If you’ve read any of my past articles, it’s probably become quite clear how much I love the sour revolution that’s taking place in today’s craft beer world. Sour beers – for those who are unfamiliar with the style – are made by introducing some sort of brewing bacterium into the beer to create tart or sour flavors.
If the idea of bacteria in your beer makes you uncomfortable, just think of all the other foods and drinks you consume that are created thanks to bacteria. Yogurt and kombucha, for example, use the same types of bacteria as many sour beers and create similar flavor characteristics.
This summer, I mentioned sour beers that mimic cocktails and smoothies. Now that the weather has grown chillier, I want to talk about one of my very favorite specific styles: dark sours.
Although there isn’t a list of requirements for a sour ale to be considered “dark,” there are a few key things to look for to know whether you’ve found one of these winter-oriented beauties.
Some breweries include the word “dark” in the name. Mobcraft, for instance, has a beer called Dat Dark Sour, but not all breweries make it this easy! I really do like this beer, by the way. It has a nice, tart flavor with a pretty, light finish. The body is a bit oaky, with some dark red wine notes.
Another way to know whether you’ve found a dark sour is to look at the color. This might not be easy if you’re looking at bottles, but it could help to confirm a suspicion. One beer that shows its true colors (literally) is Black Angel from Wicked Weed Brewing in Asheville, North Carolina. Finding a dark sour at this brewery is not difficult because it specializes in all varieties of mixed fermentation sour ales, among other styles. This beer pours very dark purple – almost black – from its time aging on tons of tart cherries in bourbon barrels.
An easy way to confirm your dark-sour suspicions is by reviewing the flavor goals and ingredient list. One beer that I included in my beer Advent calendar was a brew from Waunakee, Wisconsin: Humble Forager Brewery’s Coastal Sunrise. It is not to be confused with the Coastal Sunshine series of smoothie sours that this brewery released this past summer.
Coastal Sunrise is considered a sour ale, but when you read the ingredients – blueberry, maple syrup, vanilla and cinnamon – there’s no mistaking this for a summer-oriented sour. The combination of tart acidity from the beer combines perfectly with the light acidity of the blueberries. The maple syrup and vanilla balance the acidity perfectly (just like with real pancakes!), and then a dash of cinnamon brings it all together.
Sad, but true: Don’t expect to find a wide variety of dark sours on your local grocery store’s shelves. This style is surprisingly difficult to find, making it a must-have anytime I’m lucky enough to run across it. If you’re able to find a dark sour, consider yourself fortunate, and please send me its name and location so I can grab one for myself!