On the heels of yesterday’s post about the history of sour beer and its growing popularity in the US (hooray!), it seems only appropriate today to share news and reviews about sour offerings from New Glarus Brewing Company. As Chris Drozner, the Wisconsin State Journal’s “Beer Baron,” describes,
Later this summer, an expansion to the brewery where [Dan] Carey and his wife, Deb, founded New Glarus Brewing Co. 20 years ago will begin. When it’s done, large-scale production work can begin on a series of sour beers that so far have been released only in tiny, closely held batches.
The addition will house a brewery along the lines of great lambic breweries in Belgium. Among its equipment will be massive oak tanks for aging beers up to three years and a coolship — a large, wide copper pan in which beer can “spontaneously ferment” by becoming a petri dish for the ambient wild yeast that’s always just floating around in our midst. What Carey calls the “fruit beer cave” will jut 70 feet into the hillside behind the Riverside brewery, allowing for both natural climate control and the traditional temperature fluctuations that improve sour beers.
The beer to come out of this workshop isn’t exactly Spotted Cow. Most of them are variants on the lambic, a centuries-old Belgian sour style beloved by modern beer geeks.
We need not wait for construction to be complete, though, to sample new sour offerings from the nation’s 17th largest craft brewery. Both Drosner and Isthmus “Beer Here” columnist Robin Shepard have just reviewed the latest lambic from New Glarus: Strawberry Rhubarb. You’ll want to check out their reviews for all the details, but suffice it to say that Drozner gives it 4 out of 4 stars (“The strawberries run the front end, with a just-picked, late-June sweetness enveloping a soft texture. But the impishly sour rhubarb steps in on the beer’s back, finishing it with a lip-smacking, dry tartness that beckons another sip”), and Shepard similarly gives it a full 4 out of 4 bottle openers (“The strawberry and rhubarb never overtake the sour brown ale at the heart of this brew”). Shepard’s post also offers a nice bit of background on where the rhubarb came from.
Keep your eye out for the currently available Wild Sour Ale from New Glarus as well. As Drosner writes, “This beer, which hit shelves earlier this month, is a spontaneously fermented brown ale that aged for a year and a half in the brewery’s existing oak casks. It’s a woody, pungent delight that whets the appetite for more out-there brews from Carey’s laboratory.” Amen to that!