Wednesday, June 10, 2015

#SAVOR 2015 - Long Live the Sours

At next year's SAVOR event I need to attend both evenings as I determined one night is not enough time to visit with all the breweries - particularly if you attend a salon. This year it seems that I only had time for about half the beer selections for a variety of reasons.

First, I spent an hour in the Grape and Grain salon hearing Sam Calagione of Dogfish Head Craft Brewery and Dan Kopman of Schlafly Brewery describe their respective brewery's ventures combining fermented grain with grape must. I was particularly attracted to Schlafly's two versions of Lazy Ballerina, both made from a barley and wheat mash plus Chambourcin grape must from Chandler Hill Vineyards. The difference between the two was that the grape must in the bottled version (which was the one poured to the SAVOR participants)  was inoculated with Saison yeast whereas the second was fermented with wild yeast and bacteria - which the brewery determined was 2 types of Brettanomyces and one type of Lactobacillus. They've retained these cultures for future fermentations. That's a wise decision, since that version of the Lazy Ballerina was fantastic - funky with a little cream. On the Dogfish Head side, Sam poured samples of their 61 (the 60 Minute plus 20% Syrah) and Chateau Jiahu - a fermented beverage made from orange blossom honey, muscat grape juice, barley malt and hawthorn fruit based on pottery residue found in Jiahu China. Both of these are tasty in their own right.

The second reason I missed many of the breweries is that I was determined to sample all the sour and fruit beers presented. There were close to twenty ranging from Kreiks to Gose to Wild Sours. And straight up,  Upland Brewing Company (Bloomington, IN) poured two of my favorites; the VinoSynth Red and the Dantalion. The first is a red and white collaboration with Oliver Winery a blend of 50% Sour Reserve and 50% Malefactor Flanders-style Red Ale aged on Catawba grapes. The jamminess of the Catawba was balanced with the acids of the red ale to create a fine funky beer.  The Dantalion is based on the Flanders Oud Bruin (Brown) beer style where the brewery's base lampic is aged in white oak barrels for at least eight months. There's plenty going on in this beer with multiple spices, chocolate, and rye characters mingle throughout. Well done.

There were several other sours worth noting. The NOLA Brewing Lowerline is part of the brewery's Funk series. This beer was inoculated with a lactos bacteria providing a tart and very creamy flavor. There's not a lot of complexity here, but the beer is very pleasant. Locally based Mad Fox Brewing Company was pouring their Oaked Diabolik which was rich and creamy with a wine like texture. Boulder's FATE Brewing Company offered a popular Barrel-Aged Uror Gose, which was aged 10 weeks in used Arta tequila barrels. The agava flavors blend seamlessly into the tart and salty brew. Nashville's Yazoo Brewing Company Embrace the Funk Series Deux Rouges is their Flanders ale, fermenting with wild yeasts and souring bacteria, aged in used Merlot barrels. This process imparts some spiciness into the sour and mellows the finish nicely. Milwaukee's Brenner Brewing Company Maiden Opus was quite solid (as was their Bacon Bomb Rauchbier).  And Austin's Hops and Grain Brewing Volumes of Funk: Sour PorterCulture is a mash bill close to their Baltic porter recipe and then aged in barrels full of brett and lactos. Pretty tasty.

Two final beers to note are the Strange Craft Beer Company Cherry Kriek and the Schlafly Brewery Apricot Berliner Weisse. The Schlafy beer was bright, acidic, with subtle apricots which I could quaff all day. The Kriek is a World Cup Gold Award Winner and showcases a slightly tart and sweet flavor profile. Probably can't drink more than a couple, but it's an interesting beer to sample. 

Getting back to missing out sampling all the beers is that that many breweries ran out of supplies way too quickly. Funky Buddha Brewery was done an hour into the event; Country Boy Brewing not long afterwards. And there were many other early exists. That was the major disappointment of the evening; I know many of the offerings were limited productions but the Brewers Association may need to require breweries to pour a beer with more inventory. Otherwise,  SAVOR was another extraordinary craft beer tasting. Cheers. 

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