A few months ago on our 4 day 14 brewery road trip, Alyse asked if I wanted to go to Avery Sour Fest with her. In February she was already planning. She knew she could only buy 2 tickets, and they would sell out fast. The day they announced when tickets would go on sale she sent me an excited text proclaiming it is already on her calendar. The day the tickets went on sale at 9am, I had a text from her at 8:15 saying “I’m ready, let’s do this!”. Her preparedness paid off, as she was one of 200 people who were able to purchase a pair before the fest sold out in 2 minutes.
I was stoked. Sour beers is not something I have dabbled in too much. They are not as widely available, but are becoming more and more popular. Sour beers have off flavors, a bit of a funkiness, that can be very enjoyable. There are several different styles that can qualify as a sour. Everything from Wheats, Lambics, and Bocks can qualify . They can be golden in color all the way to looking like motor oil in your glass or even hot pink, like Uplands Raspberry Lambic. This fest also featured beers fermented with Brettanomyces. This wild yeast gives beers a funky flavor. I absolutely love (most) beers made with brett, it is a unique flavor that adds a lot of depth and character to a simple beer.
The day of the fest we rode down with Andy, the assistant brewer at Funkwerks and Natalie, another Funkwerks employee. They were lucky enough to score tickets because Funkwerks was pouring their Brett Dream at the fest. Unfortunately for Natalie, duty called and she had to host a tasting event right in the middle of the fest. Lucky for us, that meant we had a designated driver. I love spending time with people who are serious about beer. The ride down to Boulder was full of talk of new beers, home brewing, and industry happenings. Such great conversation that I didn’t realize until Longmont that my phone was not with me. Luckily, Andy snapped some pictures for me. Once we got there, the trend continued. Sour Fest is not for the new to beer demographic, but rather those who have been around the brew block a time or two and for some sick reason get extreme amounts of pleasure out of ruining their palates and getting heartburn.
When we arrived we had about 20 minutes until the gates opened, so we snagged a beer list and plotted our attack. Judging from Beertographer’s photos of the event, we were standing right behind him in line. I was too busy oogling the list to notice, and missed my chance to introduce myself. Cascade and Upland were both pouring their well sought after sours in the back parking lot out of bottles, so we decided to hit up that first.
We were apparently not the only ones with that idea as the line quickly stretched across the lot. My two favorites from the bottle table was the Persica from Crooked Stave and Cascade’s The Vine. Persica is a batch of Wild Wild Brett Orange that was aged with peaches in oak barrels for nine months. It was a tart liquid version of peach cobbler, and I am sad this one will only be released to Crooked Stave Reserve Members. The Vine, a blonde/triple blend that was oak aged with white grapes had a more dry but still robust taste. The lighter styles of beer aged on oak are always a fun combination to me, leading to sweet vanilla hints that I find unexpected in these styles.
After checking off almost the entire back of the list, we headed out front to give our palates a break and catch some of Colorado Craft Beer Radio Show. John Turk and The Gubna were broadcasting live from the fest and catching everyone up on other beer happenings around the state. At the end of the show I was able to meet John Turk. He was as excited to meet a female beer blogger as I was excited to meet him. We headed back inside and meet up with Aaron and Don of Grimm Brothers Brewhouse to see what they were sipping from their glass and to enjoy some good company. A favorite of the festival was their Brett Bock, and it went pretty quickly. I didn’t try any that day, but have had it many times in the taproom and it is a well put together lager. I went for the Black Brett next, a black raspberry nectar fermented with brett from Redstone Meadery. This was a clear, slightly pink pour that packed a lot more punch than it looked like it would.
We wandered around for a bit, meeting new friends, and running into old. The industrial size jars of tums placed around the barrel cellar were quickly dwindling. I was able to officially met both Stephanie Crabtree of Crabtree Brewing and Lauren Salazar of New Belgium, both of whom were speaking at my event just a couple days after the festival. It was great to finally meet them after so many back and forth emails. I also ran into JD, brewer for COOP Ale Works in Oklahoma. I had meet him once before at a previous event, but was unable to try his beer. This time I made sure to snag some of his Wild Wheat Wine Ale, an incredibly well balanced hybrid of styles. Just as the back was crowded in the beginning, the taproom was crowded at the end. Cambridge’s Ozymandius was another beer that went quickly. At 15% this strong black sour went down incredibly smooth. Not as tart, but still sweet, this was in my top 5.
Once we were no longer able to really taste anything, and Natalie had returned from her work, we decided to head over to Back Country Pizza. This is a popular Boulder hang out for beer lovers, and their beer menu was quite extensive. Our beers came out quickly, but the main thing we were seeking, food, did not. With others being served around us who hadn’t even sat down until after we ordered, we decided to inquire about the wait. The manager was very helpful in ensuring we were well taken care of, and brought us salads and appetizers. When he came back to the table he glanced down at my friends wrist and said “Oooooooh, you guys were at Sour Fest, that explains it”. I am still a little perplexed as to what he meant by that, maybe we were a bit obnoxious. But frankly, were are like that when we are sober too. Leaving Back Country Pizza, we noticed a huge dent in the back passanger door of Natalie’s car. Luckily, they left a note. Supposedly, “the wind” blew the door to far open after their child opened it. More like the parent parked too close and the kid opened the door to hard, as there was not a hurricane or tornado in sight, but at least they left a note.
After this festival I have a new and greater appreciation for sour beers. There are so many fun ways to play with your beer that will create the off flavors people love in a sour. As brewers become more and more experimental in their work, this style is going to become more and more popular. If you have never tried a sour, I encourage you to dabble. Tart Lychee from New Belgium’s Lip of Faith series is a great first sour for those new to the tart and is quickly becoming one of my go to beers of the summer.