I’ll be the first to admit that the idea of sour beer doesn’t necessarily entice the palate, but that’s exactly the latest trend in Portland beer, and it’s every bit as delicious as it is sour.
And while barrel-aged and sour beers are a new trend, they are also decidedly old – as in old world. Back before metal kegs and refrigeration, beer-making began as a way to preserve grains. Rather than letting them spoil, our brilliant ancestors discovered how to make them into beer. However, as the beer aged in barrels, it gained complexity from the wood and, in some instances, took on sour characteristics.
Fast-forward to modern-day Portland and several of our local breweries are barreling beer just like in the old days, and sometimes introducing ingredients to encourage souring of the beer. Some of the beers have been in oak barrels, old whiskey barrels or even Pinot noir barrels from the Willamette Valley, for years – slowly gaining complexity and, in some cases, souring in very interesting ways. The results invoke flavors similar to wine. Also, many of the beers avoid the sharp hops that have come to define many beers brewed in Portland.
They’re wonderful. They’re unique. And they’re unlike anything you’ve ever tasted before. Though I’ll always have a soft spot for our bitter and hoppy IPAs, I must admit these new barrel-aged and sour beers are a lot of fun to explore too.