Sour Beer is Here & Thriving

Cheers to Sour Beers

Terry Hawbaker - Brewer, Pizza Boy Brewing Company
Terry Hawbaker – Head Brewer, Pizza Boy Brewing Company

Sour beers are nothing new to the craft beer scene, but they are quickly gaining popularity as beer enthusiast’s palettes crave something more. Something different. We’re bored, yet again! A lot of us are taking a break from the IPA wagon to shock our taste buds with experiences that mimic wine. A complex, layered tart flavor that can take many shapes and forms.

Here in the Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, area, we’re so very lucky to have Pizza Boy Brewing Company. Their Head Brewer, Terry Hawbaker, is quite a master at the sours.

And, recently, a variety of these artfully created sours were released for our glorious consumption. A few are available on tap while most are in 750 mL bottles that are actually more like sleek wine bottles.

At $25 a pop and 10 different sours available, my budget cringed at my desire to try each and every one. But a friend of mine suggested we get a bunch of people together and do an in-house bottle share. Each person would buy a bottle then share it with the whole table. Pure, flipping genious! I quickly rounded up some people and WE. WERE. DOING. THIS!

We made an honest effort and tried almost everything. Only 2 bottles were skipped but not because they weren’t good but because a few folks had already tried them. Here are our candid notes which might be helpful in making your selection.

Blush Sour

BOTTLES

  • Abascio Cell – BLUSH (Barrel Aged Sour)
    “Big tang! Almost balsamic Lots of vinegar.”
    “Tastes like it was fermented with strawberries or raspberries.”
  • Abascio Cell – Mixed Grapes (Barrel Aged Sour)
    “Root beer barrel candy!”
    “Oaky. Like a Flanders Red body with a slight burn on the back of your throat.”
    “Merlot flavor.”
  • Abascio Cell – Colombard (Barrel Aged Sour)
    “More like champagne in taste. Bubbly.”
    “Nose is almost white wine like.”
    “Now that’s the pucker I was looking for!”
  • Abascio Cell – Pinot Grigio (Barrel Aged Sour)
    “Straight up Pinot Grigio experience.”
    “Lemon and pineapple, then the oak smashes in.”
  • Abascio Cell – Zinfandel (Barrel Aged Sour)
    Super tangy. And warming to the belly.”
    “Bursts on with sour then goes to malt then back to tangy.”
  • Abascio Cell – Base (Barrel Aged Sour)
    We didn’t try this one during our bottle share.
  • Golden Sour (Barrel Aged Sour)
    “One of my favorite of all the sours we tried tonight.”
    “Great white wine flavor.”
    “I asked the brewer and found out it’s a blend of Cantillon, Fantome & Drie Fonteinen cultures. It’s aged in white wine barrels.”
  • Plum Sour (Barrel Aged Sour)
    “Oh, wow! That’s distinctly plummy.
    “Holy sh*t that’s sour. Makes my mouth pucker. I love it!”
  • Afternoon Delight (Berliner Weissbier)
    We didn’t try this one during our bottle share.
  • Grasslands Tropical (Barrel Aged Farmhouse Wild Ale)
    “Lots of pineapple notes.”
    “I get mostly mango. Tropical fruit of some sort.”
    “Very dry with a little bit of oak at the tail end.”

ON TAP
While we were at it, there were two sours on tap that I gave a try:

  • Hoptart 1.2 (Sour Ale with Spent Grapes & Dry Hopped)
    “Big red wine tartness. Love the deep magenta color.”
  • Harvest Delight – Hop Test #1 (Wet Hopped Sour Grisette)
    “Lemony and tart with a burst of cascade hops flavor.”

THINGS TO NOTE:Pizza Boy Sours

  • What’s available right now? The beer selection is always changing at Al’s of Hampden/Pizza Boy Brewing Company. Check their online beer list to see what’s available ahead of time.
  • Why $25/bottle? There are a lot of factors that go into the pricing a sour beer. These sours were produced in small quantities. And, there’s the cost of the barrels, the rental of the warehouse the barrels are stored in for 1-3 years depending on the variety, the cultures, the high-end bottles, labels, corks, crowns. Not to mention it’s a labor intensive process. In the end, the profit margin is about the same as an ipa or stout beer they brew to be served on tap.
  • Why no labels? At the time of our tasting, the labels were awaiting government approval. The labels are now approved and have been printed to be placed on each bottle.
  • Can I buy a bottle to take home? No. Not yet. All of the sours in bottles are available for inhouse consumption only. But stay tuned – I’m told there is going to be a bottle sale event in the near future. UPDATE: Sale will be DEC 6 at 7am. Visit Al’s of Hampden Facebook page for more details.
  • Which was the first sour made here? Permasmile was Terry Hawbaker’s first sour produced at Pizza Boy Brewing Co. followed by Tangible and Afternoon Delight.

THE OUTTAKES


(Follow Me On: Twitter & Untapped: @dzyngrl | Instagram: @dzyngrl14)

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