Bugged Out: GBW's Sour Side

Welcome to beer's bugged out side.  

To paraphrase a line from Dire Straits' 'My Parties': "The secret's in the yeast." Craft breweries the world over are taking their cues from traditionally brewed Belgian and German styles such as lambics, goses and Berliner weisses to create unprecedented flavour experiences. Brettanomyces, lactobacillus, ambient micro-organisms – often collectively referred to as, simply, "bugs" – impart flavours from horse blanket barnyard funk to vinous, sometimes cider-like, notes and tart acidity. Many wild ales are matured in barrels to further enhance their flavours.

To some Good Beer Week punters, the spectrum of wild ale and sours may be entirely new. Others may be well on their way to celebrating their sour beer honeymoon, while a select number will be well versed in the beguiling array of traditional and New World examples. 

Here at The Crafty Pint we have selected some of the stand out sour events across the ten day extravaganza – pitched at whatever your level of expertise might be.


For the newbie...

Introduction to Wild Ales with Two Metre Tall
Fox in the Corn
Session Date & Time: May 14 – 2pm to 4pm
Stream: Beer 101
Cost: $54

Two Metre Tall (Tasmania's champion of wild ales) has plenty in store throughout Good Beer Week for beginners and seasoned sour experts alike. Perhaps you have found yourself in the delightful middle ground that is the wild ale honeymoon? If so, An Introduction to Wild Ales with Two Metre Tall could prove just the ticket to spontaneous, brett and lacto-fermented paradise.

Ashley Huntington (2MT brewmaster) is well known for his engaging masterclasses, part education, part show, part sermon. Get ready for two hours of enlightenment to go along with fabulous Tasmanian produce as well as favourites from the Two Metre Tall stable.

Moreover, Fox in the Corn is making its debut on the Good Beer Week stage in 2016. Not only does this Westside bar and restaurant boast great pasta, it also takes its beer list very seriously. So much so it features sour beers at the front of its comprehensive list. Those new to Fox in the Corn are sure to return for a beer experience unlike any other in Melbourne.

Sweet Live Music + Sour Beer = Good Times
The Great Britain Hotel
Session Date & Time: May 22 – midday to late
Stream: Good Times
Cost: Free Entry

One of Melbourne's historic live music venues is getting funky for Good Beer Week 2016. To accompany live music on the day, there will be three draught versions of Old and New World sours, including Moon Dog's Mr Mistoffolees, Mash Brewing's Wizz Fizz and Rodenbach's Grand Cru.

All three beers are equally as complex as they are accessible, with Mr Mistoffolees (passionfruit & mango wild ale) being the perfect gateway to wild / sour ales for the uninitiated. Moreover, seasoned wine and cider drinkers will find a lot to love with Rodenbach Grand Cru. The archetypal Flanders Red is celebrated for its fruity character and depth of flavour and complexity.


For the foodie...

Palate Cleanser 2016
Boatrocker Barrel Room
Session Date & Time: May 22 – midday to 4.30pm
Stream: Beer Geek
Cost: $115

Pucker up for one more push! Boatrocker's Palate Cleanser is back once again to help you do just that following ten days of beery goodness.

Last year saw the food and sour beer-matching event (as well as bottles of Brambic and Gaston) head across the Nullarbor to Petition (Perth's brand spanking new destination for all things wine, beer and good food) as part of WA Beer Week. Six months on and the tradition of the long lunch featuring sour beers hand picked by Boatrocker head brewer Matt Houghton (including their own) looks set to continue. Only this time you can expect those wonderfully tart beers to cut through charcuterie and slow cooked meats from Boatrocker's very own smoker.


For the enthusiast...

SourFest Returns!
Two Row Bar
Session Date & Time: Weds 18 May - 1600-2200
Stream: Beer Geek
Cost: $50

SourFest is like the perfectly blended wild ale. Simply start with a swathe of locally brewed sours from the likes of 7 Cent, BrewCult, 3 Ravens, Mash, and Kettle Green plus a past homebrew favourite, add in a hiatus and relocation from Penny Blue to Two Row Bar, before finishing with three times the fun.

