I haven’t posted many beer reviews lately, but I’ve been working to change that. In the coming weeks, I will be taking a look at the latest releases from Yazoo’s Embrace the Funk line, as well as doing a big Oktoberfest shootout. But first, here’s my latest Beer Review Roundup: Sours from Avery, Crooked Stave, Urban Family, Tilquin, and Bockor (Omer Vander Ghinste).
There’s no real rhyme or reason behind the selection of these five beers for review, apart from them all being sour ales that I’ve purchased recently. A quick reminder about my grades—when I rate a beer, I’m rating it within the stylistic category. I may grade a sour ale as a C and a pilsner as an A, but that doesn’t necessarily mean I like the pilsner better, I just think it’s better for its style. The truth is, most of the time I’d rather drink an average sour than a great pilsner, stout, or IPA.
Avery Raspberry Sour (Boulder, CO)
Sour Ale, 6.5% ABV
Sour raspberries with plenty of oak and just enough sweetness (which is to say not very much). Deep and complex. Creamy custard. Like a bite of crème brûlée with a barely ripe raspberry. Perfect balance of fresh and vibrant with mellow and old. Wonderful. One of the best beers I’ve had this year.
Brouwerij Bockor (Omer Vander Ghinste) Kriek des Jacobins (Belgium)
Kriek, 4.5% ABV
Sweet, tart cherries. Rich and bold. Big and luxurious mouthfeel. More tart than sour, but very tart. A little too sweet. Almost like drinking a cherry wine. Delicious, but not as complex as other Krieks I’ve had. I wish the sweetness was toned down a bit.
Crooked Stave Petite Sour Blueberry (Denver, CO)
Sour Ale, 5.5% ABV
Dank and a bit tart, but not all that sour—I suppose “Petite” sour is an appropriate name. The blueberry is there, but not overwhelming. The mouthfeel is strangely thin. Pretty good, but a little disappointing. I’ve had much better sours from Crooked Stave, who are generally one of my favorite sour producers.
Oude Quetsche Tilquin à L’Ancienne (2017) (Belgium)
Fruit (Plum) Lambic, 6.4% ABV
Sour, dank, and tart. Not sweet at all. The plums are there, but barely. Tastes like beer that someone forgot about and left in the basement. Good, but not as good as Lambics I’ve had from Gueuzerie Tilquin in the past (including previous years of this beer). Lacks oomph.
Urban Family Kriek (2015) (Seattle, WA)
Kriek, 6.3% ABV
Dry. Strangely dry. I assume that’s intentional, but I’ve never had such a dry Kriek before. Thin mouthfeel. A bit astringent. Total opposite of the Kriek des Jacobins. Interesting and enjoyable, but ultimately it doesn’t work very well. Urban Family sours are hit or miss for me; unfortunately this one is a miss.
Final thoughts: I enjoyed all of these, but the Avery Raspberry Sour was the real standout—it’s a candidate for being the best beer I’ve had in 2017. Unfortunately it’s a beer that is difficult to obtain here in Middle Tennessee—I’m lucky to have an extra bottle on hand. It definitely is going on my list of “automatic buys” anytime I see it.
It might be a little surprising to see an American sour beat out a couple of highly revered Belgian sours, but the truth is I think both the Tilquin and the Bockor have gone down in quality over the last few years. They’re certainly still good beers, but they aren’t the revelation they used to be. Neither has the complexity of some of the better offerings from great American sour ale producers that are on top of their games right now, such as Avery, Crooked Stave, Yazoo ETF, and Free Will. That’s not to say that Belgium isn’t still making great sours—of course they are—but the best American sour producers are giving them a run for their money, and in some cases, coming out on top. And for those of us that live in the US and love sour beer, that’s cause for celebration.