged on raspberries. They are extremely limited and can only be tried together this Sunday 12th April at Friends of Ham in Leeds!! We hope this will be a fantastic launch for the start of a long journey we plan to take with sour beers. Please pop along, say hi and let us know what you think!
For those not in the sour-loving society, the idea of letting random bugs and yeast to turn a perfectly reasonable beer into pint of near vinegar can seem very daunting. We would, however, urge you to get out there and try some. Spontaneous fermentation is most certainly the oldest form of producing alcoholic products we know. Let’s go back to 9000BC when the human species were still hunter-gatherers, living in small nomadic family units. One day Mr Hunter-Gatherer was collecting some wild barley somewhere in the Fertile Crescent of the Middle East. It rained and Mr HG dropped his pot of barley to get away from the rain. He returns to find germinating barley and discards the pot. A few days, and some rain storms, later he finds the once lost pot with all manner of biofilm gunk on the top. For reasons unknown to anyone, he drinks it. What follows is the first party, and the first ever hangover. Fast-forward a few hundred years and this revolution in beverage production has created communities of humans who grew barley en-masse, the first societies of humans were forming. The moral to our tale? Sours are history. Embrace the funk and learn something!
So, yes. Initially the most distinct characteristic of sour beers is that they are sour. A blend of tart lactic acid, (some) acetic acid, and a mixture of barnyardy, musty flavours and aromas form the backbone of what goes on. Wild yeasts and bacteria such as Brettanomyces, Pediococcus and Lactobacillus, usually unwanted in any other beer styles, create these unique flavours and can take a long time to develop. As such, the blend of different species of these organisms has a huge affect on the beer produced and requires care and attention to manipulate. These days, spontaneous fermentation from organisms in the air around us still occurs, particularly with the time-old masters Belgium, and they swear by their traditional techniques and methods. Some breweries even refuse to sweep away cobwebs between their oak barrels, claiming they help culture the air around the brewery. On the other hand, more modern brewers often donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t have the time or space to dedicate to a full barrelworks, a coolship and Belgian countryside air, so are resorting to science to culture up blends of bugs suitable to brew with. With our little experiment, we have taken this scientific approach and cultured 2 strains of traditional Sacchromyces cerevisiae, 5 strains of Brettanomyces, 2 Lactobacillus and a singular Pediococcus. We hope that this will give the perfect mix of tart acids and funky phenols, a great foundation for future experiments.
Hold on a minute, we havenÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t finished yet! Not only have we created a Sour Bunsen, but we also aged portions on different fruits. This too has roots in tradition, cherries and raspberries have been used for many years to great effect in Kriek and Framboise lambics, and breweries are toying with many other fruits all the time. Fruit additions add another layer of complexity to an already algebraic beer; the jammy fruit rounds the harsh edges and fills out the palate. We have chosen the classic raspberry to add some fresh juicy-ness and a hint of that tartness they sometimes give. Alongside it, we have cranberries, again known for their tart and unique flavour, but far less traditional.
In the future, we would love to roll these beers out into a more complex souring programme, adding time to age in a oak barrels, blending, spontaneous fermentation, Berliner weisses, Goses, lambics, farmhouse ales, Brett IPAs. There is a plethora of different ways to adapt sour brewing techniques and we cannot wait to explore them all! For now, we are starting with a simple and effective combo!
Once again, we would love to hear your feedback, so please pop down to Friends of Ham in Leeds this weekend, Sunday 12th April for these beers!
Nutty, toffee, toasted undertones from the base Bunsen act as a firm foundations for a subtle lactic tartness, with a nose of fruity and funky Brettanomyces. Those flavours transfer onto the palate, with an extremely quenching sour ale that is well rounded and satisfying.
Sour Bunsen with Raspberries
Fresh raspberries burst out of the glass, with undercurrents of barnyardt Brettanomyces and a tart edge. On the palate, fresh tart rapberries and toffee are followed by a lactic tartness from a stupendously juicy sour ale.
Sour Bunsen with Cranberries
Tart and fragrant cranberries dominate the nose with an aroma like freshly squeezed juice. The extra tart cranberries add complexity to the sourness present, whilst the jammy fruit blends with the complex malt bill to round out and balance Sour Bunsen.