Edible Green Mountains was kind enough to let me wax, at length, about my love for a small, small-batch sour beer bred and blended in Weston, Vermont. Read the full thing here, and then find some excuse to drive through south-central Vermont (there are plenty) so you can pick up a bottle or ten.
When I was 18, I lost my sense of smell. In the years since, my taste buds have gone on overdrive, clamoring for more—more salt, more spice and, most of all, more sour.
As a child, I’d popped Warheads and handfuls of Sour Patch Kids until my tongue went nearly numb from citric acid; as a (semi) adult, I turned to lime, tamarind, pickling brine, kombucha and, just recently, beer. At a bar in Carroll Gardens on the southern end of Brooklyn, I dubiously accepted a russet-colored sip from a stranger’s pint. I was not expecting a mouthful of tart, juicy cherry and musky wood, but I was very happy to get it.
The beer I tried is called kriek, and it is one of two refermented, peculiarly delicious offshoots of the lambic family. In and of itself, lambic stands apart from other beers because it is fermented with airborne wild yeasts and barrel-aged, both of which give it all sorts of dry, bright white-wine-y notes.
Lambic’s other refermented offshoot is gueuze, a beer that sounds like a sneeze, smells like a barn, and tastes like … any number of things, most of them sour. Like a mule, it is sturdy and intelligent and can only be created from existing creatures. The “oude”-style gueuze, so-called because it is not artificially sweetened, is slowly coming back into favor in its home country, but stateside it is even harder to come by than kriek.
Which is a pity, because, to us sourtooths, it is singularly delicious. To sample it, you can order a case from Belgium, or you can drive to south-central Vermont, where a handful of restaurants and liquor stores stock green 750ml bottles of Backacre Brewery’s Sour Golden Ale.
The raven on Sour Golden Ale’s label overlooks snowy fields and a snug wood farmhouse—about as quintessentially Vermont a scene as any. But Backacre’s genesis really began in Belgium, where Matt Baumgart and Erin Donovan lived for two years. The couple had been enthusiastic home brewers in Denver. They went to Belgium, Matt says, “not just to drink beer, but we certainly drank a lot of it.”