The quiet but steady rise of the sour beer continues across Australia with the latest release from Temple Brewing Company. Scarlet Sour has arrived just in time for summer, providing a refreshing introduction to craft beer’s tart side.
Sour beers, wild ales and acidic fruit beers have long been common place around Europe’s warmer climates. Lambics, gueuze, kriek and framboise are popular daytime drinking for many of the Mediterranean’s population. In Germany, tart cloudy wheat beers rose to the height of popularity in the 19th century, with Berlin claiming the style for itself, resulting in the name Berliner Weisse, on which Temple’s Scarlet Sour is based.
Today, sour styles are becoming prevalent throughout the American craft beer scene, providing a cleansing contrast to the bitterness of the hop heavy ales that saturate their market. Their growth in popularity has seen many new interpretations of sour beers by craft brewers, resulting in the label of ‘wild ale’ to distance the many new hybrids from the traditional European styles.
In Australia sour beers remain a relatively new phenomenon, which has recently experienced heightened recognition through well-regarded releases from local disciples of the style. The recent growth of the style seems to be following the American trend. Whilst the young, local craft brewing industry has been laced with the unfortunate pain of sour tasting beers due to unwelcome unintentioned yeast infections, more and more brewers are harnessing the power of these rogue yeasts to purposely tart up their brew. If fact, over the coming months we may see new sour beers from every corner of the country.
Australia has seen several beer style waves from the local craft beer industry over recent years. In 2011 there was an influx of new Black IPAs, whilst this year has seen a significant number of Saisons and Farmhouse ales released for the first time. Will 2013 be the year of the sour?
Richard Watkins from Canberra’s Wig & Pen brewery has been playing with barrel aged and blended sour beers for many years. It is rare to find the Wig & Pen Tavern without a sour beer on tap these days. Richard’s three-way blend of 18 months/18 weeks/18 days barrel aged wheat beers, all fermented with brettanomyces yeast, resulting in Sour Blonde, is currently showcasing the brewer’s sour talents to the nation’s capital.
Sydney’s Redoak also has an established reputation for traditional Belgian fruit beers, including its self proclaimed signature beer, Framboise Froment, which David Hollyoak has been brewing since 2004. More recently Redoak has joined the growing trend in using barrel aging and blending to impart unique tart and sour elements to a beer’s taste.
Over in Western Australia, Feral Brewing’s Brendan Vardis is establishing a whole brewery dedicated to the production of wild ales. Since commissioning the new joint venture brewery between Feral and Nail Brewing in Perth, the original Feral brewery in the Swan Valley is being repurposed solely for the production of wild ales and other funky Belgian styles. Feral’s recently bottled ‘Watermelon Warhead’ a low alcohol sour ale, proved instantly popular when launched at the Great Australasian Beer SpecTapular earlier this year and has just hit the market as a bottled release.
Tasmania’s offerings to Australia’s current tart factor include Van Dieman Brewing Hedgerow Autumn Berry Ale and Seven Sheds Razzamatazz.
In Victoria, Bright Brewery was at the head of the recent sour stampede, releasing their first fruit lambic in September 2008. Bright’s Pinky Framboise, a raspberry lambic, had been a work in progress ever since and was finally bottled in 2011. Bright’s Scott Brandon also trialled a version of the beer using wild strawberries. Red Duck currently has a number of sour ales available, such as the Gnaume Belgian Lambic and the strong dark sour ale named Gruitier. Moon Dog’s Perverse Sexual Amalgam, a dark wild ale brewed with cherries, is a fast seller and the Berliner Weisse inspired fruit beers in their Magnificent Mullets series matched tartness with famous haircuts.
The Moon Dog brewers’ fandom for sour beers was highlighted last year by a pilgrimage to one of the most famous and highly regarded lambic breweries, Cantillon in Brussels. They are keen to release many more sour beers, with one due to be released very soon.
Looking forward, we are likely to see new sours from Mountain Goat as part of their Rare Breed series and the Wheatsheaf Hotel’s Jade Flavell has expressed her desire to brew a sour ale with Bridge Road Brewers for the The Wheaty’s Bar Series beer.
Sour power has enough momentum in Melbourne for speciality beer shop and bar, Slowbeer, to turn over all taps to sour beer for a “Funky Junky & Sourpuss” celebration. From next Monday (Nove 26, 2012), Slowbeer will showcase the Bayerischer Bahnhof Berliner Weisse, Feral Watermelon Warhead, Rodenbach Grand Cru and Moon Dog’s Pale Wild Ale.
Temple’s first foray into beers with a sour element, Scarlet Sour, was brewed using the traditional Berliner Weisse sour mash technique. It is bright red from the use of hibiscus flowers and cranberries. The brew’s entire wort was run through a bed of hibiscus flowers in a hopback. Fresh cranberries were added to the tanks during fermentation to produce a tart and refreshing wheat beer.
Speaking to Australian Brews News at their launch event, Temple’s Renata Feruglio explained that the beer was a challenge to produce.
“It took forever, 33 hours the first time we brewed it! We were up all night because we didn’t want to leave the sparge. Everyone says we’re mad, but we’ve got the time down much more now.”
Scarlet Sour has an alcohol content of 4 per cent, which can seem low compared to the many of craft beers that flood the local market with high alcohol contents. However, a traditional Berliner Weisse will have an alcohol content of around 3 per cent.
Temple’s Berliner Weisse drinks with an up-front tartness that is soft and clean. The fruitiness of the cranberries follows through on the palate and a little warmth opens more floral notes. Light and relatively short in length, Scarlet Sour makes a quick impression and leaves plenty of reason to return for more.
Scarlet Sour will serve as both fine summer drinking for craft beer fans while also an excellent beer for introducing newcomers to tart and sour beers. It will appeal to established craft drinkers by offering a local point of differences in appearance, flavour and ingredients, as well as embodying a beer crafted with passion by Ron and Renate. For those just starting on their craft beer journey, Scarlet Sour provides a clear difference to pale lagers and ales without being too challenging.
It is now available on tap at the Temple Brewery & Brasserie in Brunswick East and will soon be available in 330ml bottles at many good craft beer bottle shops.