A regular patron at Penny Blue – SourFest's original home – Two Row's Tiffany Waldron was asked to host the 2015 SourFest event.

Says Tiffany: "We didn't quite get our shit together to get SourFest going last year, but when Doug [from 7 Cent] messaged me this year, it was all systems go!

"It's always been a casual affair, though with lots of sour banter, so you can expect the same at Two Row this year. The OG crew along with Mia from Kettle Green are all creating some pretty special sour things to drink on the night. Hendo is even bringing back Happy Cranksgiving – a one-off beer he once homebrewed for a Thanksgiving feast at my house a few years ago, which is rather fortunate because that beer was a pretty big hit with the turkey."

All Things MORE Awesome!

The Valley Cellar Door
Session Date & Time: May 16 – 6pm to 9pm (Sunday's session is now sold out)
Stream: Beer Lover
Cost: $60

All Things MORE Awesome is your chance to explore everything 7 Cent has to offer. You may have attended last year's sold out event or you may have discovered this Victorian brewing wild child (pun not intended) by way of its masterful sour cherry porter: Glass Case of Emotion. Either way, get set for three hours of wonderment, replete with good food and great chat.

"We haven't confirmed which sour beer but between this and SourFest we will [be showcasing] one of two [sour] beers," said 7 Cent's Matthew Boustead.

The first of two sours to be showcased is an as yet unnamed dark raspberry sour, incorporating the same base as the aforementioned Glass Case of Emotion. Says Matthew: "We had a bit of wort left over when filling this year's barrels of of Glass Case of Emotion so decided to add lacto bacteria, brett yeast and standard ale yeast. Once soured, and fermented for six months, we added a bunch of raspberries. It is big on roast, chocolate, sour and raspberry [flavour].

"[The second will be] a Golden Sour with home grown apricots – no name yet. This beer is a basic golden sour base which was fermented [along] with a starter of the dregs of many different amazing sour beers that we've enjoyed. Think of Cantillon, 3 Fonteinen, Tilquin, Boon and whatever other sour beers we've been drinking the past year.  

"This [concoction] has been ageing and doing its thing for quite a while. During summer, when the apricot trees at the brewery were fruiting, we grabbed a heap of those and put them in the beer. This will add a bit of South Gisborne into the end result."

For those not into their sours, 7 Cent will be showcasing a range of sessionable beers as well.

Dr Morse Does Italian Sours
Dr Morse Bar & Eatery
Session Date & Time: Weds 18 May - 1500-Late
Stream: Beer Geek
Cost: Free Entry

Everyone's favourite bar beneath the tracks, Dr Morse, is set to go all out with a huge selection of sour and wild ales from Italy and beyond. Expect beers from Lervig, Ducato, Burning Sky, To Øl, NOMAD, Birra del Borgo and more.

Thanks to Italian breweries' penchant for blending grapes, fruit, nuts and barrel-ageing techniques into their beers, the country is now highly regarded among beer enthusiasts and foodies alike. Moreover, Birra del Borgo is one not to be missed, even if it's sold out to AB InBev. Those lucky enough to sample the Borgorose brewery's sumptuous creations last year will attest they are well worth investigating.


And an honourable mention....

All week long Carwyn Cellars will be showcasing a rotating array of sours across its 20 taps. Whether you now know your gueuzes from your goses, or you know which two lambic breweries are not members of the Hoge Raad voor Ambachtelijke Lambikbieren (High Commission of Traditionally-Brewed Lambic Beers - HORAL)* this is your place!

* The two breweries in question are the AB-InBev owned Brasserie Belle Vue and Brasserie Cantillon, the latter of which eschews membership because not all of its beers are steadfastly brewed to traditional methods. [1]

[1]: The Oxford Companion to Beer (First Edition)


A suitably nerdy note to end on there, Graham! For more Good Beer Week action, head to the festival website here.

About the author: Graham "Stoutwhiskas" Frizzell is a legally blind beer writer and brewer in the making. You can find his beer writings at Blind Taste Test

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