By Steve Lonsway
As many people know, the craft beer industry is growing like crazy. We now have more breweries in the United States than ever before with plenty more in the planning stages. Back before prohibition, it was not uncommon to find a brewery in many small towns and many breweries in large towns. Those “good-ole-days” are returning. Many small towns across our great nation now have their own local brewery and Wisconsin is no different.
Some breweries brew really small batches to appease their followers, and other bigger regional breweries are kicking out thousands and thousands of barrels of beer. But the one common denominator with all brewers is that each and every one of us is enjoying the art of brewing unique styles or using crazy ingredients to keep the customers interest.
Dogfish Head brewery is known for using historic brewing methods and often using non-traditional ingredients from our past. Sierra Nevada is cutting-edge with their use of new hop varieties, and others like New Belgium Brewing are coming out with beers to mimic the flavors we all love like chocolate chip cookie dough.
Collaborations amongst breweries are a big trend and so are sour beers. With so many styles to choose from, we thought we would focus on sour beers as they don’t seem to get as much press.
Sour beer is intentionally sour, acidic or tart. Sour styles found in the market are Lambics, Gueuze, Flanders Red Ale and Olde Bruin. We will be discussing our recent sampling of Flanders Red from the Wild Sour Series from Destihl Brewery in Bloomington, Illinois.
First off is the appearance, the Destihl Flanders Red comes in a twelve ounce can set in red, black and gray. Wild Sour is first and foremost in black and reversed white with the Flanders Red style smaller in font and near the base of the can. Pretty basic label overall but certainly explains its contents proudly. Their flavor description on the can hints at flavors of tart cherry and sour candy with lactic sourness and a wine-like finish. Also on the label is the alcohol content of the beer (6.1% alcohol by volume) and IBU’s (15).
IBU is a measurement of hop bitterness which can be looked at as a scale of 1 to 100 with low numbers being mild and the higher number being more hoppy or bitter. With this beer being 15 IBU’s, you can expect little effect in flavor and aroma from the hops. Lower IBU’s are common in sour beers in order to focus more on the sour contributors.
Our team sampled this beer from a tulip-style glass. The wide opening at the top of the glass allows for your nose to be enveloped in the aroma of the beer as you sip it. The aromas are as advertised, sour, tart cherry, caramel. Other aromas we detected were green apple, cranberry and biscuit. The color is a deep copper, mahogany and is quite bright in appearance. A tan foam head appeared after pouring, but dissipated quite quickly leaving no lacing in its tracks.
The initial introduction of this beer to the palate will bring on an instant sour sensation, similar to the sensation of eating a handful of red Smarties or other more aggressive sour candy. Sweetness hits the sides of your tongue as the roof of your mouth goes dry. Sharp tart cherry flavor is very noticeable with hints of prune, earth, plum, cinnamon and raisin. A slight tannic flavor could be detected and several commented on mellow vinegar tones. The sourness continually punches your tongue from start to finish and slowly fades to an intense dryness that we have only found in oak barrel aged zinfandels. This brew is very wine-like in many ways and quite aggressive in the sour category. We found it refreshing once the taste roller coaster came to a stop.
Destihl Brewery consists of two gastropubs and a production facility. Their first gastropub opened in November, 2007 in Normal, Illinois with a second location joining in April, 2011 in neighboring Champaign. In June of 2016 they broke ground on a 47,000 square foot facility which they anticipate being completed in early 2017. The larger facility will allow them more space for barrel aging projects and increased production capabilities as well as a 6,300 square foot beer hall and outdoor beer garden. Currently they are available in 17 states with Wisconsin being one.
FINAL WORD: Enjoy with caution! You may want to start out with a couple less tart samples as you grow into the Destihl Flanders Red. Get ready for a sour/tart tongue invasion!