Sour beers are one of those things I've always heard about of, but was never really interested in. I didn't care for pale ales or IPAs that much, mostly because of the bitterness, so no way I'd go for a sour, right?
But as I've learned to try new beers and found any number of paler and lighter beers that I enjoy, sours became something I felt like I had to give a shot. They're usually available in the summer, but not on tap, so you kind of need to dig a little.
An evening trip to the Chimes found they had a variety of bottles available, so I gave the local guys a shot with NOLA's Lowerline.
But for starters, what exactly is a sour ale? Short version, is a beer that uses more unrefined, wild yeasts, which produce that sour flavor. Here, let Wikipedia explain:
At one time, all beers were sour to some degree. As pure yeast cultures were not available, the starter used from one batch to another usually contained some wild yeast and bacteria. Unlike modern brewing, which is done in a sterile environment to guard against the intrusion of wild yeast, sour beers are made by intentionally allowing wild yeast strains or bacteria into the brew. Traditionally, Belgian brewers allowed wild yeast to enter the brew naturally through the barrels or during the cooling of the wort in a coolship open to the outside air - an unpredictable process that many modern brewers avoid.
Different yeast strains correspond with different sour varieties. Lowerline is what's known as an American wild ale. I'll let Beer Advocate detail that:
Sometimes Belgian influenced, American Wild Ales are beers that are introduced to "wild" yeast or bacteria, such as: Brettanomyces (Brettanomyces Bruxellensis, Brettanomyces Lambicus or Brettanomyces Anomolus), Pediococcus or Lactobacillus. This introduction may occur from oak barrels that have been previously inoculated, pitched into the beer, or gained from various "sour mash" techniques. Regardless of which and how, these little creatures often leave a funky calling card that can be quite strange, interesting, pleasing to many, but also often deemed as undesirable by many.
At four percent alcohol-by-volume, it goes down pretty smooth. Almost wonder if it'd be worth producing in something besides 22-oz bombers.
From NOLA's own description:
Lowerline, named for its low pH, is our base line sour beer. Fermented completely with Lactobacillus, the lack of brewers yeast gives the beer earthy, fruity and funky flavors. Unblended Lowerline has a spicy, funky nose followed by mouth-puckering sour and a funky and fruity finish.
This one looks and smells a lot like fresh apple juice, only made with the Granny Smith variety. So there's that hint of sour behind the sweet. And frankly, that's more or less what it tastes like. My bottle had a ton of carbonation, almost like a sparkling wine or champagne, but with that sour apple flavor that's noticeable but never really overpowering the way something lemony might taste. Goes down really smooth, with a slightly dry finish. Refreshing really. Could probably go down too easy in the summer. I give it a strong four out of five stars. Would definitely try again.